We know that the Chin Chin company played in Cumberland, Maryland on April 20th. We do not know if they played anywhere on the 21st. But, on the 22nd they played a one-nighter at the City Opera House in Frederick, Maryland.
I have not been successful in finding any articles about the show in the newspapers before the show. Standard advertising seems to have been used exclusively. First, there was a standard “To the General Public” announcement on April 16th, six days before the show. Then regular advertisements ran during the week.
There was a short article and photo about Walter Wills and Roy Binder which ran a couple days before the one-night engagement. There were no post engagement reviews or stories regarding the show.
City Opera House
The Frederick City Opera House open in 1891 and was operated by the City of Frederick.[i] According to the Cahn-Leighton Theatrical Guide of 1913, the Frederick City Opera House seated 1253 — 657 on the main floor, 272 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery and 24 in box seats.[ii] The stage was only 30×30. Shortly after “Chin Chin” played here, the theater was renovated with sound equipment in 1922.
The City Opera House closed in 1961. The stage, opera boxes, balcony, and orchestra pit were demolished; however, the façade of the building was left.
Today, the building is “Brewer’s Alley – Frederick County’s original Brewpub.” They have worked to preserve the elegance and glory of the old Opera House by faux decoration of some of the original ceiling panels and columns to mimic the original Italian Sienna marble.[iii] I definitely will stop and have a drink at Brewer’s Alley and see what they’ve done with the place the next time I drive through the area.
————- Disclaimer ————-
[i] Internet – Cinema Treasures: City Opera House in Frederick, MD – http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/17170 – Accessed: 1/13/2017
[ii] The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide 1913-1914. https://books.google.com/books?id=SBg7AQAAIAAJ&dq=editions%3Aou_zzJuUN5sC&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false
We know that Chin Chin played in Coshocton, Ohio, on April 11th. However, we don’t know yet where else the company played between there and Cumberland.
What we do know is from the April 14, 1920, edition of the Cumberland Evening Times – Page 10 – Column 1.
“Chin Chin” Coming to the Maryland Theatre, Tuesday, April 20
The Production of Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” has rivaled even “Floradora” in its popularity. Walter Wills and Roy Binder are featured members of the organization. They are slim young men, masters of the eccentric dance and comedians of more than ordinary ability.
“Chin Chin is a musical comedy, or extravaganza, or fantasy, whatever it may please one to call it; but it is saturated with the comic spirit and abounds in delightful pantomime.
The notices accorded the company this year prove that the aggregation of players is exceptional and that the production as a whole is a real “Top Notch” Dillingham show, and that even in war times “Chin Chin” has been doing a record business on the road, near army camps and elsewhere.
The book of the play is by Anne Caldwell and R. H. Bernside, Lyrics by Miss Caldwell and James O’Dea, and music by Ivan Caryll, remembered for the melodies of “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Cafe.”
Of its songs, “Violets,” “The Gray Moon,” “Love Moon,” “Good Bye” and “Go Gar Sig Gong Jute” are not likely to be forgotten for some seasons to come. There is also saxaphone music by the renowned Tom Brown’s Clown Sextette. In fact, “Chin Chin” is one of those fortunate shows that is clean and wholesome fun, offending no one.
The Maryland Theater was built for about $70,000 based upon plans by John D. Allen, Philadelphia, PA. It opened on 21 November, 1907 with a seating capacity of nearly 1800. It closed on 9 October, 1963 and was demolished in December, 1966.[i]
The 1920 Census indicates that Cumberland was a city of nearly 30,000 people. The Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 indicates that the theatre had a capacity of 1,696, 600 on the main floor, 340 in the balcony, 600 in the gallery, and 56 box seats. The Stage was a large 38×33 feet and the front to back wall was 41 feet. There were four stage pockets. For newspapers, besides the “Times,” whose afternoon circulation was 7,179, there was the “News” with a morning circulation of 4,000.[ii]
Obtain a subscription to Newspaper Archives and look for additional information about “Chin Chin” playing in the Cumberland Times.
Find a source for the Cumberland News and see if they have any articles regarding the show.
It had been a busy week. We now know “Chin Chin” played at the Park Theatre in Youngstown on Thursday[i] and the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville on Friday. It was back to the train and headed west about an hour to New Philadelphia for a one-night show at the Union Opera House on Saturday, April 10th.
The initial notice for the show appeared in The Daily Times (New Philadelphia) on April 3, 1920, which was the Saturday before the Saturday show. The Daily Times was the major newspaper of the area with a circulation of 2,575 per the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide of 1914. Advertising during the subsequent days let folks know many of the particulars of the show, including two car loads of scenery, seven sets, indoor circus, and, of course, the Clown Saxophone Band would be there. Besides the stars, Walter Wills and Roy Binder, Ethel Lawrence and George Usher are mentioned in articles.
