y Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East single work   musical theatre  
Issue Details: First known date: 1916... 1916 Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East
AustLit is a subscription service. The content and services available here are limited because you have not been recognised as a subscriber. Find out how to gain full access to AustLit

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Musical extravaganza.

Presented in two acts, the story concerns Abu Hasan, an intrepid merchant-pirate who masquerades in various extravagant disguises (including that of a Hebrew Damascene and a Grecian prince), so that he and his forty brigands can plunder and humiliate the wealthy despots of the East, enriching Hasan's already overflowing and legendary cave. For this particular adventure, he becomes the great Chu Chin Chow of China as a means of gaining access to the palace of Kasim Baba. A secondary theme concerns the two lovely slave girls (Zahrat and Marjanah, the latter in love with Nur-Al-Hudra) who are determined to win their freedom. Zahat discovers Abu Hasan's true identity after 'Chu Chin Chow' kills Kasim, while Marjanah stumbles on the secret password for his hideout ('Open sesame'). She is then able to set in motion the opportunity they need. The women counter Chu Chin Chow's cunning with feminine guile and create the opportunity they need by bargaining with the brigand chieftain. Abu Hasan attempts to overcome their plan by attending the wedding of Marjanah and Nur disguised as a wealthy oil merchant, whose forty jars of 'oil' actually hold forty brigands. Zahat discovers both his identity and evil plans, and kills his men by pouring boiling oil over them. She then finishes the job by stabbing Abu Hasan to death.

The Saturday Review wrote of Chu Chin Chow's London closing in 1921:

'He came, like another Eastern, King David, to a good old age, full of riches and honour. But none can ever reign in his stead. There is left a gap in the life of London, and indeed of the country, which nothing can adequately fill, for Chu Chin Chow had become in truth part of the national life. Country cousins set out upon the desperate adventure of their first visit to the metropolis with the firm determination to see it come else what may. It had supplanted in their hearts the place usually reserved for the Abbey or the Tower. It had become a tradition which nothing can adequately fill' (qtd in Brisbane Courier 24 September 1921, p.13).

Adaptations

y Chu Chin Chow Harold Simpson , London : Mills and Boon , 1916 Z1289156 1916 single work novel
Two-Chinned Chow John A. Marks , Famous Diggers, The , Pat Hanna , 1921 single work musical theatre burlesque humour

A burlesque of Chu Chin Chow, which had recently closed in Melbourne after a three-month season at the Tivoli Theatre.

Too Thin Chow Billy Maloney , John N. McCallum , Town Topics , 1921 single work musical theatre burlesque humour

Inspired by the Brisbane season of Oscar Asche's famous musical extravaganza Chu Chin Chow, which had closed the previous week.

form y Chu-Chin-Chow Herbert Wilcox , Germany United Kingdom (UK) : Graham-Wilcox Productions , 1923 8931421 1923 single work film/TV

A film adaptation of Oscar Asche's spectacular stage musical.

y Chu Chin Chow Melbourne : Australian Broadcasting Commission , 1932 8932070 1932 single work radio play

Produced from the ABC's Melbourne studios, Chu Chin Chow was a radio adaptation of the long-running and highly successful stage play by Oscar Asche.

y Chu Chin Chow Henrik Ege , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1933 8932177 1933 single work radio play

Seemingly a distinct adaptation from the ABC's radio version of Chu Chin Chow (which had been broadcast in 1932), this version was adapted for radio by British script-writer Henrik Ege, and included Oscar Asche in the role that he had originated.

form y Chu Chin Chow Ali Baba Nights Edward Knoblock , Sidney Gilliat , L. du Garde Peach , United Kingdom (UK) : Gainsborough Pictures , 1934 8931888 1934 single work film/TV

The second film adaptation of Oscar Asche's Chu Chin Chow.

y Chu Chin Chow W. Macqueen-Pope , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1949 8933995 1949 single work radio play

One of multiple BBC radio adaptations of Chu Chin Chow, this one credited to theatre historian W. Macqueen-Pope.

y The Story of Chu Chin Chow Desmond Davis , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1951 8934098 1951 single work radio play

One of several BBC radio adaptations of Chu Chin Chow, this time adapted by script-writer Desmond Davis.

