Chin-Chin in the News – 16 November 1919 – Trinidad, CO – Unknown Theatre

Vaudeville/Chin-Chin

My grandmother was a vaudeville star and I am following her career, trying to learn of her many performances. In October 1919, she joined the cast of the Charles Dillingham production of “Chin-Chin” “Chin-Chin” played in the US and Canada until June 1920. I monitor several newspaper services watching for new venues that the show played while she was a cast member.

I recently received a notification from the folks at Elephind that they had added the “Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection to their searchable items. As such, I ran a quick search and had two new findings. The first entry is from the Denver Jewish News dated 5 November 1919. It was an ad for Chin Chin playing at the Broadway Theatre in Denver, a venue I had learned about previously.

The second article found was from the Walsenburg World dated 20 November 1919, Page 5, Column 3, Para 12, which read:

Walsenburg World – Nov 20, 1919 – Page 5, Column 3, Paragraph 12.

“Mr. and Mrs. George Blickhahn, Mr. and Mrs. James Flynn, Mrs. B. Gardner, Aldolph Unfug, Miss Clara Kincaid of La Veta, and Lois Sporleder all spent Sunday in Trinidad seeing ‘Chin Chin.’”

The previous Sunday would have been November 16, 1919. Trinidad is a small town about 40 miles southeast of Walsenburg and about 11 miles north of the New Mexico border.

It appears that the show may have been at West’s Theatre, however, I’ll need to confirm that with additional research. The show played in Denver from the 9th to the 15th, went south to Trinidad for the 16th then returned back north to Pueblo on the 18th and Colorado Springs on the 19th.

New Venue Added:

Nov 16, 1919 – Trinidad, Colorado – (Probably) West’s Theatre.

“Chin Chin” – Lyceum Theatre – Elmira, NY – 22 May 1920

Chin Chin – VaudevilleBy Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

Chin Chin played at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, NY, on May 21st. The troupe then traveled the 60 miles south to Elmira, and two shows at the Lyceum Theatre. This showing had more advertising articles than most shows. Sadly, my grandmother, Donna, isn’t mentioned by name, however, her role, “Goddess of the Lamp” is mis-mentioned as the “Goddess of the Light.”

Advertising

On May 18th, the Star-Gazette ran the following advertisement on Page 13:

“Chin Chin” Saturday Matinee and Evening

Melodious, artistic and diverting is “Chin Chin” scheduled for the Lyceum this Saturday Matinee and evening. To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus. In their song “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 kine, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully. This is a great play for the children matinee prices 50c, 75, $1, $1.50. Evening: 50c. $1.00, $1.50, $2.00. Seat sale Thursday morning. Phone 411.—Adv.

On May 19th, the Star-Gazette ran the following advertisement on Page 16:

“Chin Chin” Saturday

Caption: The Evening Times (Sayre, Pennsylvania), May 19, 1920 – Page 2

“Chin Chin” comes to the Lyceum on Saturday matinee and evening, and is a musical comedy, or concoction, that turned them away on a previous engagement. Charles Dillingham thought it over and resolved that he had a piece of theatrical property far too valuable to pack away in the storehouse. He had no concern about its fate if he could get a pair of comedians with enough talent to play the parts of the two Chinese. Walter Wills and Roy Binder came up to the specifications, and so the new “Chin Chin” with as much pains taken upon it as the original production, was sent on tour.

Yet, “Chin Chin” does not depend wholly upon the chief comedians, its melodies, already familiar every are ingratiating: “The Good-bye Girs” [sic] song. “The Love Moon” and other numbers are delightfully tuneful, and the sprightliness of the complete story is fetching.

When Mr. Dillingham puts on a play there is not a shabby spot showing anywhere, but every detail of costume and scenery is perfected to suit the most discriminating taste. Matinee 50c, 75, $1, $1.50. Evening: 50c. $1.00, $1.50, $2.00; Seat sale tomorrow.-Adv.