On April 8th, the Daily Times did run a photo showing 16 of “Chin Chinners.” I don’t see Donna in this group, but with 65 women in the show that is understandable.
The show itself appears to have gone off without a hitch. According to the “Daily Times” of April 12th, the show had the “biggest crowd of the season.” However, across the street, three men robbed the Union Restaurant at gunpoint during the show. I’ll bet that disrupted theatregoers from having a bite after the show. Three gunmen — $19.00 taken. They apparently didn’t know what they were doing as they left $40 in silver in the cash register and just took the folding money.
The Hotel Reeves (New Philadelphia, OH)
Crop of card00072_fr.
Source: Card Cow
I have not been successful determining the exact location of the Union Opera House. Some articles indicate that it was “near the courthouse.” A review of the 1921 City Directory for New Philadelphia indicates that it was “at rear of Hotel Reeves Building.” That same directory indicates that the Hotel Reeves was at 133-135 North Broadway[ii], which seems to be where the county courthouse is.
The Union Opera House had a capacity of 1,057 – 502 on the main floor, 230 in the balcony, 300 in the gallery, and 24 in box seats. The US Census indicates that the population of New Philadelphia, OH was 10,718,[iii] so the venue could hold nearly 10% of the population of the city. However, the city of Dover is adjacent to New Philadelphia and contributed another 8,000 to the population.
The Union Opera House was probably built in 1863[iv].
The Union Opera House was destroyed by fire in November 1893. Rebuild date is not known.
The Union Opera House operated until at least 1940.[v]
I have contacted the Tuscarawas Historical Society regarding information about the Union Opera House (Theatre) regarding the history and the disposition of the theatre.
According to the Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide, there were four newspapers associated New Philadelphia at the time; the “Times,” “Tribune,” the “Democrat,” and the “Reporter” (at Canal Dover). I have been unable to find copies of those papers. Find sources for the three papers and see if they have any articles regarding the show.
“Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre, Steubenville, Ohio
By Don Taylor
We know that Chin Chin played on April 5 at the Sandusky Theatre in Sandusky, OH on April 5th and played at the Faurot Opera House in Lima, OH on April 6th. We don’t know if the show was on holiday Wednesday and Thursday, or not, but they resumed playing Friday, April 9th at the Victoria Theatre.
The Steubenville Herald-Star began speaking about the coming attraction on April 3 in their “AT THE THEATRE” Column on Page 5. They wrote:
Melodious, artistic and diverting is “Chin Chin”, scheduled for the Victoria theatre Friday night, April 9th. To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus. In their songs, “The Chinese Honeymoon”, “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells’, the two clever comedians Wills and Binder make a decided hit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.[i][ii]
On April 4th was one of the most interesting articles about the show “Chin Chin” I have come across. Sadly, parts of the article are not legible, but what is readable in my version is fascinating. It said:
AT THE THEATRE
The Importance of Women Choristers in “Chin Chin”
It was not the custom for women to appear publicly in the theatres of Europe either on stage or in the auditorium until many years after the death of William Shakespeare. The women who did venture to the theatre always were masked. Most of Shakespeare’s heroines were acted in his days by boys. There are no records of women acting on the English stage until after the Restoration, when the floodgates of licenses were let down ________________ of owmen choristers in opera is of comparative recent ________ tribute in such entertainments as those which managers like Mr. Charles Dillingham presents __ which “Chin Chin” to be offered at the Victoria Theatre Friday night, April 9 is a notable example.
The bare thought of only a male chorus of twenty-four voices in “Chin Chin”, no matter how attractive these voices might be, would be likely to have a very disastrous effect upon the box office receipts. Undoubtedly audiences of today would not be so easily satisfied as were the ancient Greek audiences, truthfully speaking it is the great number of really youthful and vivacious girls that prove the biggest drawing card for the most interesting of Musical Comedies “Chin Chin” Order seats now.[iii]
I agree that having fifty plus attractive women added to the success of “Chin Chin” at the box office and have seen advertising articles highlighting that fact before, but I had never seen anyone tie it to Shakespeare and Greek plays before.
Again, on April 7th, the Steubenville Herald-Star newspaper had another article on page three. I can’t tell if it is fact or show business fiction nor if it gives insight into the life of Walter Wills or only insight into the culture of the time, but it is an interesting story.
AT THE THEATRE “Chin Chin” at the Victoria Theatre….