y Chu Chin Chow ... on Ice Stanley Lloyd , Gerald Palmer , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1953 8934787 1953 single work musical theatre

An adaptation of the musical play Chu Chin Chow. Chu Chin Chow ... on Ice ran for three months, and was aired on the BBC as part of its Sunday-night theatre programming.

y Chu Chin Chow Harold Neden , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1958 8934285 1958 single work radio play

One of several adaptations of Chu Chin Chow to BBC radio, this one credited to Harold Neden.

y Chu Chin Chow Alastair Scott-Johnson , London : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) , 1970 8934434 1970 single work radio play

One of several BBC versions of Chu Chin Chow, this adaptation was credited to Alastair Scott-Johnson.

Notes

  • Generally described as an 'oriental extravaganza', Chu Chin Chow remains arguably the greatest overseas theatrical success written by an Australian. Although never achieving the same level of critical acclaim for its narrative and dramatic sensibilities as Asche's previous success, Kismet, the production was viewed on both sides of the Atlantic (and in Australia) as having set a new benchmark as spectacle and as entertainment. Two of the clauses in the contract between Asche and English producer Sir Herbert Beerbolm-Tree (who ended up owning 25 percent of the show) stipulated that Chu Chin Chow could remain at His Majesty's indefinitely on two conditions: that the receipts did not fall below £2500 for two consecutive weeks and that Asche continued to play the lead role.

    Even during the World War II air raids on London, the production never fell below the minimum box-office take, while Asche presented the character of Abu Hasan on stage for all but a couple of weeks of the London run. During his absence, which came about on his physician's orders, the role was taken up by E. Lyall Swete, who subsequently went on to direct the American production (starring Tyrone Power as Abu Hassan/Chu Chin Chow). Chu Chin Chow ran for five years in London (2,238 performances), a record that lasted almost forty years. It also opened for six months on Broadway in 1917-18, and was successfully staged in Australia. The royalties alone made Asche a millionaire. The New York season and Asche's 1920-23 Australian tour were essentially replicas of the London show, with the scenery and costumes made by the original producers and transported by ship.

    The New York Dramatic Mirror wrote of Chu Chin Chow:

    'While not possessing the melodramatic intensity of Kismet, [it] has more the character of a pageant - a pageant which now suggests grand opera, now a rich fantasy, now a musical comedy... but a pageant with such a bewildering succession of scenes and variety of characters as only a hurried trip through the Orient could bring' (qtd Green Room January 1918, p.15).

    A Pall Mall Gazette critic described the production as 'a romantic drama founded... on the story of the Forty Thieves as it appears in Sir Richard Burton's authentic translation of the Arabian Nights' (26 August 1916, p.6). The same newspaper also noted that gossip suggesting that Asche had either planned an art-pantomime ('a great symbolic play with an important character embodying the principal of universal evil') or gone back to Burton's original were clearly inaccurate. 'There is not the remotest likeness between [Chu Chin Chow]', notes the Gazette, 'and anything farther off than the familiar stage-Chinoiserie of good old English musical comedy and comic opera. Chu Chin Chow as... played by Mr Asche is just the commander of the Forty Thieves disguised as a kind of Rutland-Barrington mandarin' (1 September 1916, p.6).

    According to the New York Times, it cost producer Morris Gest more than $US150,000 to bring the production to New York. To the embarrassment of the New York producers, the premiere was cancelled twice: on the 15 October and again on the 17 October. The postponements were apparently due, firstly, to the late delivery of scenery and props from London and, secondly, to subsequent problems involved with setting up the massive spectacle in such a short period. The lighting design, for example, wasn't arranged until 16 October, the day after the originally scheduled premiere (28 October 1917, p.86).

  • The vocal score of the musical was published in 1916 by Keith Prowse and Co. (London) and in 1917 by Sackett and Wilhelms (New York). 'The Robber's March' and 'My Desert Flower' were both published in Australia by Allan and Co. (n.d.). Other songs have also been published separately. The score is not included in the French's Acting Edition (illustrated with set designs).

