The new entertainment offered at the Broadway Theatre last night, and to be seen there, we believe, for some weeks to come, demands some description, but only as a matter of news. It has only an insignificant relation to the dramatic art, and one would waste energy and patience to treat of it from a critical point of view.
Miss Elsie Leslie has not perceptibly increased in stature. Her hair is as plentiful and beautiful as ever. A sweeter, cunninger child than she has never been placed on exhibition. She says the many words of her part nicely, too, and she makes believe she is either a prince or a pauper with perfect self-assurance. The most difficult task she had to perform last night, perhaps, was to stand for ten minutes before the curtain, hand in hand with Mark Twain, who was making a speech. Let the reader imagine himself standing hand in hand with Mark Twain in front of a big houseful of folks and with the glare of the footlights in his eyes, without a word to say, or any prearranged plan of behavior, and he will appreciate Elsie's predicament. The little girl was not a bit embarrassed, though. She smiled at the spectators and glanced from time to time inquiringly up at Mark Twain's lips as if wondering when he would stop talking. Mark Twain was making a speech. He was telling how difficult it is to write a play. Most persons who sit under the influence of contemporary dramatic efforts do not need informationon that point.
Elsie Leslie is not yet an actress, and "The Prince and the Pauper" is not yet a good play. Elsie may become an actress in time. She has already learned how to receive bouquets over the footlights, and a great many were handed to her last night. No reasonable person would expect her to reveal real dramatic gifts at her age; if she did she would be a precocious phenomenon instead of a charming little girl trained to walk and talk on the stage.
"The Prince and the Pauper," when it left Mark Twain's hands, was a long, very readable narrative, extravagant in its substance, but simply told. For children it was an absorbingly interesting story. Al that is good in the arrangement of this story made for the purpose of amusing an easily-amused public in a theatre is taken bodily from Mark Twain's book. The incidents in Miles Hendon's lodging on London Bridge, where the tattered cavalier waits upon his protege, never dreaming that the little beggar is really King of England, but striving to humor his whim, form by far the best part of the play; and the words and stage directions are taken from the best passage in the book. On the other hand, the impossible scene between Princess Elizabeth and Seymour in the thieves' den, the fortune-telling incident, and the jumble of odds and end of melodrama are not in the book at all, and they are abortive and tiresome on stage.
But that does not matter. "The Prince and the Pauper" will draw great crowds at the Broadway Theatre, because the public likes to see a pretty child as hero of a play, and does not care a rap for good plays or good acting so long as it is amused. As a show Mr. Daniel Frohman's latest venture is praiseworthy. The pictures shown are all new and some of them are very handsome. Mr. E. H. Vanderfelt and Miss Annie Mayor, excellent actors, are implicated in the proceedings, and so far as their goes the entertainment has some dramatic value. But Elsie Leslie dominates everything. Her costumes as Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII, are rich and expensive; her rags at Tom Canty, the pauper, are picturesque, and whatever she wears is becoming to her. The scenery is excellent, and a great many persons assist the little girl. There was a large audience to see the first performance, and the applause was very loud and very sincere.
People will flock to see an infant monarch cracking nuts with the sceptre of royalty.
See related article in the New York Herald.
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