On May 20th, the Star-Gazette ran the following advertisement on Page 13:

LyceuM

“CHIN CHIN”

Caption: Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York) · Thu, May 20, 1920 · Page 11

Coming to the Lyceum on Saturday is Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” the musical comedy which is one of those tales of live and wishing common to the Arabian Nights. All impossibilities are crowded into it jumbled together like the figures in a dream and in the end it resolves itself into a vehicle for the display of the clever grotesqueries of the two clever “turn” artists. Walter Wills and Roy Binder. Mr. Wills, whose body seems made of rubber, and whose facial expressions change as quickly as the wheel of fortune, gives us Chin Hop Hi, Paderewski, Mlle. Falloffski, a Gendarme and a ventriloquist, transformations accompanied by such curies tricks and poses, such tumbling, dancing, imitating, such a running fire of jokes and fun-making that the audience fairly screams with laughter. Mr. Binder gives us in rapid succession Chin Hop Lo, the widow, a Coolie and the Ring Master, lightening changes of mood, manner and get-up that provoked the audience to mirth. No more diverting and entertaining “comics” have come this way for many seasons. George Usher makes an agreeable and picturesque Aladdin.

The danseuse par excellence is Irene McKay, and astonishing acrobatic and step performer whose twinkling feet are full of speed and syncopation, her number with Mr. Wills entitled “Dance Poetic” is a remarkable performance ending with a surprise to the audience.

The favorite songs are “The Chinese Honeymoon,” “Good-bye Girls, I’m Through,” “Violet.” “The Gray Dove,” and “Love Moon.” The most recalled dance and song numbers are the “Teddy Bear Dance.” (without words), “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue,” “Temple Bells,” “The Rag of Rags,” and “Bally Moony.”

The clever Saxophone Sextette by Tom Brown’s Clown Band is one of the most amusing and delightful hits of the play. The company is acceded to be the largest organization presenting a musical comedy on the road today, there are girls, and girls and girls. Extra musicians are carried by the company assuring patrons of the correct interpretation of the excellent musical score. Matinee 50c, 75, $1, $1.50. Evening: 50c. $1.00, $1.50, $2.00. Seats now selling.—Adv.

Advertising for the show continued every day in the Elmira Star-Gazette. Additionally, the Sayre, PA, Evening Times (about 20 miles from Elmira) ran advertising articles daily including the following the day of the show.

“CHIN CHIN” IN ELMIRA TONIGHT

Chin Chin, a musical comedy in three acts and seven sets of scenery, which has won an international reputation as one of the biggest musical comedy successes of recent years, is scheduled for an appearance at the Lyceum Theater, Elmira this evening. Catchy song numbers abound with delightful melody, lavish scenery, costumes of the Oriental and Old English style, a chorus of over thirty sprightly girlies, hilarious comedy and pantomimic work introduced by a number of clever comedians with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the lead, all combine to afford a capital evening’s entertainment of good, clean fun.

In the first act, we have Aladdin and Violet Bond, a charming young American girl in search of a magical lamp which has the power to grant any wish of the owner. They meet at the toy shop of Abanazer, and the remaining acts and scenes are brought about gb [sic] the magical properties of the lamp found in the tea shop of Widow Twanke. In succession foll such characters as Fan Tan, the Goddess of the Light, Chin Hop Hi, Chin Hop Lo, Paderewski, the Ventriloquist and many others too numerous to mention. Evening prices $2, $1.50, $1, 50c.

Post Show Info

There is a five-day gap in my records of the Chin Chin show, but I know the show played at the Orpheum Theatre in York PA on May 28th. So, I suspect that the show played in New York or Pennsylvania during the 23rd to the 27th. I definitely need to search the New York and Pennsylvania newspapers of May 1920 searching for the show appearances.


