y Uncle Tom's Cabin single work   musical theatre  
Adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe 1851 single work novel
Composed: Percy Kehoe (1886); J. A. Robertson (1890)
Issue Details: First known date: 1886... 1886 Uncle Tom's Cabin
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

According to the Brisbane Courier theatre critic in 1890, this version of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'moral and religious drama,' was 'widely different from the orthodox rendering.' Indeed, the advertising, which calls attention to 'the songs, the dances, the lovely melodies, the sparkling humour, the light and brightness, the happy tout ensemble of this entire production,' suggests that it was more in line with minstrel entertainment than with the sentiments traditionally associated with story's dramatic retelling. In this respect the Courier notes that 'in Mr Sheridan's version the sentimental defects of the original drama have to a great extent been rectified, and [that] the possibilities of the plot for scenic display have been more largely availed of:'

Instead of aiming to make his audience weep Mr Sheridan has sought to amuse them, and though he may have taken liberties with the accepted idea of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the end has certainly justified the means. The drama has lost some of its painful original characteristics, and has taken on itself lighter, brighter and more healthy qualities. Advantage has been taken of the plantation scenes to introduce songs and dances which, while giving a realistic effect, open up quite a fund of amusement. The music was rendered by a choir which sang the negro melodies with expression. The dances, such as would be seen at a minstrel entertainment, harmonised well with the surroundings of the plantation ('The Opera House,' 8 April 1890, p.6).

Reports from newspapers in 1886 and 1890 also indicate that the productions staged in 1890 took the variety theatre aspects to a much higher level. In addition to members of the Bristol Musical Comedy Company, which supplemented the 'dramatic' endeavours of Williamson Garner and Musgrove's Royal Dramatic Company, were a number of high profile minstrels - namely Charlie Pope, Walsh and Kennedy, specialist banjo musician Hosia Easton (Melbourne) and Harry Crawford and the Bovis Brothers (Brisbane).

The 1890 production incorporated the following scenes:

  • Act 1 Scene 1. The Old Kentucky House
  • Scene 2: The Interior of Shelby's House
  • Scene 3: Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Scene 4: "The Birthday Festival" - introducing "Children Come Along" (chorus), "Down Where the Sugar Cane Grows (song and dance by Messrs Bovis, Crawford and Bovis), "Billy's Dream" (Charles Pope), Duet and sand dance (Walsh and Kennedy), "Roll Jordan Roll" (Easton and Company), "Tell Us What De're Gwine to Do"(Messrs Fredericks, Easton and company), "My Lord Deliver Daniel" (Easton and company)
  • Act 2 Scene 1: Tavern on the Ohio River Banks
  • Scene 2: Wood
  • Scene 3: The Frozen River, The Great Ice Scene, Escape of Eliza
  • Act 3: Deck of Mississippi Steamer
  • Act 4 Scene 1: St Clare's Cotton Plantation - Happy Southern Life scenes and "Eva's Birthday" - incl. "Who's Dat a Callin'" (Gracie Whiteford), banjo solo and orchestral accompaniment by Hosea Easton; clog dances by Bovis Bros, Maher Bros and Watts and Swift; banjo quintette and dance by Messrs Easton, Marion and Misses Bell, Whiteford and Arline; musical sketches by Minnie Bell and Dace Marion; "De Trumpet in de Cornfield" by Charles Pope; double quartette song and dance by Messrs Crawford, Bovis Bros, Maher Bros, Marion, and Watts and Swift
  • Scene 2: Room in St Clare's House
  • Scene 3: Exterior of St Clare's House and 'Death of Eva'
  • Act 5 Scene 1: Slave Sale
  • Scene 2: Rocky Pass
  • Scene 3: Legree's Slave Quarters; Death of Uncle Tom, Bowie Knife Fight between Legree and George Harris.

[Source: Australian Variety Theatre Archive - "1886"]


  • Although recorded as having been adapted by Dampier and Sheridan from the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, this version may also bear some relationship to the production Dampier first staged in Australia in 1879.

Production Details

  • 1886: Gaiety Theatre, Sydney; 13 February - 12 March

    • Manager B. N. Jones and Fred Gunther; Lessee. John Solomon; Music Arranger Professor Miller; Music Director Herbert Percy; Scenic Artist William Kinchela.
    • Troupe: Alfred Dampier Company.
    • Cast incl. May Livingstone, Myra Kemble, Hetty Sherwood, Julia Merton, Alfred Dampier, John F. Sheridan, C. H. Lewis, Harry Leston, Harry Stoneham, Alfred Boothman, Sarah Washington and the Hampton Students (jubilee singers), The Big 8 (dancers), The Old Dominion Quartette (singers).
    • Musicians: Gaiety Orchestra.
    • 24 performances

    1890: Opera House, Melbourne; 1 February -

    • Director John F. Sheridan; Producer MacMahon Bros; Music Director/Conductor J. A. Robertson; Orchestra Leader Mr Lindsell; Scenic Artist George Gordon.
    • Troupes: Williamson, Garner and Musgrove's Royal Dramatic Co and the Bristol Musical Comedy Co.
    • Cast: John F. Sheridan (Jurisprudence Marks), Royal Dramatic Co - incl. Edith Blande, J. H. Clyndes, A. Bucklaw, Wilmot Eyre, W. Calvert, W. F. Clitherow; Bristol Co - incl. Gracie Whitford, Lena Salinger, Nellie Arline, Fanny Wiseman, Minnie Bell, Alice Austin, Alfred James, Wilfrid Carr, Harry Crawford, Charles Bovis, Billy Bovis, H. Marion, S. Allen.
    • Special engagements: Kate Douglas, Marian Medway, Mabel Russell, Charles Pope, James R. Walsh, T. A. Kennedy, Watts and Swift, Maher Bros, Hosia Easton (banjo).

    1890: Opera House, Brisbane; 5-15 April

    • Director John F. Sheridan; Prod. MacMahon Bros; Music Director/Conductor J. A. Robertson; Orchestra Leader Mr Lindsell; Scenic Artist George Gordon.
    • Cast incl. John F. Sheridan (Jurisprudence Marks), Alfred James (Simon Legree), Fanny Wiseman (Topsy), Gracie Whiteford (Eva), Hosea Easton (Uncle Tom), Rosa Towers (Eliza Harris), Lena Salinger (Miss Ophelia), Bert Royle, Clara Edmonds, F. J. Montague, Julius Erickson, Julius Erickson, Lillie Ellis, Kittie Fraser, Wilfred Carr, C. Clitheroe, Alice Austin, Julie Williams, Katie Whiteford, Clara Robertson, Harry Crawford, C. S. Fredericks P. Maher, Nellie Arlins, May Melville, William Bovis, David Marion, Charles Swift, C. Maher.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1886
      1887 .
      (Manuscript) assertion
      • Holding note: BL

PeriodicalNewspaper Details


This entry has been sourced from research undertaken by Dr Clay Djubal into Australian-written popular music theatre (ca. 1850-1930). See also the Australian Variety Theatre Archive

Details have also been derived in part from Annotated Calendar of Plays Premiered in Australia: 1850-1869 (q.v.).

Last amended 17 Sep 2016 11:54:40
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