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John Hollingshead

John Hollingshead

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John Hollingshead was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 theatrical impresario
Impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

, journalist and writer during the latter half of the 19th century. He is best remembered as the first manager of the Gaiety Theatre, London
Gaiety Theatre, London
The Gaiety Theatre, London was a West End theatre in London, located on Aldwych at the eastern end of the Strand. The theatre was established as the Strand Musick Hall , in 1864 on the former site of the Lyceum Theatre. It was rebuilt several times, but closed from the beginning of World War II...

. An innovative producer, Hollingshead brought Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 together in 1871 to produce their first joint work, a musical extravaganza
Extravaganza
An extravaganza is a literary or musical work characterized by freedom of style and structure and usually containing elements of burlesque, pantomime, music hall and parody. It sometimes also has elements of cabaret, circus, revue, variety, vaudeville and mime...

 called Thespis
Thespis (opera)
Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old, is an operatic extravaganza that was the first collaboration between dramatist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. No musical score of Thespis was ever published, and most of the music has been lost...

.

Life and career



Hollingshead was born in the Hoxton
Hoxton
Hoxton is an area in the London Borough of Hackney, immediately north of the financial district of the City of London. The area of Hoxton is bordered by Regent's Canal on the north side, Wharf Road and City Road on the west, Old Street on the south, and Kingsland Road on the east.Hoxton is also a...

 area of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England, the son of Henry Randall Hollingshead. He was educated at Homerton. He first worked as a bookkeeper for a soft goods company in London in the early 1850s while publishing political essays on finance and social reform. He soon entered into a partnership as a clothing merchant. During this time, Hollingshead and his friend Moy Thomas began publishing a penny paper called The Mail that proved unsuccessful. In 1854, he decided to close his clothing business and begin working as a writer full time. By 1855, Hollingshead was married with two children. He died in London at the age of 77.

Journalist and author


Hollingshead started his journalism career in 1854 under the tutelage of Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 at Household Words magazine and then under W. M. Thackeray at Cornhill Magazine. In 1861, he acted as the "special correspondent" for The Morning Post during the London famine. He also wrote essays, short stories and dramatic criticism. Beginning in 1864, and for several years thereafter, he contributed to Punch magazine
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

, mostly writing on political topics related to social reform. He advocated the principles of Mill and Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

. One of his best-known essays was an 1857 piece called "The City of Unlimited Paper", which became famous during the monetary panic of 1857.

Hollingshead wrote a number of books from the 1850s into the 1860s, including On the canal: a narrative of a voyage from London to Birmingham (1858); Under Bow Bells (1860, a collection of some of his essays), Rubbing the Gilt Off (a collection of his early political essays (1860) Odd Journeys (1860, a collection of travels),, Ways of Life (1861, a volume of humorous papers), Ragged London (1861, a collection of his reports for the Morning Post), and Underground London (1862). Other publications included a collection of humorous stories entitled Rough Diamonds and two volumes of miscellaneous essays called Today. He also wrote plays.
In the 1880s, Hollingshead returned to writing, producing books mostly about the theatre, including Plain English (1880), and Footlights (1883). Beginning in the 1890s, he wrote a number of memoirs and more books about the theatres that he had managed. In 1892, he also published The Story of Leicester Square, tracing the history, geography and architecture of the London neighborhood from earliest times through the date of publication. His memoir entitled My Lifetime, published in 1895, explores his life and career through that date.

The Alhambra Theatre and theatrical innovations


In the 1860s, Hollingshead turned to theatre management. He helped establish the Alhambra Theatre and was the stage manager there from 1865 to 1868, in addition to producing musical pieces and ballets there. He made it famous for its sumptuous staging, alluring corps de ballet
Corps de ballet
In ballet, the corps de ballet is the group of dancers who are not soloists. They are a permanent part of the ballet company and often work as a backdrop for the principal dancers. A corps de ballet works as one, with synchronized movements and corresponding positioning on the stage...

 and the notorious front-of-house Promenade bar, where the young ladies of the ballet hinted at more than terpsichorean pleasure.
During his tenure at the Alhambra, Hollingshead introduced London audiences to the Can-Can
Can-Can
The Can-can is a dance. It may also refer to:* Popularly, the Galop Infernal movement of Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld, commonly associated with the dance* Can Can , a 2007 fragrance by Paris Hilton...

. Hollingshead is also credited with inventing the practice of holding general matinées. Hollingshead was also one of the first theatre managers to eliminate fees for programmes and coat check.

