PE0238. IRENE (Harry Tierney – Joseph McCarthy), w.Frank Tours Cond.Empire Theatre Ensemble; Edith Day, Daisy Hancox, Margaret Campbell, Winnie Collins, Robert Michaelis, Robert Hale, etc. (England) Palaeophonics 114, recorded 1920, Complete, as Recorded, w.Elaborate ‘The Play’ 20pp. Brochure replete w.photos from the London production & facsimile of original brochure. IRENE opened at the Empire Theatre on 5 April, 1920 and ran for 399 performances.
“IRENE has the distinction of being the longest running musical from the first third of the 20th century and is responsible for establishing (in full force) the ‘Cinderella story’ template of which many shows (including 1920’s SALLY) would take advantage. The story tells of a young working Irish girl, the eponymous Irene O’Dare, who meets and falls in love with a tycoon. She becomes a famous model under an elegant alias and endures romantic drama until things end happily by the final curtain. The score by Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy is, much like Kern’s SALLY, not exceptional; the show’s treasure is its naïve charm, and what Miller was to Ziegfeld, Edith Day was to IRENE. In fact, she found such success in the Original Broadway Production that she headlined the show’s 1920 Original London Production.
IRENE‘s production history remains its most fascinating characteristic. The original Broadway production, directed by Edward Royce, opened on 18 November, 1919 at the Vanderbilt Theatre, where it ran for 675 performances, at the time the record for the longest-running show in Broadway history, one it maintained for nearly two decades. The show made a star of Edith Day, who departed the cast after five months to recreate her role at London's Empire Theatre, where it ran for 399 performances. Day was replaced in the Broadway production by Helen Shipman. After the aforementioned productions on each side of the Atlantic in the early ’20s, the show was briefly seen on Broadway again in 1923 and on the West End in 1945. Two film adaptations were made — a silent in 1926 and a talkie in 1940 (with Anna Neagle). Decades went by and the once record-breaking IRENE was all but a memory. That is, to all but Harry Rigby, the man who gave us one of the biggest and brightest revivals in Broadway history. Yes, I’m talking about his 1971 revival of NO, NO, NANETTE (1925), which took a great show from a similar era, retooled it (while keeping most of the entire original score), and triumphantly showed it to be the rediscovered gem that we all now know it to be. Hoping to strike gold again by capitalizing on this early ’70s nostalgia craze, Rigby set his sights on IRENE…
Edith Day recorded IRENE’s first number, and the show’s most lasting tune, ‘Alice Blue Gown’, shortly after the opening. ‘The Talk Of The Town’, an utterly delightful number sung by Robert Hale, Winnie Collins, and Margaret Campbell, as Madame Lucy and two of his models, which has been recorded only by the Original London cast.”
- upperco, That’s Entertainment, 28 July, 2014
“Although Minneapolis born Edith Day made her theatrical début in America, it was in England that she became a star. In 1919 she played the title role in the Broadway production of IRENE and was hailed by critics and audiences alike. The hit song from the show, sung by Irene, was Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy’s ‘Alice Blue Gown’ and the song and Day’s performance of it helped the show to a long and profitable run. The following year, she went to London for the show’s West End production and her success there surpassed even the considerable acclaim she had enjoyed on Broadway. She decided to make England her home and appeared in several popular shows, gaining even more plaudits. She sang the title role in Rudolph Friml, Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II’s ROSE-MARIE (1925), starred as Margot in Sigmund Romberg and Hammerstein’s THE DESERT SONG (1927) and was Magnolia in Jerome Kern and Hammerstein’s SHOW BOAT (1928). During this time of great success, Day was often referred to as ‘the Queen of the Drury Lane Theatre’ and her successes continued in the next decade with a highly acclaimed performance in the title role of RIO RITA (1930). Her last West End appearance of note was in SUNNY RIVER (1943), after which she retired. It was not her last performance, however, and in 1962 she agreed to play the role of Mrs. Sweeney in Noël Coward’s SAIL AWAY.”
“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.
I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, (norpete.com) which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.
There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”
- Thomas Krebs, OPERETTA RESEARCH CENTER - PALEOPHONICS - A JOURNEY TO THE DAWN OF RECORDED SOUND IN MUSICAL COMEDY, 1 July, 2020