Donna in Sandusky, OH, at the Sandusky Theater

“Chin Chin” plays the Sandusky Theatre, April 5, 1920

I don’t know where Donna was immediately before she played in Sandusky, Ohio. We are aware she played in Greenville, PA on March 20th, but don’t have any sightings of her or the show until “Chin Chin” plays in Sandusky on April 5th.
The first show advertising indicated that:
“Chin Chin” Sale Now On.

The seat sale for Charles Dillingham’s greatest of successes, “Chin Chin,” at the Sandusky next Monday night, opens at the theatre box office this morning.
This is the original Globe theatre, New York production. In its entirety, with the same cast that presented it to capacity audiences at the Euclid Opera house, Cleveland, earlier in the season.
This is without a doubt the biggest attraction ever seen on the local stage.
A cast is one the like of which was never seen in this city. It includes Walter Wills and Roy Binder, two particular stars, supported by a company consisting of some 60 odd artists, including Tom Brown’s famous clown saxaphone band.
The following day the Sandusky Star-Journal ran a more in-depth article about the show, which read[i]:
“Chin Chin”
“Chin Chin,” the fantastical musical comedy which met with such success in England and the United States, will be presented at the Sandusky Theater, next Monday night, April 5.
The production is somewhat on the lines of the old time pantomimes, having a scant plot and many musical turns, choruses, comic interludes and dances. From beginning to end it is very amusing, very light and really good fun. The scenery and costumes are elaborate in the extreme and some of the color effects are particularly pleasing and artistic.

What plot there is to “Chin Chin” has to do with Aladdin and his lamp, the magician, Abanazar, who tries to get the lamp and incidentally carries off Aladdin’s intended bride, the slaves of the lamp who do many and strange, things in their quest of the lamp, Aladdin’s step-mother, the widow Twankey and her maid, Fan Fan, who is apparently made of India rubber. The two chief characters are the slaves of the lamp and Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the parts are great laughter makers. Their parts call for acrobatic feats, comic songs, dancing and difficult actting. Irene McKay, is the Widow Twankey’s maid.

The first scene is the Toy Bazaar and in it some pretty dances by the toys fire given, the Teddy Bear dance being particularly quaint. In the next scene Aladdin sings “Goodbye Girls, I’m Through,” the very taking air of which is often repeated in the music.

Seats are now on sale at the theater box office. 

Various advertising and articles promoted the show in both English speaking papers during the week. 
Somewhat unusual for a one-night show, the Sandusky Register ran a review of the show after it left town.[ii] The review was quite positive although you can tell that the show was on its downward spiral.
Theatrical Notes
“Chin Chin,” at the Sandusky Theatre Monday night, attracted nearly a capacity house. That it merited this none who look it in win attempt to deny.
Rich in color, pretty girts, artistic setting and all of the other things that go to make up really worth-while musical comedy, it took a place high up among the best offerings that the now waning theatrical season has afforded locally.
-Sandusky got the original Globe theatre production and, consequently, saw it just about as the offering was presented in New York. The east was the same one that presented “Chin Chin” at the Opera House, Cleveland, some months back.
A better cast had probably never trod the Sandusky stage. It included Walter Wills and Roy Binder, worthy successors of the late Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone, who had the leading roles in the original production, together with some sixty odd artists, including one of the niftiest of nifty choruses and Tom Brown’s famous saxaphone band of clowns.
The chorus was composed of nearly thirty girls, some of whom, from time to time as the play progressed, assumed minor roles.
Arrangements were made by Charles Dillingham, who is presenting “Chin Chin,” with a talking machine company. Applicants for places who were unable to go to New York, had their voices recorded on discs. These discs were sent to Dillingham and, with photographs, influenced the manager’s selections.
“Chin Chin’s” music was written by Ivan Caryll, well remembered for his ingratiating melodies in “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Cafe.” The book is by Anne Caldwell and R. H. Burnside and the lyrics by James O’Dea.
Such, numbers as “Violet,” “The Gray Moon,” “The Love ‘Moon,” “Goodbye, Girls, I’m Through” and Go-Gar Slg Gong-Jue” never fail to get a hand. Sandusky enjoyed them all.
Testimony to the worth of “Chin Chin” as a theatrical offering, lies in the fact that the attraction ran for two years at the Globe theatre, New York, and that on the road it has been “packing ’em in everywhere.

Sandusky Theater

Photo Courtesy Cinema Treasures

Andres Biemiller built the Biemiller Opera House at the corner of Water Street and Jackson Street in 1877. When Biemiller first built the theater, it seated 1,500 people. However, the Donaldson Guide of 1894 indicates that it only seated 1,200[iii]. The building went through a succession name changes between 1905 and 1908. In May 1905, Carl Neilsen purchased the building, remodeled it and changed its name to the Neilsen Opera House. In 1906, John A. Himmelein acquired the building changed the name to Himmelein Opera House. Between 1907 and 1908 it was known as the Grand Theater. Finally, in 1908, the theater was leased to O. S. Hathaway, who changed its name to the Sandusky Theater.

The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 indicates that the theater held 1,164 people. Seating included 413 on the lower floor, 327 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 24 in the box seats. It was a medium size stage, 34×28 but only had a 2-foot apron.[iv]

In 1913, the city of Sandusky had a population of just under 20,000 with an area population of about 25,000. The city supported three newspapers; the “Register” was the morning paper with a circulation of about 4,000. The evening paper was the “Star-Journal.” There was also a German language paper, the “Demokrat,” with a circulation of about 600. Three major railroads supported the city, The New York Central, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania railroads.

The “Chin Chin” show played one night in Sandusky[v] and needed to move the 100 miles southwest to Lima, Ohio for the show the next night, so the “Chin Chin” cast would not have stayed in hotels in Sandusky.

The Seitz Amusement Co. leased the building in 1936 to show motion pictures and reduced the seating capacity to 800. They bought it in 1950 and sold it four years later. The building was demolished in 1955.[vi]

Further Research

Determine where “Chin Chin” played from March 21st until April 4th, 1920.


[i] Sandusky Star-Journal, Sandusky, Ohio; April 3, 1920, Page 8; via Newspaper Archive.

[ii] Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio; April 6, 1920; via Newspaper Archive.

[iii] Donaldson, William H. 1894. The Donaldson, guide containing a list of all opera-houses in the United States and Canada, together with descriptions of their stages, their seating capacity, and the names of the managers of each; in conjunction with the Showman’s encyclopedia and the International professional register to which is added the complete code of the Donaldson cipher. Cincinnati, O.: W.H. Donaldson.

[iv] The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide. 1913. New York, N.Y.: Publication Office, New Amsterdam Theatre Building.

[v] Sandusky Register – Sandusky, Ohio – 4 April 1920; via Newspaper Archive.

[vi] Internet: Cinema Treasures – Sandusky Theater – Water Street and Jackson Street, Sandusky, OH 44870. Per information contributed by elmorovivo;

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