He left the Alhambra to manage the newly redesigned Gaiety Theatre. At the Gaiety, in 1878, Hollingshead was the first theatre manager to light his auditorium with electric lights. In addition to managing the Gaiety, as described below, Hollingshead managed shows at the Opera Comique
Opera Comique
The Opera Comique was a 19th-century theatre constructed in Westminster, London, between Wych Street and Holywell Street with entrances on the East Strand. It opened in 1870 and was demolished in 1902, to make way for the construction of the Aldwych and Kingsway...

 from time to time and produced a revival of Gilbert's Princess Toto
Princess Toto
Princess Toto is a three-act comic opera by W. S. Gilbert and his long-time collaborator Frederic Clay. It opened on 24 June 1876 at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, starring Kate Santley, W. S. Penley and J. H. Ryley. It transferred to the Royal Strand Theatre in London on 2 October 1876 for a run...

 there in 1881, paired with Rutland Barrington
Rutland Barrington
Rutland Barrington was an English singer, actor, comedian, and Edwardian musical comedy star. Best remembered for originating the lyric baritone roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas from 1877 to 1896, his performing career spanned more than four decades...

's short play, Quid Pro Quo.

The Gaiety Theatre


In 1868, Hollingshead took over the Gaiety Theatre, which had been a large music hall. The auditorium was rebuilt and, under Hollingshead, it becam a venue primarily for musical burlesque, variety, continental operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

, including several operettas by Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

, and light comedy, under Hollingshead's management, from 1868 to 1886. The theatre opened on December 21, 1868, with the successful Robert the Devil
Robert the Devil (Gilbert)
Robert the Devil, or The Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun is an operatic parody by W. S. Gilbert of Giacomo Meyerbeer's romantic opera Robert le diable, which was named after, but bears little resemblance to, the medieval French legend of the same name. Gilbert set new lyrics to tunes by...

, by W. S. Gilbert
W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

, a burlesque of the opera Robert le Diable
Robert le diable (opera)
Robert le diable is an opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer, often regarded as the first grand opera. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Casimir Delavigne and has little connection to the medieval legend of Robert the Devil. Originally planned as a three-act opéra comique, "Meyerbeer persuaded...

. Gilbert also wrote An Old Score
An Old Score
An Old Score is an 1869 three-act comedy-drama written by English dramatist W. S. Gilbert based partly on his 1867 short story, Diamonds, and partly on episodes in the lives of William Dargan, an Irish engineer and railway contractor, and John Sadleir, a banker who committed suicide. It was...

 for the theatre in 1869. Another early production was Alfred Thompson's Columbus!, or the Original Pitch in a Merry Key (1869). Nellie Farren
Nellie Farren
Nellie Farren was an English actress and singer best known for her roles as the "principal boy" in musical burlesques at the Gaiety Theatre.Born into a theatrical family, Farren began acting as a child...

 starred in both Columbus and Robert the Devil. She continued as "Principal Boy" at the Gaiety for the next 25 years, first under Hollingshead and then under George Edwardes
George Edwardes
George Joseph Edwardes was an English theatre manager of Irish ancestry who brought a new era in musical theatre to the British stage and beyond....

. Other Gaiety stalwarts were Edward Terry
Edward O'Connor Terry
Edward O'Connor Terry , English actor, who became one of the most influential actors and comedians of the Victorian era.-Life and career:...

, Kate Vaughan and Fred Leslie. The theatre's music director, Meyer Lutz
Meyer Lutz
Wilhelm Meyer Lutz was a German-born English composer and conductor who is best known for light music, musical theatre and burlesques of well-known works....

, composed or arranged the music for many of its most successful burlesques.


In 1870, Henry James Byron
Henry James Byron
Henry James Byron was a prolific English dramatist, as well as an editor, journalist, director, theatre manager, novelist and actor....

's Uncle Dick's Darling starred a young Henry Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

. This was the last play that theatre buff Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 saw before his death. Other pieces at Hollingshead's Gaiety in 1870 included Dot (Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

's version of The Cricket on the Hearth); and The Princess of Trebizonde, based on the Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

 operetta (1870). Thespis
Thespis (opera)
Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old, is an operatic extravaganza that was the first collaboration between dramatist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. No musical score of Thespis was ever published, and most of the music has been lost...

, the first collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

, played at the theatre in 1871, with Farren as Mercury and J. L. Toole in the title role. Offenbach's Les deux aveugles
Les deux aveugles
Les deux aveugles is a one-act bouffonerie musicale, in the style of an operetta, by Jacques Offenbach to a French libretto by Jules Moinaux...

 played in 1872, starring Fred Sullivan
Fred Sullivan
Frederic Sullivan was an English actor and singer. He is best remembered as the creator of the role of the Learned Judge in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, providing a model for the comic roles in the later Savoy Operas composed by his brother Arthur Sullivan.By 1870, Sullivan had abandoned...

