Thursday, July 28, 2016


The Maid of the Mountains, is a musical play in three acts. The book was written by Frederick Lonsdale (1881-1954), lyrics by Harry Graham (1874-1936) and music by Harold Fraser-Simson (1872-1944).  This is not a war play, but it was created to allow audiences to escape the war for a few hours. It became the most successful play in the United Kingdom. The Maid of the Mountains opened at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on December 23, 1916. The London premier was at Daly’s Theatre on February 10, 1917 and ran for 1,352 consecutive performances. The Maid of the Mountains played continuously for a five year period. 

Frederick Lonsdale had several musical plays produced in London prior to his success with The Maid of the Mountains. He began his career in 1908 with the musical play King of Cadonia that was a London success; it also played on Broadway during January 1910. Following World War One, Lonsdale became established as a writer of successful comedies that placed him in the ranks of Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward.

Harry Graham began his full-time writing career in 1906 as a journalist and a poet of light verses.  During World War One, Graham became a lyricist for operettas and musicals. Within three years, he wrote lyrics for three musicals.  The Maid of the Mountains was his third venture. While he was successful as a lyricist, he is primarily remembered for his light verses.

Harold Fraser-Simson began his career as a composer for musicals in 1911 with a comic opera titled Bonita. His music for this production was successful enough for Fraser-Simson to be remembered five years later and then offered the opportunity to score The Maid of the Mountains. Several of his songs in this show became individual hits—“Farewell” in Act One, “Husbands and Wives” in Act Two and “Love Will Find a Way” from the same act.  The extraordinary success of The Maid of the Mountains established him as one of the era’s most significant musical composers. 

ACT I of The Maid of the Mountains is set in the mountains.  A band of brigands, led by a dashing chieftain named Baldasarre, vex the people of an area in southern Europe. Baldassarre decides to disband his group of brigands. Teresa, The Maid of the Mountains, is the one woman member of this feared group.  The Governor of the area, named General Malona, is retiring from his governorship. He has tried unsuccessfully to find the brigand’s hideout. Malona captures Teresa as she is leaving the safety of the mountains. She is to be held hostage until Baldasarre presents himself to the Governor.

ACT II is in the courtyard of the Governor’s Palace. Baldasarre posing as the New Governor arrives at the palace to rescue Teresa. Baldasarre had captured the actual new Governor as he was traveling to this territory. Teresa becomes jealous when Baldasarre falls in love with General Malona’s daughter. Teresa reveals Baldasarre’s real identity.  He is immediately arrested.

ACT III takes place on an island. Baldasarre and the brigands are imprisoned on this island. Teresa comes to the island to save him.  Baldasarre realizes his true love for Teresa and as the play ends they escape from the island.

There is a secondary comic plot that relates to Tonio, a member of the brigand band, and his wife, Vittoria.

Part of the success of The Maid of the Mountains was due to the excellent production as well as the superb acting and singing of Miss JosĂ© Collins (1887-1958) who played the title role of Teresa, the Maid.  Miss Collins’s obituary in the London Times on December 8, 1958 stated that the production of The Maid of the Mountains “came in the dark days of the First World War and brought into the theatre beautiful music, colourful acting and glorious stage mounting to delight not only those who were forced to remain in London but the troops on leave from overseas.”  The article went on to state that Daly’s Theatre “became the Mecca of all who wanted to get away for a few brief hours from the realities of everyday life.”

The Maid of the Mountains had touring companies from London that crisscrossed Great Britain throughout the five years the production continued to play at Daly’s Theatre. The quality of these touring productions was excellent and the performances were sold out.  These companies returned to each city multiple times throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The musical was revived in London several times and as late as 1972.

The Vancouver Daily World reported on December 24, 1920 that “the all-British production of The Maid of the Mountains will be presented by Trans-Canada Theatres, Limited and Percy Hutchison. This production is identical in every essential detail with that made in London.” This production played a coast to coast tour of Canada.  The Ottawa Journal on December 1, 1923 announced a second tour of The Maid of the Mountains by a new company. The article claims that during the first tour in 1920 “thousands were unable to secure seats, and even with that the ‘Maid’ broke all Canadian theatrical records.”  This report also mentioned “the everlasting boosting by every returned Canadian soldier” who saw the London production.

The Maid of the Mountains was also a sensation in Australia for many years. The first production was presented in 1917 and it was followed by a new 1923 production. The Maid of the Mountains also played on Broadway for thirty-seven performances from September 11, 1918 through October 12, 1918.  It was Lonsdale’s fifth musical to play in the United States since 1910.

A film version of The Maid of the Mountains was made in 1932 by British International Pictures. Lupino Lane (1892-1959) is credited as the director of this film that was released in March, 1933.

No comments:

Post a Comment