A Story of a Tea House, a Japanese Musical in 2 Acts by Owen Hall. Book by Owen Hall, Lyrics by Harry Greenbank, Music by Sidney Jones
Daly's Theatre, Leicester Square, London - 25 April, 1896 (760 perfs)
Daly's Theatre, Broadway - 9 September, 1896 (161 perfs)
The story tells of the love of a naval officer and a geisha at a tea house. The lovers are parted at the end but not tragically. The Englishman weds an English girl and O Mimosa San weds an Oriental.
It is early morning at the Tea House of Ten Thousand Joys, an establishment run by the shifty little Chinaman, Wun-hi. Wun-hi hurries in to tell the geisha who staff the Tea House that business is approaching in the shape of a shipload of English naval officers, all far from home and clearly longing for a nice cup of tea, not to mention the company of a pretty Japanese maiden. Over the little Japanese bridge come Lieutenant Reggie Fairfax and his friends.
Reggie has been here before and has come back expressly to spend some time with O Mimosa San, the lovely and talented head girl of the house, but the other sailors are delighted to disport themselves with the other geisha.
The busy season for the Wun-hi establishment is clearly under way for, to the Chinaman's embarrassment, while Mimosa is entertaining Reggie, over the Japanese bridge comes the Marquis Imari, a pompous example of minor nobility, sheltered under the state umbrella carried by his minion, Takemine. Imari announces that he has applied to the Emperor for permission to marry Mimosa and Wun-hi, seeing the main attraction of his business being nationalised without compensation, is in despair. As he plots to save his livelihood, he finds an unexpected ally in his pretty French in-house interpreter, Juliette Diamant. Juliette would love to he a Japanese Marquise and she sets her cap determinedly at the Marquis who is susceptible enough to admit that, while he intends to wed Mimosa tomorrow, Juliette may walk half way home with him today... 'the other half's engaged'.
The next party to arrive is an English one led by Lady Constance Wynne, a society lady who has called into Japan whilst cruising the Orient with a party of suitable young ladies. Lady Constance sees Reggie and Mimosa together, and she finds it necessary to remind Reggie that he is engaged back home to be married to Miss Molly Seamore. But Reggie believes in spreading the great British way of life and as soon as Lady Constance is gone he begins to instruct the Japanese girl in the occidental custom of kissing with every evidence of enjoyment on both sides.
No sooner has Reggie gone hack to his friends than a Japanese soldier emerges from the shadows. It is Mimosa's lover, Captain Katana, who is not at all happy about the requisites of her job and the attentions so dutifully lavished on so many strangers. She reminds him that his job is killing people—one is not obliged to enjoy one's work—and promises him that as soon as she is freed from her indentures they will be wed.
Wun-hi shoos the interfering Captain away as the geisha prepare tea for their British guests but Imari, returning to make sure that his intended bride has been withdrawn from active service, is furious to find her consorting with the British navy. Neither the senior service nor the Japanese nobility is prepared to stand down in this conflict and Imari vents his rage by invoking a convenient by-law and commanding the whole Tea House to be disbanded and the girls' indentures sold off. The geisha are distraught but the sailors and the English girls are not to be intimidated and set off in pursuit of the Marquis to tell him what they think of him.
Now pert and pretty Molly Seamore arrives on the scene. She blithely teases her Reggie for playing with the live dolls of the Tea House and reminds him of their childhood days and how he tried to nurse her dolls—and then nurse her! Molly is rather taken aback when Lady Constance tells her that Reggie seems to have got in rather deeply with one of the geisha, and she pours out her heart to the comforting Mimosa without knowing who she is. Mimosa suggests that if she thinks Reggie has developed a penchant for Japanese girls perhaps she should dress up and pretend to be a geisha for him. Molly agrees with delight .
Everyone begins to gather round for the sale of Wun-hi's business. Takemine sets himself up on a rostrum and, in spite of Reggie's qualms at the idea of seeing a woman effectively sold to the highest bidder, the fateful sale begins. Lot One is O Mimosa San. Imari bids heavily but Lady Constance determinedly bids even higher as Juliette tries to persuade the Marquis not to waste all his money and ruin himself for the sake of a singing girl.
Imari agrees and drops out of the bidding, leaving Lady Constance to become the new owner of the geisha's contract, but Juliette's plan goes wrong when Imari takes a strong fancy to Lot Two, a piquant little geisha called Roli Poli who gives a fine display of seductive arts in song and dance, and he buys her instead. The finale finds Katana and Mimosa still separated and Molly, who is the mysterious Roli Poli, is in the Marquis's clutches while sparks fly all round.
In the Chrysanthemum gardens of the Imari palace the ladies of the Marquis's court are preparing for their lord's marriage to Roli Poli. Molly is determined not to go through with this horrid oriental wedding and she rues the folly that led her into her little charade, but there seems no obvious way out of becoming the Marquise Imari. Juliette and Wun-hi, down on their luck, are lurking around trying to mend things, while Fairfax and his friends wander about the palace being nautical and attentive in turn to both the Japanese and English girls until they learn from Juliette of the danger that Molly is in and join the concerted plot to help her escape.
It is Mimosa who actually proposes a practical plan for getting Molly out of her dilemma. She offers to infiltrate the bridal suite and exchange one veiled bride for another.
