Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Cartesian chorine ... from a Pennsylvanian pub

As I flicked on to the facebook page of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Appreciation Group today I pulled up short.

Alan Durman has been posting a series of programmes from C19th productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. Now, I am not a G&S specialist, like others in the group, but I flatter myself that my little foray into the Savoy (et al) world and its people has, this year, turned up quite a few trumps, and ‘outed’ a few shy players from behind their noms de théâtre. Anyway, when I glance at playbills of this kind and era, normally, I know who everyone is. 

Not today. The playbill was for Patience in New York, and there were two unfamiliar ladies in the roles of Angela and Ella. Sophie Hummel and Marie Hunter. Hmm. Probably picked-up locals rather than kosher Savoyards. I check out David Stone’s page. Yes. Their careers are totally on the left-hand side of the Atlantic. So, I decided to find out what I could about ... well, Sophie, first. And, look! I did pretty well. And she had a nice little career in the musical theatre, before quitting, aged 28, for married life as the wife of a New York shop-clerk.

Sophia Louisa Hummel(l) was born in Pennsylvania 19 January 1858. Her father, Gottlieb Hummell from Württemberg and her mother Katharine née Beckley, born Switzerland, had emigrated to America in 1851, and settled initially in Philadelphia, where the first of their eight children were born. However, before too many years, they moved to Elmira, NY, where Gottlieb became landlord of the Washington Hotel and where the couple lived out their lives. A selection of Hummells is buried in the local graveyard.

Sophie started work as a vocalist in 1879 when she joined Alice Oates’s touring English comic opera troupe, and from there she went on to chorus and mostly small parts with other good companies: at Wallack’s (The Grim Goblin), with Mahn’s company, supporting Jeannie Winston (Beatrice in Boccaccio), with John Duff’s companies (Olivette, Micaela), with the Carte/Rice Billee Taylor tour, again for Carte in Les Manteaux Noirs and Patience, and in productions of The Merry War, The Merry Duchess and in Alice May’s showcase Satanella.

In 1884 she toured with the Barton comedy company, before joining the company at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall. There, she became installed as a principal lady, appearing as Sidonia in a mashup of Zehn Mädchen, kein Mann, opposite Fred Clifton in a remake of Carte’s Dr Ambrosias, credited to Wilfred Bendall and Cunningham Bridgman, in the burlesque Na-non, and as Pity-Sing in a burlesque of The Mikado. Happily, K&B photographed their production for souvenir merchandising, alas without credits! I plump for 'Braid the Raven Hair' which mean it is Yum Yum (Laura Burt) in the middle ... but which of the other two is Pity-Sing ...?

During her K&B engagement, she took time out to play with Edward Harrigan in Are You Insured? …
But Pity-Sing was apparently her last role. 28 March 1886 she wed German store-clerk, Charles Kalman, one of nine brothers of a Beekman Place, New York family who seemed to be mostly shop-clerks, and left the stage. I see them in 1900 living with Sophie’s young sister, Katherine Neville, and her husband ‘book publisher’ in New York. Charles is now a ‘silk merchant’. In 1910 they are in Brooklyn …
Sophie died in 1914. She is buried back in Elmira … Charles married again, but he died at 30 East 60th Street 18 January 1923, aged 74. 

And that is the story of Sophie Hummel(l) … 

That'll do for today ...

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