In Old Baghdad, the bandit chief Abu Hasan disguises himself as a Chinese merchant, Chu Chin Chow, to gain access to the palace of Kasim Baba. But his identity is revealed by his slave, Zahrat, and his hideout under a rock (opened only by the password ‘Open Sesame’) is discovered by the slave Marjhana together with her lover, Nur Al-Huda and her father, Ali Baba. After killing Kasim, Abu Hasan attends the wedding of Marjhana and Nur disguised as an oil merchant with 40 jars supposedly full of oil. But there is a thief in every jar ready to commit more murder. However, Zahrat foils the plot by pouring boiling oil on them all and then finishes the job by stabbing Abu Hasan to death.
Génèse du musical
The success of the "Arabian Nights" adaptation Kismet, a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock, inspired Oscar Asche to write and produce Chu Chin Chow. Asche also played the lead role of Abu Hasan, leader of the forty thieves (the "Chu Chin Chow" of the title refers to the robber chief when impersonating one of his victims). Besides Asche, the production starred his wife, Lily Brayton, and Courtice Pounds. Costumes were by the designer Percy Anderson.
Chu Chin Chow was described as a combination of musical comedy and pantomime. It was a big budget spectacular costing £5,300, with over a dozen scene changes, fantastic sets, big dance routines, exotic costumes and Asche's well-known innovative lighting designs. The design for the show was influenced by the English taste for all things connected with Asia (known as "orientalism") which had originated with Diaghilev’s production of the ballet Scheherazade. Theatre journal The Era said that Norton's music had "a touch of the East but for the most part it was on a level with the tender melody of musical comedy" and "hardly inspired". Nevertheless, many of the songs became hits, and "The Cobbler's Song" and "Any Time’s Kissing Time" in particular entered the repertoire of ballad singers for at least three or four decades.
Tickets to see Chu Chin Chow were particularly eagerly sought by troops on leave from the Western Front. One of the attractions for the on-leave soldiers was the chorus of pretty slave girls who, for the period, were very scantily dressed. Complaints, not by the soldiers, resulted in the Lord Chamberlain (the British theatre censor) viewing the show and requiring "this naughtiness" to be stopped—at least for a while. The cast was large and included a camel, a donkey, poultry and snakes. A total of 2,800,000 people saw the show. The year following the premiere of the musical, a souvenir booklet was prepared, which included a novelized version of the play by Willam A. Page. He included additional background explanations to explain the scenery and physical attributes of the characters.
Chu Chin Chow was one of three hit musical shows that are most associated with the London musical stage during World War I (the others being The Bing Boys Are Here and The Maid of the Mountains), and music or scenes from these have been included as background in many films set in this period. Interestingly, the three shows were each very different from each other. The Bing Boys was a revue, The Maid was essentially an operetta, and Chu Chin Chow is often considered an adult pantomime. Other popular musicals of the period were Theodore & Co (1916), The Boy (1917), and Yes, Uncle! (1917). Audiences wanted light and uplifting entertainment during the war, and all these shows delivered it.
Liste des chansons
Here Be Oysters Stewed In Honey (Abdullah and Chorus)
I am Chu Chin Chow (Abu Hasan and Chorus)
Cleopatra's Nile (Marjanah and Chorus)
I'll Sing & Dance (Ali Baba and Company)
Corraline (Nur-Al-Huda and Marjanah)
When a Pullet is Plump (Ali Baba)
We Are The Robbers Of The Woods (Robber's Chorus)
All My Days Till End Of Life (Marjanah and Ali Baba) *
Temperamental am I (Ali Baba, Marjanah and Nur)
Desert Song (Zahrat and Chorus)
I Long for the Sun (Alcolom and Chorus)
Mahbubah (Ali, Kassim, Marjanah, Nur and Alcolom)
I Built a Fairy Palace (Mahbubah)
The Song Of The Scimitar (Abu Hasan and Chorus)
Any Time's Kissing Time (Alcolom)
The Cobbler's Song (Baba Mustafa)
We Bring Ye Fruits (Fruit Girls)
From Cairo, Baghdad, Khorasan (Otbah)
How Dear Is Our Day (Alcolom and Ali Baba)
Olive Oil (Abdullah and Chorus)
Wedding Procession (Ensemble)
Additional Songs added in the 1940 revival
I Shiver And Shake With Fear (Ali Baba, Marjanah and Nur-Al-Huda)
Beans, Beans, Beans (Mabudah)
At Siesta Time (Marjanah and Chorus)
If I Liken Thy Shape (Marjanah and Nur-Al-Huda)
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Versions majeures de Chu Chin Chow
The original production at His Majesty’s Theatre in August 1916 ran for an astonishing 2,238 performances, becoming the longest running musical in the West End, a record it held for almost 40 years, until it was finally overtaken by “Salad Days”. The production made a star of Oscar Ashe, but probably owed much of its success to providing battle-weary troops with lavish spectacle, scantily-clad slave girls and a chance to forget the Great War’s trenches. Its incredible success was not repeated on Broadway, in spite of Tyrone Power in the lead, where the New York production in October 1917 managed just 208 performancesEn savoir plus sur cette version
This present semi-staged and reduced scale production provided a welcome chance for musical buffs to re-visit one of the cornerstones of early musical theatre.En savoir plus sur cette version
Mais aussi, quelques versions régionales ou mineures, ... de Chu Chin Chow
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