Imari arrives followed by a suitably obeisant group of geisha and the English visitors. Wun-hi has been put in charge of the entertainments at the ceremony and Taktmine announces a special amusement for the guests in the shape of a fortune teller. The fortune teller, who is really Mimosa in disguise, gives good readings to everyone except the reluctant Marquis for whom she forecasts a miserable life unless he can he redeemed by a loving young wife. She offers to cast a love spell on the unwilling Molly and is hurried into the palace by the superstitious Marquis, leaving Cunningham to entertain the assembled company whilst the serious matters of the day are attended to.
Molly is left alone with the 'fortune teller' to be bewitched into a happy Japanese wife. Mimosa quickly reveals herself and sets her plan in action. On the way to the wedding Juliette is substituted for the phoney Roli Poli under the nuptial canopy and Molly hurries to her Reggie's arms while the Marquis drinks the wedding cup with the disguised French girl.
When the truth is revealed Imari accepts philosophically that 'every man is disappointed in his wife at some time or other' while Molly says there was no way she could marry a foreign nobleman when she could get an English sailor. Mimosa is left to wed her Japanese captain.
Story condensed from Ganzl's Book of the Musical Theatre
(plus chorus) - with original cast
- O MIMOSA SAN (Chief Geisha) - Marie Tempest
- JULIETTE DIAMANT (A French Girl, attached to Tea House as Interpreter) - Juliette Nesville.
- NAMI (WAVE OF THE SEA) (an Attendant) - Kristine Yudall.
- O KIKU SAN (CHRYSANTHEMUM) (Geisha) - Emelie Herve
- O HANA SAN (BLOSSOM) (Geisha) - Mary Fawcett
- O KINKOTO SAN (GOLDEN HARP) (Geisha) - Elise Cooke
- KOMURASAKI SAN (LITTLE VIOLET) (Geisha) - Mary Collette
- LADY CONSTANCE WYNNE (an English Visitor in Japan, travelling in her Yacht) - Maud Hobson
ENGLISH LADIES, GUESTS of LADY CONSTANCE
- MISS MARIE WORTHINGTON - Blanche Massey,
- MISS ETHEL HURST - Hetty Ramer.
- MISS MABEL GRANT - Alice Davis.
- MISS LOUIE PLUMPTON - Margaret Fraser
- MISS MOLLY SEAMORE - Letty Lind
OFFICERS of H.M.S. " THE TURTLE"
- REGINALD FAIRFAX - Hayden Coffin
- DICK CUNNINGHAM - Louis Bradfield
- ARTHUR CUDDY - Leedham Bantock
- GEORGE GRIMSTON - Sydney Ellison
- TOMMY STANLEY (Midshipman) - Lydia Flopp
- CAPTAIN KATANA (Captain of the Governor's Guard) - William Philp
- TAKEMINE (Sergeant of the Governor's Guard) - Frederick Rosse
- WUN-HI (a Chinaman; proprietor of Tea House) - Huntley Wright
- THE MARQUIS IMARI - (Chief of Police and Governor of the Province) - Harry Monkhouse
- Coolies, attendants. Mousmés, Guards, &c.
- OPENING CHORUS - Happy Japan - " Dawns the day om Eastern sky "
- ENTRANCE OF OFFICERS - Here They Come
- SONG (Cunningham) - The Dear Little Jappy-Jap-Jappy - " There came to the land of Japan "
- SONG (Mimosa) The Amorous Goldfish - " A goldfish swam in a big glass bowl "
- DUET (Mimosa & Fairfax) The Kissing Duet - " You're a charming little geisha "
- CONCERTED PIECE (Geishas & Officers) - If You Will Come to Tea - " If you will come to tea "
- CHORUS of LAMENTATION - " Oh, will they sell our master up "
- CONCERTED PIECE (Fairfax & Officers) - We're Going to Call on the Marquis - " This infamous lord shall have his reward "
- TOY DUET (Molly & Fairfax) - " When I was but a tiny tot "
- SONG (Mimosa) A Geisha's Life - " A geisha's life imagination tints "
- SONG (Fairfax & Officers) - (Composed by Lionel Monckton) - Jack's the Boy - " Of all the lads that be "
- RECITATIVE (Takamini, Imari & Chorus) - Attention, pray - " Attention, pray! and silence if you please "
- SONG (Molly & Chorus) Chon Kina - " I'm the smartest little geisha in Japan "
- FINALE - ACT I - Though of Staying Too Long - "Though of staying too long you're accusing us "
- OPENING CHORUS ACT II - Day Born of Love - " Day born of love, of gladness and delight "
- SONG (Molly) The Toy Monkey (Composed by Lionel Monckton) - " Poor little maiden who loves a bit of fun "
- DUET (Juliette & Wun-Hi) Ching-a-Ring-a-Ree! - " When I want anything done "
- TRIO ( Fairfax, Cunningham, Cuddy) Jolly Young Jacks Are We - " Half round the world we've been my boys "
- SONG (Mimosa)(Written by Harry Greenbank; composed by James Philp) The Jewel of Asia - " A small Japanese once sat at her ease "
- SONG (Fairfax) Star of my Soul - " How can I wait when she I worship only "
- QUARTETTE (Mimosa, Fairfax, Cunningham & Wun Hi) What Will the Marquis do? - " When he findfs that his dear little lovebird's gone "
- ENTRANCE OF CHORUS - Japanese March
- ENTRANCE OF GEISHA - With Splendour Auspicious
- SONG (Wun Hi) - Chin Chin Chinaman - " Chinaman money makes "
- SONG (Molly & Chorus) The Interfering Parrot - " A parrot once resided in a pretty gilded cage "
- FINALE - Before Our Eyes - " Before our eyes the prospect lies "
Studio Cast - CDA 67006 - Hyperion