The follow-up production to What Oh Tonight (the debut Stiffy and Mo revusical), A Sporting Chance is described in Everyone's as 'another tabloid of inconsequences, as regards the plot, but chock full of action and comedy just the same' (26 November 1924, p.34).
Since the production is set in the garden of a country hotel, one of the on-going jokes in the narrative concerns 'The Truth Tree', a tree that grows all sorts of fruit. Anyone telling a lie beneath it gets a piece of fruit dropped on their head. The bigger the lie, the bigger the fruit! The Nat Phillips Collection manuscript includes the subtitle 'A Sporting Comedy in One Furlong.'
Although the Nat Phillips Collection manuscript (Fryer Library) has the narrative set on the property of a hotel situated near a racecourse, there is evidence to suggest that this was changed over time. For example, based on reviews, the setting for the 1924 version was a farm.
For the 1916 Princess Theatre production, popular sketch artists Courtney Ford and Ivy Davis were brought in to supplement the core troupe membership. The Theatre notes that Ford was at 'his best in the make-up of an old farmer, with half-a-dozen pretty daughters on his hands.' Regarding his wife, the same review indicates that her rendition of 'Just Because It's You' was the hit of the revue. 'A graceful girl is Miss Davis, with a live radiant face', writes the critic. 'She has what can be truthfully described as a glowing personality. Performers with her vocal and physical gifts are few and far between in vaudeville revue-work' (August 1916, pp.52-3).
Of the other performers, the magazine picks out Nat Phillips as the undoubted scream. 'His character is that of a hard-up, red-nosed, coatless Irish Australian with a particularly old-well-greased pair of pants, held up by a belt. Phillips is never so good as in roles of a low-comedy or burlesque character. He gets roars where another wouldn't get a smile. The explanation is that he has by nature the gift of being funny' (p.53). Apparently, Roy Rene's singing was not as appreciated by the critic as the posturing he presented in his singing and acrobatics.
The 1924 Sydney production (Fullers' Theatre) was described in Everyone's as 'another tabloid of inconsequences, as regards the plot, but chock full of action and comedy just the same' (26 November 1924, p.34). It is possible that this revusical was also known as Sports (see Brisbane season, 1918).
It is not clear whether a relationship exists between this revusical and a minstrel farce staged in 1897 under the title Fun on a Farm (produced by Harry Rickards at the Melbourne Opera House from 17 July).
An edited version appears in '"What Oh Tonight": The Methodology Factor and Pre-1930s Australian Variety Theatre - Appendices', Clay Djubal, PhD Thesis, 2005, pp.49-62.
1916: Princess Theatre, Sydney, 15-21 July (premiere season).
1918: Empire Theatre, Brisbane, 8-14 June (as Sports).
1919: Fullers' Theatre, Sydney, 6-12 September.
1921: Empire Theatre, Brisbane, 20-26 August.
1922: Fullers' Theatre, Sydney, 3-9 June.
1924: Fullers' Theatre, Sydney, 22-28 November.