Lyceum Theatre

Lyceum Theatre – Elmira, NY
Photo source “Texas2step” via Cinema Treasures

In 1866, Henry S. Gilbert and Daniel R. Platt formed the “Lake Street Building Association” to build a public hall, the Elmira Opera House.  In 1898 the hall was remodeled and renamed the Lyceum Theatre.[i] On March 6, 1904, a fire erupted which destroyed the theatre.[ii] Two theaters and six stores were destroyed in the inferno. On October 19, 1905, the New Lyceum theater opened. The theater operated until 1926 when it closed. The building was finally demolished in 1949.[iii]

Specifications for the Lyceum Theatre, Elmira

There is some conflict regarding the seating capacity. The 1921 Juliua Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide reports a seating capacity of 1,576[iv] and the 1913 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill guide reports 100 more, 1676. LL.F. 566, Bal 438, Gal 600, Boxes 72. In any event, it was the second largest theatre in Elmira at the time. (The Colonial seated 1816.)[v] However, the Lyceum had the largest stage in town with a proscenium opening of 38 x 28 feet. Other theater specifications include:

    • Front to back wall: 40 ft
    • Between side walls: 68 ft
    • Apron 2 ft
    • Between fly girders: 50 ft
    • To rigging loft: 58 ft
    • To fly gallery: 28 ft

Today, 150 Lake Street, Elmira, New York is occupied by a Five Star Bank branch office.

Further Research

Review newspaper sources for other venues for “Chin Chin” to have played between May 23rd and May 27th.

Disclaimer

The ads and some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” If you purchase after clicking on them, I will receive a small commission which will help me pay for this site. Please see my Disclaimer Page for more information.

Endnotes

[i] Internet: Freethough Trail – “Elmira Opera House” https://freethought-trail.org/trail-map/location:elmira-opera-house/ accessed 13 Sep 2020.

[ii] Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, 7 March 1904, Page 7 – “Lyceum theatre destroyed by fire” (Newspapers.Com).

[iii] Internet: Star Gazette – “History: Lyceum theatre thrilled Elmira audiences” by Jim Hare, Guest Columnist, Published August 14, 2015. https://www.stargazette.com/story/news/local/2015/08/14/elmira-history-lyceum/31705245/ accessed 13 Sep 2020.

[iv] (1921). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide and moving picture directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill.

[v] 1913). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide and moving picture directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill.

 

“Chin Chin” – Colonial Theatre – Pittsfield, MA – 15 May 1920.

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA, on 15 May 1920.

Vaudeville
Chin Chin
Donna Montran

“Chin Chin” played at the Bennington, Vermont, Opera House on May 13th and the Empire Theater in North Adams on the 14th. Then the show moved the 20 miles south to play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA on Saturday, the 15th.

Advertising for the show began on the 8th of May with an ad showing “Chin Chin” would be coming for “One Night Only” on May 15th. On the 10th, a quick little note said, “’Chin Chin’ at Colonial – Manager Raymond has booked Charles Dillingham’s ‘Chin Chin,’ with Walter Wills and Ray Binder for the Colonial Saturday night.”

The Berkshire Eagle reported Monday, after the show:

The Berkshire Eagle – May 17, 1920

“Chin Chin” with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles played to a good-sized audience at the Colonial theatre Saturday evening. It was the second one night stand in two days despite this that there was a large attendance. Like other Dillingham shows it was a wonderful production.

The play is a modern version of the famous old Arabian Nights tale of “Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp.” Messrs. Wills and Binder become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less adventures in the pursuit of the lamp which brought its possessor all kinds of happiness. The musical numbers were very sweet and catchy.

Among the many features in this gigantic show are the Teddy Bear dance, Tom Brown’s Saxophone band, a real circus tent with an honest-to-goodness big white circus horse circling around the ring, while Mlle. Falloffski performs the most daring and screamingly funny bareback stunts. Tom Brown’s band was one of the big hits of the evening.

Theater

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA – (Photo courtesy of Granola via Cinema Treasures)

The Colonial Theatre was built in 1903 but burned in 1912. It underwent extensive renovation and reopened with state-of-the-art theatrical technology, in 1912.

The 1921 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory indicated that the Pittsfield Colonial Theatre was operated by the Goldstein Bros. Amusement Co. and managed by L. H. Raymond. The theater played legitimate theater, stock, and picture attractions.[i] It had a seating capacity of 487 on the main floor, 309 in the balcony, 350 in the gallery, and 72 in the Box seats for a total capacity of 1218.

