With the help of Ted Lewis, several comedians of distinctly high calibre, and a wealth of color and gorgeous effects, the "Passing Show of 1923" Monday night at the Shubert made a successful entrance among Boston's theatrical entertainments. And this in spite a tuneless score, a glaring lack of "feminine pulchritude", and a few heavy, mediocre scenes. The producer and cast, 'tis true, had a pretty flimsy foundation to build upon. Much of the humour was stale and slapstick, and in not a few cases meager ideas succeeded only through the brilliance in their execution. Yet at other times this was all forgotten in the splendor of some tableau or the diversion of one of the more successful comedy scenes.
Frank Gaby, in our humble opinion, takes first place among the comedians of the show with flying honors. The way he says, "Hush! Hush!" is great. And he proves himself before the end of the performance to be no less skillful as a ventriloquist. George Jessel also manages to be a mirth-provoker; when he takes his place with "mommer" in a prominent box and translates a French comedy first into English, and then into Russian for his mother's benefit, he is at his best. Then there is George Hassell. Wherever these three act, the most ordinary piece of comedy becomes funny by the addition of an amusing freshness and twist.
As to the elaborate scenery and cos- tumes little need be said, for audiences have come to take all that for granted. The French Revolution scene was unusually effective, with the spot-light focussed on Perry Askan, as the young revolutionist and the dark background filled with waving torches. The human chandelier and living curtain was as an elaborate thing of the kind as we have ever seen.
But the superlative feature of the evening was withheld to the very end--Ted Lewis. He is a glorified combination of Pierre Monteux, Walter Hampden, Puck, and Philip Sousa. Ostensibly he is only the leader of a versatile band of jazzy musicians. His title on the program is "the high-hatted tragedian of song, and his musical chorus." But for all his clownishness he has far more real art bottled up inside him than in many a man who scorns the idea of "jazz." Expressiveness is combined with restraint to a degree seldom attained in any kind of a performance-- and as a master of rhythm no one even approaches him! Frankly, we could have listened to him for hours more.
In closing, we can't help remarking again that there are many pitiful gaps that need filling. And it is positively shameful to sit through a whole evening without hearing a single musical number that could be called even "tuneful.