    Frederick Norton's musical score was described by Asche as 'the most important feature of the production. It is not incidental music at all. In fullness and elaboration it is indeed, an opera score' (Pall Mall Gazette 18 August 1916, p.9). Songs known to have performed in the London production are 'I am Chu Chin Chow', 'I Love Thee So', 'I'll Sing and Dance', 'I Long for the Sun', 'Behold', 'Anytime's Kissing Time', 'The Cobbler's Song', 'Serenade', 'Song of the Scimitar', and 'I Built a Fairy Palace in the Sky.'

  • The play was novelised (as Chu Chin Chow) by Harold Simpson (London: Mills & Boon, 1916).

  • An HMV sound recording of Chu Chin Chow (n. yr.) features the vocals of Inia Te Wiata (Chu Chin Chow), Julie Bryan (Marjanah), Barbara Leigh, Charles Young, and the Williams Singers. The music is performed by Michael Collins and his Orchestra, to orchestrations by Brian Fahey. The 'vocal gems' presented are 'I am Chu Chin Chow', 'Here be Oysters', 'Cleopatra's Nile', 'When a Pullet is Plump', 'Corraline', 'I Love Thee So', 'I'll Sing and Dance', 'The Robber's March', 'I Long for the Sun', 'Behold', 'Anytime's Kissing Time', 'The Cobbler's Song', 'We Bring Ye Fruits', and 'Finale' (His Masters Voice, OCLP 1269).

    Another recording (1961), released on the World Record International label and produced by Cyril Ornadel, features the Sinfonia of London (conducted by John Hollingsworth). The principal vocalists are Allan Hervey, Marion Grimaldi, John Wakefield, Edward Darling, Ursula Connors, and Ian Humphries.

    EMI released a digital recording in 1994, which features Inia Te Wiata. Additional performers include those from the 1961 World Record Club release (Edward Darling, Ursula Connors, Marion Grimaldi, and Ian Humphries), plus Malcolm McEachern and some performances from the 1934 film.

  • Chu Chin Chow was also a popular choice for burlesque. Australian variety performer and revusical writer/director Billy Maloney (q.v.), for example, celebrated the closure of the extravaganza's Brisbane season with his own take on the story: Too Thin Chow (Cremorne Theatre, 25 June 1921). The character of Chu Chin Chow was also incorporated into the Elton Black/Frederick Whaite pantomime Robinson Crusue, which was staged at the Cremorne Gardens Theatre, Brisbane, in December 1919.

  • British director Adrian Brunel created a short film, Two-Chinned Chow, in 1923, but although the title undoubtedly owes something to the success of Asche's stage play, the storyline borrowed nothing from the original: it was a tale of a Chinese emperor who successfully executed his favourite daughter's suitors, until he was convinced to relent when she sickened for love of a musician. It cannot, therefore, be considered an adaptation.
  • Chu Chin Chow was very popular on BBC radio, and excerpts or individual songs from the production were frequently broadcast. The only BBC versions individually indexed on AustLit are the ones that were full radio adaptations of the play.

Production Details

  • 1916: His Majesty's Theatre, London, 31 Aug. 1916 - 22 July 1921 (2,238 performances).

    • Director Oscar Asche; Producer Sir Henry Beerbohm-Tree; Scenic Art Joseph and Phil Harker; Costumes Percy Anderson; Chorus Espinosa.
    • Cast incl. Oscar Asche (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Lily Brayton (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Frank Cochrane (Kasim Baba), Courtice Pounds (Ali Baba), J.V. Bryant (Nur-Al-Huda), Violet Essex (Marjanah), Norman Williams, William Holles, James Herbert, Aileen d' Orme (Kasim Baba's head wife), Sydney Fairbrother (Mrs Ali), Annie Moore.

    1917: Manhattan Opera House, New York, 22 Oct. 1917 - 27 Apr. 1918.

    • Director S. Lyall Swete; Producer William Elliott, F. Ray Comstock and Morris Gest; Music Director Gustave Ferrari; Music Arranger Percy Fletcher; Scenic Art Joseph and Phil Harker; Chor. Alexis Kosloff; Lighting David Belasco and Louis Hartman; Stage Manager Frank McCormack; Costumes Percy Anderson.
    • Cast incl. Tyrone Power (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Florence Read, (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Albert Howson (Kasim Baba), Henry Dixy (Ali Baba), Kate Condon (Alcolom), Tessa Kosta (Marjanah), George Rasely (Nur-Al-Huda), Lucy Beaumont, Albert Moore, Robert Lee Hill, Francis J. Boyle, Matty Thomas, Frank McCormack, Ida Mulle, Katherine Galanta, Harda Daube, Gordon Staples, Olive Prosser, George Bell, Josephine Emory, Lester Sweyd, Felice de Gregorio, Richie Ling.

