The Black Crook



  • A work usually considered America's first true musical. Theshow underwent a strange transformation before opening in 1866 atNiblo's Garden in New York. It was originally meant to be a seriousFaustian melodrama but the theater manager, William Wheatley, changedhis mind when the New York Academy of Music burned down just beforea French ballet troupe was scheduled to dance there. Wheatley tookthe scenery and the 100 girls, dressed them in scanty corps de balletoutfits, and brought in Giuseppi Operti to supply tunes; his melodramabecame a melodrama-ballet-musical.

    Despite lasting more than five hours, this rousing mixtureof spectacle, dance, and drama proved a booming success, bringingin $1 million, running for 475 performances, and becoming the mostpopular US production of the 19th century. It played in New York offand on until 1903. Wheatley's follow-up, The White Fawn, wasless successful, but he was able to retire comfortably on the fortuneearned from The Black Crook.

    In 1954 the composer Sigmund Romberg retold the story of thestaging of The Black Crook in his own musical, The Girlin Pink Tights.