. This was followed by such works as Shilly-Shally (1872) by Anthony Trollope
Anthony Trollope
Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of his best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire...

 and Charles Reade
Charles Reade
Charles Reade was an English novelist and dramatist, best known for The Cloister and the Hearth.-Life:Charles Reade was born at Ipsden, Oxfordshire to John Reade and Anne Marie Scott-Waring; William Winwood Reade the influential historian , was his nephew. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford,...

; Antony and Cleopatra (1873); and The Battle of Life, (based on Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

's Christmas story of that title). Two other Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

 plays produced by Hollingshead's company in the early 1870s were Night and Morning and Led Astray. Boucicault's Don Caesar de Bazan was travestied in Byron's Little Don Caesar de Bazan.


In the late 1870s, the theatre became the first to install electric lighting on its frontstage. Hollingshead's productions there included The Bohemian G-yurl and the Unapproachable Pole (1877), Byron's farce Little Doctor Faust (1878) Byron's Handsome Hernani, or The Fatal Penny-Whistle (1879); and Robbing Roy (1879). Meyer Lutz
Meyer Lutz
Wilhelm Meyer Lutz was a German-born English composer and conductor who is best known for light music, musical theatre and burlesques of well-known works....

's Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves
Ali Baba
Ali Baba is a fictional character from medieval Arabic literature. He is described in the adventure tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves...

 was performed in 1880 (Hollingshead had produced a highly successful charity production called The Forty Thieves
The Forty Thieves
The Forty Thieves is a "Pantomime Burlesque" written by Robert Reece, W. S. Gilbert, F. C. Burnand and Henry J. Byron, created in 1878 as an amateur production for the Beefsteak Club of London. The Beefsteak Club still meets in Irving Street, London. It was founded by actor John Lawrence Toole...

 at the Gaiety in 1878), and a burlesque of Aladdin
Aladdin
Aladdin is a Middle Eastern folk tale. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights , and one of the most famous, although it was actually added to the collection by Antoine Galland ....

, by Robert Reece
Robert Reece
Robert Reece was a British comic playwright and librettist active in the Victorian era. He wrote many successful musical burlesques, comic operas, farces and adaptations from the French, including the English-language adaptation of the operetta Les cloches de Corneville, which became the...

, in 1881. These were followed by Little Robin Hood (1882), a burlesque by Reece, Blue Beard (1882), Ariel (1883, by F. C. Burnand, based on The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

), Don Yuan, Byron's Little Don Caesar de Bazan (a send-up of Boucicault's play), Mazeppa (1884), Little Jack Sheppard
Little Jack Sheppard
Little Jack Sheppard is a burlesque melodrama written by Henry Pottinger Stephens and William Yardley, with music by Meyer Lutz, with songs contributed by Florian Pascal, Corney Grain, Arthur Cecil, Michael Watson, Henry J. Leslie, Alfred Cellier and Hamilton Clarke...

 (1885), Monte Cristo Jr. (1886), and dozens of others. John D'Auban
John D'Auban
Frederick John D'Auban was an English dancer, choreographer and actor of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Famous during his lifetime as the ballet-master at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, he is best remembered as the choreographer of many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas.After performing as a...

 choreographed the Gaiety burlesques from 1868. In addition to these burlesques, the theatre produced comedies such as Congreve's Love for Love, Vanbrugh's Relapse, The Grasshopper (1877, an adaptation by Hollingshead of Henri Meilhac
Henri Meilhac
Henri Meilhac , was a French dramatist and opera librettist.-Biography:Meilhac was born in Paris in 1831. As a young man, he began writing fanciful articles for Parisian newspapers and vaudevilles, in a vivacious boulevardier spirit which brought him to the forefront...

 and Ludovic Halévy
Ludovic Halévy
Ludovic Halévy was a French author and playwright. He was half Jewish : his Jewish father had converted to Christianity prior to his birth, to marry his mother, née Alexandrine Lebas.-Biography:Ludovic Halévy was born in Paris...

's La Cigale), and a number of farces.

Nevertheless, burlesque and risque operettas were the normal fare at the Gaiety. Hollingshead called himself a "licensed dealer in legs, short skirts, French adaptations, Shakespeare, taste and musical glasses." In 1886, George Edwards took over the lease to the Gaiety.

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