Walter Wills and Roy Binder in this fantasy have become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less thrilling adventures in the pursit of the Lam which brought to its possessor all manner of happiness.
Both of the comedians have studied closely in the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Chines personality, and one of them had least has a more than casual acquaintance with the Chinese Language.
Wills once had a Chinese Servant from whom he picked up a great deal of useful knowledge. Wills is very fond of fruit, of which he was in the habit of eating a quantity every evening. One day he happened to say to his servant that he was not feeling very well. The Chinaman grumbled and then said, “You eat too much fruit—makes belly ache!” Wills took the tip and cut down on his fruit allowance….[iv]
For those of you who follow my Blog, I normally have a short history of the theater. I have about a half a dozen sources I typically go to find information including Julius Cahn Theatrical Reports and several “go to” websites such as Cinema Treasures. But, in the case of the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville I found virtually nothing. I even messaged the Jefferson County Historical Society asking about the theatre but received no response from them.
I know the theater existed in 1919, 1920, and 1921, but I know nothing more. Not when it was built, not its size, not is current status. If I learn more, I will post it. If you know more about the Victoria Theatre in Steubenville, please add it to the comments below. Thank you.
Keep researching to determine if “Chin Chin” played on April 7th or 8th 1920.
Learn more about the Victoria Theatre of Steubenville, Ohio.
[i] Note: This newspaper has an unusually high number of errors. For the sake of readability, I have corrected most of the spelling and typesetter errors rather than creating a verbatim transcript. [ii] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 3 1920 – Chin Chin – via NewspaperArchive.com [iii] Steubenville Herald-Star April 5, 1920, Page 3 via Find-my-Past. [iv] Steubenville Herald-Star – Steubenville, Ohio – Apr 7 1920 – Page 3 – NewspaperArchive.com
The “Chin Chin” Crew packed up from the show Monday night in Sandusky, Ohio, traveled overnight the 100 miles to Lima, Ohio, to set up for another one night performance.
Advertising for the “Chin Chin” performance began in the Lima Daily News on 1 April 1920 with both an ad and a short article in the Theater and Movies section of the paper.
The article reads:
And the Ad shows:
FAUROT–”Chin Chin” is scheduled for appearance at the Faurot on Tuesday night with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles, assisted by the biggest musical comedy aggregation on the road today.
The Plot of “Chin Chin” is so arranged that there is ample opportunity for many vaudeville interpolations of a nature that assures one hundred and fifty minutes of entrancing hilarity.
To relate the tricks of the pair of Chinese as they go thru their Arabian Night’s take would require much space.
“Chin Chin” is a clean and wholesome play, in seven scenes, requiring two sixty-foot baggage cars; the company comprises 65 people, mostly girls who appear in rich oriental costumes of many designs and variegated colors.
The following Sunday another an article ran in the Sunday News which included a rare photo of Donna with fellow “prima donna” Ethel Lawrence.
Photo quality is not great, however, Donna is clearly on the right. The Lima News, April 4, 1920, Via Newspaperarchive.com
Also, that issue of the paper included a much more thorough advertisement about the show including the Clown Saxophone Band and the Funny Laughing Horse. Further advertising on the day before the show and the day of the showing was similar.
The show appears to have gone on without problems. We don’t know if the company played on the 7th or 8th or if they had a couple days off, but they were in Steubenville on April 9th.
Faurot Opera House
Faurot Opera House Block
Source: Card Cow
Benjamin C. Faurot was a successful businessman in 1881 when he began construction on the Faurot Block. Facing Main and High streets, the building would be five stories high and include offices, stores, a music hall, the Lima National Bank, and the Faurot Opera House. The block design was in an “Americanized composition of the French Renaissance and Queen Anne.” It was a strikingly beautiful design and structure, so much so, that it is said to have so impressed New Yorkers that they used it as a model for theaters there.
The opera house opened in 1882 and was used for plays, vaudeville, and movies until June 1934.
Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 reported that the Faurot Opera House seated 1,183 people; 467 on the main floor, 266 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 50 in boxes. It had a 30’ by 30’ stage with a five-foot apron.
The auditorium was used for storage for a time in the 1940s, then the Opera House was demolished in 1953 to make way for a Kresge Drug Store.
The newspaper articles I found regarding this show were from The Lima News. However, other newspapers of the time included the Republican-Gazette, Times-Democrat, the Advertiser, and the German language Courier. These papers should also be searched for potential photos and articles.
Newspapers.Com; The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) · Thu, Apr 1, 1920 · Page 11
Newspaperarchives.com; The Lima News – Lima, Ohio – Apr 4 1920 – 15970948