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British Musical Theatre   F. Osmond Carr

Frank Osmond Carr was born near Bradford, Yorks, 23 April 1858. He died in Uxbridge, Middlesex, 29 August 1916. A Doctor of Music and an MA graduate, he was the composer for several of the earliest Victorian musical comedies.

Carr made a first pseudonymous step into the musical theatre along with a fellow Cambridge University man, Arthur Ropes, when four matinee performances of their burlesque Faddimir were given in London in 1889. Faddimir's quality won both lyricist Ropes (later Britain's busiest lyricist as 'Adrian Ross') and 'Oscar Neville' Carr immediate notice from George Edwardes and, within months, the composer had a song being sung by Nellie Farren in Ruy Blas and the Blase Roue at the Gaiety Theatre as Edwardes commissioned Carr and Ross to write, first, the songs for a burlesque of Joan of. Arc, and soon after the score for In Town (1892), the piece with which he initiated his famous series of modern-dress musical shows.

The collaborators also provided the songs for the even more successful Morocco Bound (1893), a piece which crystallized the half-book/half-music-hall 'variety musical' form, and for the musical comedy Go-Bang, both for producer Fred Harris, before Edwardes reclaimed Carr to collaborate with W S Gilbert (then divorced from Arthur Sullivan) on the author's clever His Excellency. The composer took the stride from the music-hall strains of Morocco Bound's hit 'Marguerite of Monte Carlo' to Gilbertian comic opera skilfully and, in spite of the inevitable comparisons with Sullivan, produced a sufficiently successful score to allow the show a good London run and several overseas productions.

When 1896 vehicles for Little Tich (Lord Tom Noddy) and In Town star Arthur Roberts (Biarritz, libretto by Jerome K Jerome), both flopped, and a final London attempt with The Maid of Athens (1897), which he was obliged to produce himself, was a total write-off, the composer who for two or three years had been the toast of the town was suddenly done. The half-dozen musicals he wrote in the next decade were played only in the provinces.

A more than competent all-round musician, Carr was pushed into perhaps excessive limelight by the two great novelty hits for which he composed the music, but he proved in His Excellency that he was capable of substantial music on a level just below the top.

1889 Faddimir, or the Triumph of Orthodoxy (Adrian Ross) Vaudeville Theatre 29 April

1891 Joan of Arc (Ross, John L Shine) Opera Comique 17 January

1892 Blue-Eyed Susan (Henry Pettitt, George Sims) Prince of Wales Theatre 6 February

1892 In Town (Ross, James Leader [ie James T Tanner]) Prince of Wales Theatre 15 October

1893 Morocco Bound (Ross/Arthur Branscombe) Shaftesbury Theatre 13 April

1894 Go-Bang (Ross) Trafalgar Square Theatre 10 March 1894 and His Excellency (W S Gilbert) Lyric Theatre 27 October

1895 Bobbo (Ross, Tanner) 1 act Prince's Theatre, Manchester 12 September

1896 Lord Tom Noddy (George Dance) Bradford 6 April; Garrick Theatre 15 September

1896 Biarritz (Ross/Jerome K Jerome) Prince of Wales Theatre 11 April

1897 The Maid of Athens (Charles Edmund Pearson, H Chance Newton) Opera Comique 3 June

1898 Billy (G Cooper, Ross) Newcastle 11 April

1898 The Celestials (C H Abbott, John D Houghton) Blackpool 1 August

1901 The Southern Belle (anon) Southend-on-Sea 7 March

1903 The Rose of the Riviera (Reginald Bacchus, George Sheldon) Brighton 25 May

1904 Miss Mischief (Bacchus) West London Theatre 30 October

1906 The Scottish Bluebells (David James) Edinburgh 31 March

British Musical Theatre | Composers

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