Chin Chin – Opera House – Jamestown, NY – 16 May 1920

Donna Montran Mentioned

One of my favorite, little known, websites is Fulton History, also known as Old Fulton Postcards. They have nearly 50 million newspaper pages. Besides searching on their site, there is a separate website, Fultonsearch.org, which can provide another, less cumbersome, search methodology. The site has lots more than just Fulton County or New York-specific materials, so I highly recommend adding it to your regular search processes.

Background

The “Chin Chin” show played in North Adams, MA, on May 14th and Pittsfield, MA, on May 15th, before backtracking nearly 400 miles west to Jamestown, NY, to play the Opera House there on May 16th.

Preshow Advertising

The first advertising for the show began on Thursday, March 11, 1920 in the Jamestown Evening Journal.  Page Twelve included a regular Chin Chin ad with Walter Wills and Roy Binder sitting on the moon. There was also a photo of the Clown Saxaphone Band and an advertising article.

The Jamestown Evening Journal used this photo, however, due to the quality of the newspaper copy, this is a better quality image from jass.com.

THE FAMOUS CLOWN SAXAPHONE BAND IN “CHIN CHIN” TO BE PRESENTED AT THE OPERA HOUSE
TUESDAY NIGHT, MARCH 16.

Jamestown Evening Journal (Jamestown, NY) 11 March 1920, Page 12 – (Fulton History)

“CHIN CHIN” COMING TO THE OPERA HOUSE NEXT TUESDAY

Charles Dillingham’s musical comedy success “Chin Chin” is coming to the Opera House on Tuesday night, March 16, according to an announcement made this morning by manager R. C. Horning.

This play appeared first at the Globe theater in New York for two solid years, and is now on a transcontinental trip, touring the west for the first time.

In the leading roles will be seen Walter Wills and Roy Binder, who come to use with the stamp of approval won in such productions as The Wizard of Oz, The Red Mill, Hitchy Koo, etc., etc., etc.

The company comprising sixty-five people, mostly girls and Tom Brown’s Famous Clown Saxaphone band. Charles Dillingham’s name is associated with the biggest and best theatrical enterprises, such as the Hippodrome and Globe theater in New York some of his latest productions are Jack O’Lantern with Fred Stone. The Canary with Julia Sanderson and Joe Cawthorne. Hip Hip Hooray with 1,290 associates, and Everything which has surpassed all records at the New York Hippodrome during the season 1918-1919.

Chin Chin is a fantastic production rich in costuming. In seven sets, including the most startling surprises, ingenious trickery and grotesque dancing in plenty, affording an entertainment that is clean and wholesome proving hilarious amusement for both young and old, which qualities are the making of and particular success of the theatrical magnate, Charles Dillingham.

Chin Chin has previously appeared in Jamestown. The reputation made then will undoubtedly help it on its coming appearance.

1920-03-12 – Jamestown Evening Journal (Jamestown, NY) Page 16 – Chin Chin (Fulton History) copy

On March 15th, the Jamestown Evening Journal ran an ad showing three of the women in the cast. I’ve seen the photo before but never saw it with all three of the women identified in the photograph. They are Ethel Lawrence, Norma Seller, and Marie Cavanah.

 

Reviews

In a rare review of a one night show, Donna is called out specifically.[i]

… Donna Montram [sic], a beautiful girl, beautifully dressed and with a sweet voice and manner made the part of the Goddess of the Lamp especially attractive…

 

Jamestown Opera House (aka Shea’s Opera House)

 

<<Shea’s Theater 2 – 1948>>

Photo courtesy “Schlickrt” via Cinema Treasures – http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/40614/photos/68351

 

Abner Allen built the opera house on Second Street in Jamestown in 1894. In 1898 he sold the theater to Charles Samuels. In 1919, the Samuel’s Opera House was acquitted by the Shea interest of New York City. They refurbished the opera house. “Chin Chin” played there after that refurbishment. In 1967, the Little Theatre of Jamestown purchased the property and began operations in 1969. The theatre was renamed the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown in 1991, after the local celebrity’s death.[ii]

 

Specifications for Shea’s Opera House

Seating Capacity: 1,287

 

Proscenium opening: 37 ft
Front to back wall: 36 ft
Between side walls: 60 ft
Between fly Galleries: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 60 ft
To fly gallery: 27 ft

There were three, “Journal,” “News,” and “Daily Sun.”  I have only found articles from the Journal so far.

 

Today

The Lucille Ball Little Theater was in operation before the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know its current status. See http://www.lucilleballlittletheatre.org/ for details.

 

 

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Endnotes

[i] Jamestown Evening Journal (Jamestown, NY) March 17, 1920, Page 14 – Chin Chin (via Fulton History)

[ii] Internet: “History of the Theater’s Owners” – Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown – www.lucilleballlittletheatre.org/history-of-the-theaters-owners.html

 

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