    1920: Tivoli Theatre, Melbourne, 11 Dec. 1920 - 1 March 1921.

    • Director Frank Cochrane; Producer Hugh D. McIntosh; Music Director/Conductor Will Quintrell; Scenic Art Joseph and Phil Harker; Costumes Percy Anderson; Stage Manager Les Donaghey and Fred Mackay.
    • Cast incl. Arthur Styan (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Vera Pearce (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Gerald Kay Souper (Kasim Baba), Charles H. Workman (Ali Baba), Maggie Moore, Frank Cochrane, Louie Pounds, Gregory Stroud, Winifred O'Connor, Frederick Mackay.

    1921: Grand Opera House, Sydney, 26 Mar. - 1 June.

    • Cast and production mostly as for Melbourne season.

    1921: His Majesty's Theatre, Brisbane, 4-18 June.

    • Music Director/Conductor F. J. Roberts; Producer J. C. Williamson's;
    • Cast incl. Arthur Styan (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Helen Temple (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Charles H. Workman (Ali Baba), Ida Griffin (Marjanah), Gerald Kay Souper (Kasim Baba), George Wignail (the cobbler), Maggie Moore, Pearl Ladd (Alcolom), H. Tucker (Omar), Fred Mackay (Nu-al-Huda), Mary Jordan, Winifred O'Connor, Suzanne Bennett, Gloria Spurling, Ethel Keys, Myrtle Greenhill, Louie Pounds.

    1921: Dominion circuit (New Zealand), ca. June-July.

    • Cast and production mostly as for previous Brisbane season.

    1923: Theatre Royal, Sydney, 26 May - 27 June.

    • Director Oscar Asche; Producer J. C. Williamson's.
    • Cast incl. Oscar Asche (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Doris Champion (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Wensley Russell (Ali Baba), Kitty Reidy (Marjanah), Cecil Humphreys (Kasim Baba), Herbert Browne (Nur-al-Huba), George Ide (Abdullah), Peal Ladd (Alcolm), Mason Wood (The Cobbler), Ian McLean (Omar), Eardley Turner (Omar's father), Frank Charlton, Jessie Page.

    1928: Regent Theatre, London, 26 December 1928 - ca. 18 January 1929 [London Repertory Co.].

    • Producer Martin Sabine (in association with Walter Payne).;
    • Cast incl. Oscar Asche (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Doris Champion (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Wensley Russell (Ali Baba), Helen Debroy Somers (Marjanah), William Dewhurst (Kasim Baba), Lawrence Shirl (Khuzaymah), Dorothy Dewhurst, Stuart Kern, Ellis J. Preston, Savana, Betty Williamson, James Johnson, Dacia Johnson, Horace Custins.
  • 1940: Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham, 7- 20 May.

    • Producer Henry Isaacs and Joseph Fenston (for C.C.C. Play Productions); Director Robert Atkins.
    • Cast incl. Lyn Harding (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Rosalinde Fuller (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Jerry Verno (Ali).

    1940: Palace Theatre, London, 3 July - ca. September (80 performances).

    • Cast and production mostly as for previous Birmingham season.
    • NB: The season was interrupted by the bombing of London.

    1941: Palace Theatre, London, 22 July-22 November (158 performances).

    • Director Robert Atkins.
    • Cast incl. Lyn Harding (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Rosalinde Fuller (Zahrat-al-Kulub), Mr Jetsam (Abdullah), Kay Bourne.

    1950: Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane, 16 September - 7 October.

    • Music Director Ruby Dent; Producer Musical and Theatre Guild of Queensland; Costumes Marie McIntyre.
    • Cast incl. John Miller, Len Wells, Michael Azar, Bill Neilson, Roy Bonney, Don Tappendon, Neila Hansen, Gloria Birdwood-Smith, Margaret Geater, Jim Mulgrew, Bob Connell, Ken Lord, Avis Nicholls, Stella Broadhurst, Dorothea Simpson.

