There was a good audience at the Lansing last night. They went to see "The White Squadron," the "big patriotic and spectacular drama," with "four carloads of scenery" and the "handsomest men in America." Of these attractions the only thing that materialized was the patriotism and possibly a carload or so of the scenery. Of plot there was enough and to spare, so much indeed that the average hearer occasionally wondered if the hero himself had not got the two girls mixed. He, the hero, was a good, substantial fellow, very unsailorlike for a naval officer, able, however, under all circumstances to call down the gallery by a spirited appeal to the "star spangled flag." There was an abused slave, two villains (both foiled) and a number of brigands, not to mention the very dingy and disreputable persons who posed as the admirals of various fleets. The story set all these people at work with kisses and curses and pistols and cutlasses and denunciations and explanations, till finally everything cleared up and things went universally well to the tune of "Hail Columbia."
There was, of course, little acting worthy of serious criticism. W. A. Whitecar as Victor Staunton was all that one can expect a melodrama soldier to be. He had a good voice and a fairly imposing presence; he made love stiffly, but defied and threatened quite effectively. Frederic Julian as Demetrio de Romancio was the best actor in the company. He was silently and delicately villainous, "slick" somebody called him, and, when he was called before the curtain, the gallery showed their approval by enthusiastic hisses.
Robert Neil as Fraincisco , the nephew, evidently had read in Shakespeare that a man "may smile and smile and be a villain;" so, being a villain, he smiled and smiled, and grinned when he should have looked grieved. Miss Forrest as Onesta was fairly pretty and clung well, and Miss Deagle as Theresa might have done well were it not that her voice had a twang that was unfortunately most prominent just when she wished to be most pathetic.
Other noticeable characters were Santo , who was like his picture on the bill boards, Miss Martha , an elderly but amorous Quakeress, and Hope Staunton , a sort of suppressed soubrette, who got little chance in the confusion of uniforms, guns, brigands and men-of-war.
Of course the scenery should have been the chief thing in the play. But it wasn't. There was no marine scene at all, except a back-drop representing a dislocated ship, and a so-called tableau which took a long time dawning out of darkness and then showed only a fair enlargement of a very familiar painting of the squadron at sea.
There was a grand parade of some rather draggled soldiers who couldn't drill, and there was talk about "decks" and "riding at anchor." Beyond this there was, in the whole play, nothing nautical—except the name.
The llama didn't turn up, though the ox did, but oxen are easier to get than llamas, any day.
The only good thing in the way of scenery was the ruined monastery, that was not a marine scene. The name "White Squadron" is misleading, but then so are the names of most melodramas. They are like the wines that some of our dealers sell, all under different labels, but all from the same barrel.
Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.
The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.
"The White Squadron": A patriotic play by James W. Harkins, which opened in August 1892. The New York Times reviewer called it "a confused, unintelligible string of events supposed to have taken place in Brazil after the recent revolution . . . there is much shooting and slashing, much murder, treachery, heroism, virtue, vice" (16 August 1892). The original cast starred Robert Hilliard and Alice Fisher.The White Squadron was the name given to the U.S. Navy's new steel cruisers, which were painted white; they replaced the old wooden ships and marked the beginning of the expansion of the Navy in the late 1880s. The squadron's inaugural cruise to Europe in the early 1890s under the command of Admiral Walker was an important point of American pride. Theo M. Tobani wrote a two-step march with this name, published in 1894.
"Hail Columbia": The music, by German immigrant Phillip Phile, was composed in 1789 for the inauguration of George Washington. It became known as the "President's March" and was played on ceremonial occasions, serving as the de facto national anthem through the 1890s (the official appointment of the "Star Spangled Banner" as national anthem was made in 1931). The words, by Joseph Hopkinson of Philadelphia, were written for the tune in 1798, and became those by which the music was known. It begins: Hail Columbia, happy land!Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band,Who fought and bled in freedom's cause. It is now the official music for the vice-president of the United States.
W. A. Whitecar: W. A. Whitecar appeared on the New York stage in Henry V in 1876. By 1879 he was touring in such places as Deadwood, South Dakota, with his own company. He starred or played supporting roles in contemporary dramas and melodramas. His company presented The White Squadron in Boston in 1892. By 1910 he was playing a supporting role in a touring theatrical company.
may smile and smile and be a villain: In Act I, Scene V of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet responds to the news—delivered by the ghost of his father—that Claudius is a murderer: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!My tables, my tables,—meet it is I set it down!That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark.