100 Years ago Today….
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Empire Theater in North Adams, Massachusetts, on 14 May 1920
The “Chin Chin” production played at the Bennington Opera House on May 13th. Then they traveled the 16 miles south to North Adams, MA to play at the Empire Theater the next day.
Advertising for the show began on May 5th when the regular Empire ad indicated, “Coming FRIDAY, MAY 14th, “CHIN CHIN.” Along with the display ad was a short advertising article.
Booked for Empire May 14th With Fun Makers of Unusual Calibre
The management of the Empire Theater has booked Charles Dillingham’s only company presenting that wonderful spectacle of “Chin Chin” for one evening’s showing Friday evening, May 14th.
This riot of fun, feast of music, and bevy of feminine beauty appeared at the Globe theater in New York for two solid years and is justly heralded as the greatest musical comedy success emanating from the gay white way. In the leading comedy roles are Walter Wills and Roy Binder supported by a cast of about 65 people including Tom Browne’s Saxaphone band.
The book is by Anne Caldwell and R. H. Burnside, the lyrics by Anne Caldwell and James O’Dea, the music by Ivan Caryll, whose lingering and lilting melodies carried “The Pink Lady” and The Little Café” to success. “Chin Chin” is blessed with a big company.
In this musically rich show spontaneous approval is always accorded melodious tunes as “Good Bye Girl, I’m Through,” “Love Moon,” “Violet,” “The Grey Moon,” “Go Gur Sig Gong-Jue” the comedy song and “The Ragging of the Rag of Rags.”—adv.
This article is a bit unusual in that it actually mentioned “—adv.” at the end indicating it was an ad. Often these articles are ambiguous as to their source.
The Saturday paper had a special ad for the show, a text article ad, and an image of:
THE FAMOUS TOM BROWN’S CLOWN SAXOPHONE BAND IN CHARLES DILLINGHAM’S STUPENDOUS PRODUCTION OF “CHIN CHIN” AT THE EMPIRE THEATER FRIDAY EVENING.
Unusual for a one-night engagement, but the North Adams Transcript ran a review of the show the day afterwards. It read:
Charles B. Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” Draws full house. Wills the Star
Another full house responded las night to the Empire theater’s offering of another musical comedy, the occasion being the presentation of Charles B. Dillingham’s “Chin Chin.” It is a fair generalization of the production as given here to say that Walter Wills in the role created by Fred Stone, was pretty much all there was to the show. Mr. Wills’ grotesque contortions and classical humor lifted the show out of the commonplace and saved it. It would be asking too much to expect that the play as presented by last night’s cast equal that given by Montgomery and Stone and their associates some five years ago, although not a few who saw the original production in New York drew in invidious comparison last night.
Aside from Wills, it may as well be said first at last that the show was a series of blithe, sometimes crisp and wellordered, but always interesting tableaux. Musical umbers here and there betrayal tuneful purpose, but none of the singers could sing very well.
In addition to Wills, Roy Binder his companion, Starr Dunham as Alladin, Donna Montran, Bessie Franklin, and Joseph Robinson, carried the bulk of the work and displayed a certain amount of ability.
The Saxophone band, the trick horse, the fake piano playing and ventriloquist dodge were also features worthy of more than passing notice. The mechanical effects and stage settings were striking and clever, many of them being new to these parts.
The chorus was a good-sized and well-costumed one the pale pastels of the Orient predominating in the color scheme.
The Empire theater was built in 1913 to replace an earlier theater built in 1866 that had burned in 1912.[i]
The Publix Theater Corp. took over the empire and changed the name to “Paramount” effective 2 Sept 1929. Theater Manager: J. F. Sullivan[ii]
Seating Capacity: 1,200
Stage (Proscenium opening): 32×26 ft
Front to back wall: 35 ft
Between side walls: 62 ft
The theater was demolished in the 1970’s (possibly 1980’s). However, the lobby can still be seen if one looks carefully at the interior of the Capital Restaurant. Also, the name continues on with “The Empire” restaurant in the same building at that location.
Check the “Herald” for additional articles regarding the “Chin Chin” performance.
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.
[i] “Empire Theatre In North Adams, MA – Cinema Treasures”. 2020. Cinematreasures.Org. Accessed April 24 2020. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/18165.
[ii] Julius Cahn—Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory – 1921.