Specifications for the Colonial Theatre

Proscenium opening: 32 ft
Front to back wall: 45 ft
Between side walls: 58 ft
Apron 5 ft
Between fly girders: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 64 ft
Between fly galleries: 40 ft
The theatre had 8 Dressing rooms

Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/masstravel/ (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The theatre operated until 1934 when it closed due to the Depression. It reopened in 1937 as a movie theater with occasional community performances. It closed in 1952 and became a paint and art supply business. In 1998, the theatre was designated a National Historic Treasure. In 2001, the Colonial Theatre Association began a restoration of the building. In 2006, the theatre reopened to the public with its vaulted gilded enterence, elaborately decorated boxes and balcony, and exquisite ornamental detail.[ii]

Today

The Colonial Theatre of Pittsfield, MA, is a beautifully renovated facility.

Disclaimer

The ads and some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” If you purchase after clicking on them, I will receive a small commission which will help me pay for this site. Please see my Disclaimer Page for more information.


Endnotes

[i] (1921). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide and moving picture directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill via Hathi Trust – https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924063709764&view=1up&seq=7 – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[ii] Internet: Berkshire Theatre Group website, “History of the Colonial Theatre” https://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/berkshire-theatre-group/history-of-the-colonial-theatre/ – Accessed 21 July 2020.

UPDATE – “Chin-Chin” – Regina Theatre – Regina, SK – January 15-17, 1920

Donna Montran
Chin-Chin
Vaudeville

Subsequent to my original look at Donna and the Chin Chin cast playing at the Regina Theater, in Regina, SK, Canada, (See original post.) I found a great new article about that show which included a mention of Donna. The review provides one of the best descriptions of the show I’ve seen.

‘CHIN-CHIN’ HAS COMEDY TO BURN AT THE REGINA

Extravaganza of Nonsense, Specialties and Wardrobe
in New York Fantasy Show

Newspaper Clipping - Chin Chin Has Comedy to Burn at the Regina.
The [Regina] Leader Post, January 16, 1920 – Page 16, Column 2 (Via Newspapers.Com)
Have no fear of anything highbrow occurring in “Chin Chin.” It doesn’t. “Chin Chin” is full of burlesquerie, grotesquerie and diablerie. A suggestion of the childhood classic, “Aladdin’s Lamp,” reappearing through all the scenes provides the skeleton for an extravagance of nonsense, specialties and wardrobe. The magic lamp provides the element of plausibility for all the absurdities that happen.

Uproarious Fun

Walter Wills and Roy Binder are the comedians who provide all the uproarious scenes in their manifold characters as Chin Hop Li, Chin Hop Low, Padereweski, Mlle. Falloffski, the ventriloquist, a pair of gendarmes, a duplicate Widow Twanky, a pair of coolies, and a circus ring-master, falling of into the character of a pair of impertinent poll-parrots at any part in the proceedings, giving no notice of motion whatever.

The two hard-working fun-makers have a dozen principals and two dozen chorus-girls to help them keep the audience entertained. This is not counting the trick horse for the circus scene, nor the four animated teddy bears, nor the wonderfully clever saxophone clown sextet.

Astonishing Dance

Walter Mills and Miss Irene Mackay have an astonishingly twinkling and acrobatic dance which quite takes the breath from the audience, though the dancers bob up serenely after madly romping through their business. As a final encore the man comes on with a dummy figure which the house mistakes for the little lady Fan Tay and after a brief breathless dance tosses the supposed human figure over an eight-foot wall into the wings.

Another big scene put on by Wills is his glorified Paderewski. There aren’t any attitudes he fails to strike while playing nor any musical paganisms he doesn’t commit on his little old piano. His mimicry there was rivalled by Binder’s impersonation of the very personable Widow Twanky. Dummies happen where they were not watch for, and then in the ventriloquist act what one thought was a very badly-jointed dummy turns out to be a human. “What’s the use?” was one’s conclusion after trying for a couple of hours to guess what was happening either then or next.