    1953: Empire Pool, Wembley (England), 13 July - 19 September (as Chu Chin Chow on Ice).

    • Adapted by Stanley Lloyd and Gerald Palmer.
    • Producer Tom Arnold; Chorus Beatrice Livesey;.
    • Cast incl. Victor Macdonald (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Jane Hilary (Zahrat-al-Kulub).
    • See also Brighton Sports Stadium, ca. November 1953 and Opera House, Manchester, ca. 11 May 1954. Cast and production mostly as for previous Empire Pool production.

    1954: Streatham Hill Theatre, London, 16 November.

    • Producer Maurice Winnick; Director Stanley Willis-Croft.
    • Cast incl. Inia Te Wiata (Abu Hasan/Chu Chin Chow), Patricia Kerry (Zahrat-al-Kulub).
    • See also Golders Green Hippodrome, London, 23 November. Cast and production mostly as for previous Streatham Hill Theatre production.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Allan and Co. , 1920 .
      Extent: 104p.
      Note/s:
        • Selected and arranged for piano by Percy E. Fletcher.
        • Published in Australia to coincide with the Hugh D. McIntosh/Tivoli Theatres Ltd Australian tour. Published by arrangement with copyright holder, Keith, Prowse and Co., London.
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Keith, Prowse and Co ,
      ca. 1931 .
      Extent: 169p.
      Note/s:
      • 1 vocal score. Revised edition with new numbers.
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Keith, Prowse and Co ,
      1953 .
      Extent: 11p.
      Note/s:
      • Published to coincide with the 1953 British revival tour beginning Empire Pool, Wembley, 13 July 1953.

First known date: 1916
      .
      (Manuscript) assertion
      Note/s:
      • Script held at the Lord Chamberlain's Collection, British Library.

Works about this Work

Orientalism in Early Australian Theatre Veronica Kelly , 1993 single work criticism
— Appears in: New Literatures Review , Winter South no. 26 1993; (p. 32-45)
Chu Chin Chow : The Drawings of Percy Anderson Viola Tait , Percy Anderson (illustrator), 1979 single work art work
— Appears in: Architecture Australia , August/September 1979; (p. 41-42)
Palace Theatre : 'Chu Chin Chow' 1941 single work review
— Appears in: The Times , 24 July 1941; (p. 6)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
Palace Theatre : 'Chu Chin Chow' 1940 single work review
— Appears in: The Times , 4 July 1940; (p. 6)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
Regent Theatre : 'Chu Chin Chow' Revived 1928 single work review
— Appears in: The Times , 27 December 1928; (p. 14)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
'Chu Chin Chow' : Mr Asche's 'Arabian Night' at His Majesty's 1916 single work review
— Appears in: Pall Mall Gazette , 1 September 1916; (p. 6)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
'Chu Chin Chow' : An Oriental Play at His Majesty's 1916 single work review
— Appears in: Pall Mall Gazette , 18 August 1916; (p. 9)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
'Chu Chin Chow' : An Eastern Revue at His Majesty's 1916 single work review
— Appears in: The Times , 1 September 1916; (p. 9)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
Dressing 'Chu Chin Chow' 1920 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , March 1920; (p. 6)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
'Chu Chin Chow' for Australia 1920 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , March 1920; (p. 16)

— Review of Chu Chin Chow : A Musical Tale of the East Oscar Asche 1916 single work musical theatre
Chu Chin Chow : The Drawings of Percy Anderson Viola Tait , Percy Anderson (illustrator), 1979 single work art work
— Appears in: Architecture Australia , August/September 1979; (p. 41-42)
y Chu Chin Chow Harold Simpson , London : Mills and Boon , 1916 Z1289156 1916 single work novel
Orientalism in Early Australian Theatre Veronica Kelly , 1993 single work criticism
— Appears in: New Literatures Review , Winter South no. 26 1993; (p. 32-45)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

Note:
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
Last amended 1 Oct 2015 09:20:38
Subjects:
  • Central Asia, Asia,
  • c
    China,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
Settings:
  • c
    China,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • Central Asia, Asia,
Explore:
8929715
8014658
Newspapers:
    Powered by Trove
    X