Donna at Rock Springs, Wyoming on November 23, 1919 at the Grand Theater

Donna at Rock Springs, Wyoming on November 23, 1919 at the Grand Theater.

Rock Springs Miner
21 November 1919
Thanks to the
Wyoming Newspaper Project
I almost missed that Chin Chin played at the Grand Theater in Rock Springs Wyoming. But thanks to the Wyoming Newspaper Project’s indexing of the Rock Springs Miner, I was able to learn about that venue. 
The Rock Springs Miner apparently was a weekly paper, so information about the show was limited to only two editions. The newspaper on November 14th, included an ad for the show, a brief article about the shows coming, and another photo of “The Four French Dancing Dolls.”  The quality of this photo’s image is much better than the one which was in the Colorado Springs Gazette. Uncle Russell, Donna’s son, and I are fairly sure that the woman on the left is Donna. 
It appears that Donna is on the left.
Rock Springs Miner – 14 November 1919
Thanks to the Wyoming Newspaper Project
The newspaper on November 21st also included the photo of “The Four French Dancing Dolls” along with an ad and a short write up article.  The article also mentions, “There is no leading lady in this organization.  Although a number of beautiful women, principals and otherwise, who is to enjoy the place of honor as first favorite is left to the choice of the public.”
The article goes on to say that, “It is estimated that 250,000 people from all points more than one hundred miles from New York have already seen ‘Chin Chin” while it was presented at the Globe Theatre in New York, and now Mr. Dillingham is actually bringing this his only company in its entirety to the Grand Thearte [sic].”

The Grand Theater

The Grand Theater Today
Larger View

When I first saw the Google Maps photo of the Grand Theater today I was astounded.  I couldn’t imagine what the company thought when they came to the Grand Theater.  It appeared small, very small.  By a quick Google Map view of the theater it appeared to be about 60 feet by 80 feet.  It was difficult to imagine that such a small theater could host a cast of over 60 people and still have room for customers.

Then I contacted the good folks at the Rock Springs Historical Society on Facebook and asked them about the Grand Theater. They were kind enough to send a photo they had.  Their photo clearly showed additional space in the rear, which probably housed the stage, changing rooms, etc.

What a relief. Back in the day, it held over 300 people. The photo also show a roof element that indicates the building was built in 1914 as a Labor Temple.

The Grand Theater, Rock Springs, WY
Courtesy of Rock Springs Historical Museum

Today it hosts an “Adult store” and some vacant frontages.

Rock Springs Miner (Rock Springs, WY) Nov 14, 1919, Pages 3, 5, & 6 via the Wyoming Newspaper Project 
Rock Springs Miner (Rock Springs, WY) Nov 21, 1919, Pages 2, 3, 5, & 6 via the Wyoming Newspaper Project Wyoming Theater Tour Rock Springs and the Grand Theater 
Google Maps 463 North Front Street, Rock Springs, WY, 82901

Rock Springs Historical Museum via Facebook

Donna in Cheyenne, WY, November 22, 1919 at the Princess Theater

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Donna in Cheyenne, WY, November 22, 1919 at the Princess Theater

Chin Chin ad, 19 Nov 1919
Wyoming State Tribune
We don’t know where Donna and the “Chin Chin” company were on November 20th or the 21st.  It is likely there were somewhere, but wherever it was the local newspaper doesn’t appear to currently have an on-line archive available.  It is likely they were in Colorado or Wyoming those dates. 
The pre-show buzz began as it typically did about a week before the show.  On November 15th, the Wyoming State Tribune reported that, “‘Chin Chin’ Is Coming.” Manager M. H. Todd of the Princess theater announced the coming of “Charles Dillingham’s greatest musical comedy success ‘Chin Chin’ on November 22nd.”  The hype kept going with an article on November 17th regarding “Catchy Music In ‘Chin Chin.’”
The first Princess Theater ad regarding the show ran on November 19th. 
Wyoming State Tribune – 19 Nov 1919
Besides the typical ad, there was a photo of many of the “Pekin Girls” that were in the show.
Looking carefully at this photo, neither Uncle Russ nor I believe Donna is in it. Also, on the 19th, the Wyoming State Tribune ran a short article about the show that indicated, among other things that the show was “a bevy of feminine beauty with pretty dresses, swift and grotesque dancing, a feast of music….”  In this case, I believe that “grotesque dancing” means “comically distorted dancing.”  
The newspaper on November 20th ran an article, “Choose Your Own Star” wherein they indicate, “There is no leading lady in this organization, although a number of beautiful women, principals, and otherwise song birds and actresses are in the cast. “It appears that show who is to enjoy the place of honor as first favorite is left tot he choice of the public.”
That is an interesting statement because it clearly comes from the press releases before the show.  Sometime later, Donna’s press will say she was the star of “Chin Chin” which didn’t have a leading lady.  I guess her place of honor in the company is our choice. 
The day of the show, not only did The Princess advertise “Chin-Chin” tonight but Night-Cambell;s advertised that people could “Hear Tom Brown’s Famous Clown Band.” The Bucscher Saxophones used by the Clown Band were available at Knight-Cambell’s music.  Also on the 22nd, there was the typical short article about the “Meaning of ‘Chin Chin.’”
The review of the show, which ran in the Wyoming State Tribune on Monday, November 24, 1919 was less than stellar.