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at Newspapers.com
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Starr Dunham is a real story-book sort of Aladdin, pleasing as a picture in his fairy-tale toggery, modest of miem, well equipped as dancer and singer. Miss Ethel Lawrence as Violet, daughter of the United Son of Affluence, has a wealth of charm as to person and costume; and Donna Montram[sic], the goddess of the lamp, delighted with her solos, “Violet” and  “Grey Dove;” while Carrie Dale played the winsome Widow Twankey to queen’s taste. “Good-bye, Girls, I’m Through,” “Chinese Honeymoon,” “Chipper China Chaps,” “Love Moon,” “Bally Mooney,” and the clown’s band’s music will all be remembered with no falling of the spirit.

The settings are all quite lavish, but the red-gold and orange-brown tea-shop for the New Year’s celebration, with the chorus in harmonizing tones, was charming in the extreme.—I. M.

Chin Chin – Oneonta Theater, Oneonta, NY – May 18, 1920

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Oneonta Theatre in Oneonta, New York on 18 May 1920

Oneonta Theatre, Oneonta, New York
Vaudeville – Chin Chin
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.It is not clear where Chin Chin played in the days before Oneonta. On May 15 the show played at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield. May 16th’s and May 17th’s venues are still unknown but the cast made it the 113 miles from Pittsfield to Oneonta.

Preshow Advertising

It seems odd that 10 days before the show there were two letters in the newspaper. The first was from the former manager of the Oneonta Theatre and current manager of the Lyric Theatre in Allentown, PA, where he mentions what a great show “Chin Chin” is and he is making no mistake in booking it. The second letter was from the Oneonta Theatre, presumably manager Ed Moore, wherein he indicated he made an offer to Mr. Dillingham to bring the show to Oneonta. In the letter, he indicates he is waiting for the acceptance of his offer. Meanwhile, there is a standard “Chin Chin” ad on the same page with everything except for the date.

The newspaper on May 12th indicates that Charles A. Goettier, business manager for “Chin Chin” was in Oneonta, and agreements were signed to bring the show to Oneonta.

On May 15th, the newspaper indicated “Chin Chin” would be the last big roadshow for the season. Immediately after “Chin Chin” contractors will work to remove the stage and join the new addition to the current building.

Show Advertising

Finally, “Chin Chin” played on the evening of May 18th without a hitch.

Reviews

There were no reviews that I have found.

Post Show Info

It is still unclear where “Chin Chin” played the next two days, but the show played the Smith Opera House, Geneva, NY, (130 miles west of Oneonta) three days later, on May 21, 1920.

Oneonta Theatre
47 Chestnut Street, Oneonta, NY

Oneonta Theatre Marquee in 1929. Photo Credit: Uploaded to Cinema Treasures on 7 Feb 1014 by CharmaineZoe

The Oneonta Theatre was designed by architect Leon H. Lempert and was built in 1897 by Oneonta resident Willard E. Yager. It opened on January 31, 1898.  In 1913, a 20×20 screen was added to accommodate silent films.

Specifications for the Oneonta Theatre, Oneonta, NY[i]

Ed. M. Moore, Manager – O. S. Hathaway Owner
Seating Capacity 1,000.

Front to back wall: 35 ft
Between side walls: 60 ft
Between fly girders: 40 ft
To rigging loft: 50 ft

After “Chin Chin” played there on 18 May 1920, the theater continued to prosper. Will Rogers played there in 1927; in 1979 the theater was converted to a two screen “Multiplex.” Stage events stopped there in 1992. The theater has open and closed several times in the past 30 years. The theater is on the National and State Register of Historic Places. Last year (2019) there were plans to renovate Oneonta Theater and presentations indicating the costs of various renovation levels.  However, the latest Google street photo indicates that the theatre is still for sale.

Today



Further Research

All of my newspaper sources for this event were from the Oneonta Star. The Theatrical Guide indicates there as also a “Herald” newspaper.  A look at the US Newspaper Directory (Library of Congress – Chronicling America) indicated that the Oneonta Herald was published from 1884 to 1947. The directory showed that The Oneonta Press and Otsego County Democrat was also being published at that time (1898-1922).  I should look at those if they become available.

Disclaimer

The ads and some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” If you purchase after clicking on them, I will receive a small commission which will help me pay for this site. Please see my Disclaimer Page for more information.

 Endnotes

[i]  Julius Cahn—Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory – 1921 – Page 267