|The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive > American Musical Theatre > The Burgomaster
The Burgomaster is an original musical comedy in a prologue and two acts by Gustav Luders and Frank Pixley.
Gustav Luders was born in Bremen, Germany, on 13 December 1865. A thoroughly trained musician, he emigrated to America in 1888, settling first in Milwaukee and then in Chicago, in time to play an active role in the musical events at the 1893 World Fair. When a season of opera he conducted failed at the Schiller he agreed to keep the house open by writing a musical in conjunction with Harry B. Smith. Unfortunately, Little Robinson Crusoe, with Eddie Foy as star, didn't keep the box office humming either. Luders teamed up with Frank Pixley, a local newspaperman.
Luders and Pixley's first effort was King Dodo, but they could not find anyone to produce it. The Burgomaster, their second piece together, however, was readily accepted. Pixley's libretto had Peter Stuyvesant (Henry E. Dixey) and his secretary, Doodle Van Kull (Knox Wilson), fall into a drunken sleep. They are awakened in 1900 when workmen come across them while digging in City Hall Park. The pair are taken on a tour of the town. Luder's score provided a gay, endearing accompaniment to the story. Its outstanding melody, "The Tale of the Kangaroo," began a parade of Pixley-Luders "Tale" and "Message" songs and helped spread the vogue for anthropomorphic animal tunes.
The Burgomaster arrived in New York from Chicago on New Year's Eve 1900. New Yorkers had developed a conditioned disdain for Chicago offerings, and The Burgomaster was unable to override the prejudice. This aversion is surprising in this instance, given the show's New York setting. But the producers compounded their difficulties by offering a tacky mounting. The same back-drop, depicting old Dutch ships in the harbour, was used for both the 1660 and 1900 scenes. At least the press was able to find kind words for the performers, not merely for Dixey's nimble clowning but for such stellarly played bit parts as Raymond Hitchcock's vain, loquacious actor, E. Booth Talkington. The Burgomaster's stay at the Manhatten was a disheartening thirty-three performances.
[Adapted from Gerald Martin Bordman & Richard Norton: "American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle", Oxford University Press, 2010.]
Cast of Characters
Synopsis of Scenes
Colin Johnson's MIDI Files
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