First-Class Show; Second Class Cast 

This Was Verdict of Big Crowd at Princess Theater Saturday Night — Many Possibilities, But That’s All


“A first-class show,” said Little Mary Sunshine, after it was all over with at the Princess Saturday night. 
“A first-class show, put on by a second-class company. corrected Old Man Grouch, sitting at her elbow.

And, if a vote had been taken, probably three-fourths of the capacity house would  have agreed with the old Man. 
It was easy to see that “Chin Chin had possibilities. It was easy to see why, when it came out in New York a number of years ago; Montgomery and Stone were able to keep it going night after night for something like two seasons.  But it was also easy to see why, with Dave Montgomery dead, with Fred Stone in other productions, and with to the music now out of the so-called popular class, this show had lost a goodly share or whatever drawing power It may once have had.

A Few Pleasing Features.
The clown saxophone band was excellent. So were the performances of “Paderewski” at the piano, the fake ventriloquist, and the horse and bareback rider in the circus. The soprano got away in good shape when she sang something about violets, and again when she asked the tenor to fly with her to loveland. The costumes were  quite a novelty.

But outside at that there isn’t much to be said. The scenery was rather shopworn, the chorus girls were drowned out by the orchestra at least half of the time, and, with the exception of the two comedians, who did their best to make up for the absence of ‘their illustrious predecessors, the cast was pretty much along the amateur style.

Good in its Day.

As one young lady remarked; “This reminds me of the plays we used to put on at the convent.”

The only song we can recall today was “Goodbye, Boys, I’m Through.”  It was good in its day, but that day has long since passed.

There may have been a plot but if there was we don’t seem to in able to remember the details.

Perhaps the weakest fink in the chain was the big young tenor. He broke down twice. We excused him afterward, however, when we found that he had joined the troupe only last week in Denver—and then of course who knows but what be really did have a bad cold? 

This Man Liked It

It also developed afterwards that this was the same young man who sang “Micky” when the movie by that name appeared at the Princess some time ago. And, it seem here was one man at least who knew how to appreciate the show.

“If the people of Cheyenne don’t like it,” he said Saturday morning, it may be because it goes over their heads—too high class for ‘em. That’s why it didn’t get by very well in Denver.

Maybe so, maybe so. 


The Princess Theater

Courtesy of the Wyoming State Archives,
Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources
I can’t find out much about the Princess Theater in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I can’t find any information about when it was built.  Certainly it was open in 1918 when it hosted WWI films. The Wyoming State Tribune mentions the Princess Theater being “prosperous” on Page 2 of the March 14, 1918 newspaper. So the theater clearly predates that date. [Anyone who can find information about the theater, please feel free to comment below.]
It appears that the building was sold in 1940.  After the death of the owner in 1948, his widow had the building renovated in 1950. It was reopened as the WYO Theater. The WYO theater was closed in 1969. 
Today, a parking ramp exists at that location. 

View Google Map

Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 15, 1919, Page 5 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 17, 1919, Page 5 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 19, 1919, Page 5 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 20, 1919, Page 5 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 22, 1919, Page 5 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, WY) Nov 24, 1919, Page 1 via Genealogy Bank
Wyoming State Archives – Photographs – Princess Theater
Cinema Treasures, Wyo Theater, 1612 Carey Ave, Cheyenne, WY, 82001