Melville Gillett' Minstrel Shows (sometimes spelled Gillette & Gillet)

photo credit:  Pat and Ernie Long Collection

Great Show was Gillett's Big Minstrels
Mckean County Democrat; Febuary 16, 1911

Gillett's Buckeye Minstrels were in our midst yesterday and proved to be the sensation of the season. The local engagement was for the benefit of the odd fellows' band. The parade occured promptly at 3:00 o'clock and the streets were lined with people, who had turned out to witness the spectacle. There has never been a finer minstrel parade pulled off in Smethport. The company was attired in black "plug" hats and long coats, (regular minstrel parade stuff rented for this occasion,) and was accompanied by the Golden Concert band, and by the lady members of the troop in carriages. The procession traversed the principal streets, and stopped in front of the postoffice, where a short concert band was given. The parade included a man eating blood hound and a number of other effects. It was to have been headed by Little Eva, seated on a cake of ice, in an aeroplane, but owing to the fact that the little lady fell on an icy sidewalk and busted a wing, this feature was omitted.

This attraction had one of the largest advance sales in the history of the local playhouse. Seats were placed on sale last Saterday and by noon the sale had reached $100. By yesterday the house was almost completely sold out, and before the performance started last night standing room was at a premium. It is sated that the audience was the largest the local playhouse has ever held. This patronage was fully merited for there has never been a more elaborate or successfully carried out home talent entertainment presented in this section of the state. The cast was completely composed of local talent and every member aquitted him or herself in a manner which would do justice to professionals. That their efforts more than delighted the audience was attested by the enthusiastic applause which greeted the various members.

When the curtain arose on the first part a murmer of surprise swept over the audience. It was a pretty stage setting and was carried out with strict fidelity to our description in last weeks DEMOCRAT. The opening was entitled "A Jolly Evening at Julephurst", the scene being layed on the grounds of "Julephurst on the Ohio," the home of "Col. Mint Julep," Col. Melville Gillett. The Colonels house, a cotton feild and the Ohio river were all there: on a handsome drop curtain, which formed the background to the stirring scene. The cutain rose with a burst of melody from Gillett's Gold Band, (Odd Fellows Band), which was seated on a raised platform, back of the circle, and the guests, who assembled to participate in the Colonel's brilliant social event marched down a flight of steps at the rear of the stage to thir places on the circle. They were followed by the Colonel's six black men, who executed a number of eccentric steps, and were closely followed by Colonel Gillett, himself, who marched down the steps at the rear and, after advancing to the footlights, bowed his way to his place in the center of he circle. After welcoming his guests, bid them make hemselves comfortable, by exclaiming: "Gentlemen be seated". The Colonel's guests, comprising the chorus, all appeared in white face, costumed in full evening dress; his black men, the endmen, were appropriately attired for the occasion in flashy rainment and ebony black faces.

The corus was composed of Messrs, McCoy, Garlick, Redfield, Bouton, McCluer, Brownell, Wisner, Simkins, Burlingame, Digel, Mayo, Daly, Brownell, Lyons, Smith, Morrison, Day, Rubin, Clarck, Young, and Schoonmaker.

The endmen consisted of "Mr. Nuf Sed", Ed Studholme; "Mr. Sam Finnessy", R. C. Sasse; "Mr. Lin Jackson", J. P. Devlin; "Mr. F. De Hill", F. D. Gallup; "Mr. Doc' Bur", R. E. Burdick.

During the first part an number of fine musical members were rendered. To make seperate mention of not only these, but those on the second part, as well, would be to encounter a lack of sufficient terms of praise to bestow upon those who rendered the various selections in such a capable manner in each instance. The evening's musical program was one of the finest ever heard in Smethport. The following numbers were rndered during the first part: "Anvil Chrus". (Ill Trovatore) Enacomble; "The Sea is My Sweatheart", L. J. Morrison; "Das Liebield des Toreador", R. Denber Simkins; "Stop, Stop, Stop", Harry S. Rubin; "Silver Bells", Famous Quartet: Messrs. Wisner, Simkins, Smith and Morrison; "Three for Jack", Robert Daly; "Mandy Lou", Bill Mitchell; "Perfect Day", W. Wistner; "Old Black Joe", T. J. Young.

Between the musical numbers the Colonel and his endmen kept the audience in roars of laughter with a series of rapid fire jokes. Their work was a revelation and demonstrated them to be comedians of real merit. There was nothing amateurish about their efforts and they got over some good ones.

During the intermission between the first part and the olio Bill Mitchell did an amusing black face turn.

The olio opened with a roller skating act by McClare & Smith, buck and wing daneers and comedians. These young men do some stunts on the little wheels that are really worth while and are "quite there" in the way of funny falls. Their act was entitled, "When We Learn to Skate".

A most pleasing number was Wells & Daly in "Alma, Where do you Live", the big song bit of this seasons musical comedy success by that name. These gifted vocalist made an instantaneous hit.

Corwin and Morrison in "Fun on the Wire", introducing Signor Corte Corwin, King of the Silver Wire, had an offering that would make peopleset up and take notice anywhere. Mr. Corwin, although an amateur, could easily could take his place in the front rank among professionals. He juggles knives, balls, Indian clubs, passes thought hoops and does hand stands on slack wire. In fact does all the stunts attempted by he proffesional artists, besides many original ones of his own. The Signor's first and last appearance in Smethport, previous to last night, was with Young's Minstrals at the old opera house, a number of years ago. At that time he was a willowy youngster, as much at home on the stack wire as a tomcat on a backyard fence. Today while the Signor has gained mich in corpulence, he has lost none of his old time agility or mirth-making proclivities, and still trips the intricate pathway through space as lightly as ever, apparently, although we must confess that we fear that the Signor's tripping is accomplished at no little anguish and discomforture to the soles of his pedal extremities.

The performance closed with a song revue entitled "An Evening at Sherry's", introducing Mr. Bernard Garlick in a "rube" stunt and Leo Digel in an Italian sketch, assisted by a large chorus, composed of the Misses Young, Sherburne, Corton, Sherburne, Hogarth, Freeman, Cory, and Wells, and Messrs, Morrison, Bouton, Lyons, South, Brownell, Wisner, Brownell, Daly, Simkins, Day, and Burlingame. This was as prettily staged and as cleverly presented as any similar act, professional or otherwise, ever seen in Semthport, if not any place. It was a "classy" skit. The following meritorious musical numbers were rendered: "Whats the Use of Water When Your Dry", Miss Keona Hogarth, assisted by chorus; "Reuben Waltzed 'Round on His Hickory Limb", B. T. Garlick; "Italian Love", and "The Sweet Italian Waltz", Leo Digel; "Let Me Tell Your Fortune Dear", Ensamble; "Good Night", Entire Company.

The Stage setting for the first part, with chair covers and other properties, were rented from out of town parties for this occasion.

Too much can not be said in praise of Mrs. H. C. Wells and Miss Irma Wells, under whose direction this entertainment was given, and Col. Gillett and his company for their untiring efforts to make this event the grand success it was.

The procedes of this entertainment go to the Odd Fellows' Band, a most worthy object, and will be devoted to paying for instruction, new music, uniforms, etc.

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