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Review from The Era
Sunday, March 28, 1875

We live in an age of dramatic novelties, but we venture to say there are few who would have expected to hear of Trial by Jury treated as a dramatic cantata. We have had the incidents of a trial arranged for the stage many a time, and the most famous case of Bardell versus Pickwick furnished Mr. Toole with one of his happiest and most amusing impersonations. But to hear Mr. Toole haranguing the Jury as Sergeant Buzfuz can hardly be compared as a novelty to the present production. At the Royalty Trial by Jury is actually set to music, Mr. Arthur Sullivan having composed airs and recitatives to the verses of Mr. W. S. Gilbert.

Everybody could guess beforehand when they saw the title what the subject-matter of the trial would be, especially when they perceived also from the bills that Miss Nelly Bromley would be Plaintiff, Mr. Walter Fisher Defendant, and Mr. Fred. Sullivan the Learned Judge. A musical Counsel for the Plaintiff is also provided in Mr. Hollingsworth. Even the Usher of the Court is musical, and the Jury deliver themselves of the verdict in a chorus.

Great curiosity was naturally felt as to the manner in which Mr. Gilbert would deal with this unprecedented libretto, and a large audience was present on Thursday evening, when the dramatic cantata was produced for the first time. The scene is a Court of Justice, and the event is a trial for "Breach of Promise.” A bright and tuneful chorus, "Hark, the hour of ten is sounding,” is sung by the whole Court, whereupon the Usher marshals the Jury in their box, and in an eccentric melody, with a comic accompaniment of the bassoon, tells them to dismiss all prejudices from their minds. The Jury respond in chorus, when the Defendant, a gay young bridegroom, dressed ill the latest fashion, who is pronounced at once by all the ladies to look very nice, enters the court flourishing a guitar.

The Jury receive him in a manner calculated to make the eyes of British justice open very wide indeed. They shake their fists at him! The Defendant, nothing daunted, sings a jubilant strain describing how he once loved the Plaintiff, but now loves somebody else. Upon this the Jury step gravely from their box, and, after the style of the Conspirators in Madame Angot sing the following remarkable chorus:–

Oh, I was like that when a lad!
  A shocking young scamp of a rover,
I behaved like a regular cad;
  But that sort of thing is all over.
I am now a respectable chap,
  And shine with a virtue resplendent,
And therefore, I haven't a scrap
  Of sympathy with the defendant!

The melody of the chorus being quaint, and the manner in which it was sung being extremely grotesque, it was immediately encored, and it is likely to prove one of the most attractive pieces in the cantata.

But "Silence for his Lordship", cries the Usher, and with all the solemnity of Westminster Hall enter Mr. Fred Sullivan, bowing to the Court. The usual Hush! hush! And fortissimo Hush!!! here set to music, is heard, and the Judge then sings of the expedients by which he gained that coveted eminence, a seat on the bench. This is very funny indeed. So is the action, of the Jury, who, at the command of the Usher, kneel in their box, only their uplifted hands being visible. They swear to "well and truly try the case," and the Usher, in strains echoed and re-echoed, through the court, calls for the plaintiff Angelina, who in the charming person of Miss Nelly Bromley, speedily appears, surrounded by her Bridesmaids, who captivate the Jurymen by presenting wreaths of orange blossoms, while the Judge winks artfully at the principal Bridesmaid, and, finding he cannot attract her attention, sends her a billet-doux by the Usher.

The case goes on. The Counsel for the Plaintiff in tender strains sings of the blighted affections of Angelina, and dwells forcibly on the callous and degenerate disposition of the Defendant, who, however, soothed by the caresses of the Bridesmaids, looks very jolly under the circumstances. Defendant addresses the court himself – musically, of course – telling the Jury that he might possibly have behaved very badly to the young lady if he had married her, and things are much better as they are.

But Counsel has now a point of law for the consideration of his “Ludship.” “In the reign of James the Second it was not lawful to have two wives,” which is held to be a sufficient answer to a propositjon from the Defendant to marry the chief Bridesmaid to-day and the Plaintiff to-morrow.

This leads to an amusing quartette, in which Mr. Sullivan has quite in the Offenbachian vein caricatured the famous quintette from Lucia. The quartette, but for the lateness of the hour, would have been encored. It was very well sung by the artists. Everybody is now in a dilemma and the Judge gets furious at the delay, solving the difficulty at length in the follwing novel manner:–

All the legal furies seize you!
No proposal seems to please you;
  I can't stop up here all day.
I must shortly go away,
Barristers, and you attorneys,
Set out on your homeward journeys;
  Put your briefs upon the shelf,
I will marry her myself!

Angelina is elevated to the bench, and a couple of Plaster of Paris Cupids are let down from the flies to symbolise the happiness of the affianced pair; while the court blazes with red fire. Shouts of laughter accompanied the fall of the curtain, and Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Gilbert, with the chief performers, were called for and greeted with hearty applause.

Trial by Jury is but a trifle – it pretends to be nothing more – but it is one of those merry bits of extravagance which a great many will go to see and hear, which they will laugh at, and which they will advise their friends to go and see. Therefore its success cannot be doubtful. Mr. Sullivan's music serves its purpose exactly, and it is in many instances extremely clever, particularly in the mock-heroic strains when the Judge first makes his appearance.

Mr. F. Sullivan was very droll as "His Ludship,” and Mr. Hollingsworth sang well as the Plaintiff's Counsel. Mr. Walter Fisher was a very smart Defendant, and sings a couple of melodies with much grace and animation. Mr. Kellsher as the Foreman of the Jury, and Mr. Pepper as the Usher, were efficient. Miss Nellie Bromley, who made her first appearance this season, was a charming Plaintiff. She has made a great advance as a vocalist, and sang a little ballad telling, in a mock-sentimental vein, of "Blighted hopes, wounded hearts," &c., very prettily indeed; and of course Miss Bromley’s personal attractions added to the interest of the character. The Bridesmaids were Mesdames Verner, Lassalle, Grahame, Durrant, Palmer, Beverley, Clifford, and Villiers.

The stage arrangements were cleverly managed, and. the burlesque of a Court of Justice was complete. The opera bouffe La Périchole preceded the new whimsicality, and displayed the talents of Madame Dolaro and Mr. Walter Fisher to the greatest advantage.

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