It was a performance, scheduled for March 12, 1885, that was much anticipated, especially by many of the male population of Hamilton.
That evening, at the Grand Opera House on James street north, a large audience, composed solely of men, paid admission to see the Rentz Santly Company.
The reporter, usually assigned to attend theatrical and musical performances for the Spectator, was also at the Grand that evening and here follows his review:
“Music, Legs, Mirth and Bosoms
“These were the principal components of the entertainment given in the Grand last evening by the Rentz Santley company. The audience was large, and composed wholly of men.
“A mélange of songs, witticisms, banjo playing, etc., in which the whole company, male and female, took part, opened the programme. But the audience was restless. Then Bob Winchester and john Jennings gave an amusing medley of songs and burlesque sketches – clever in their way; but the audience was not enthusiastic. Andy and Annie Hughes followed in songs and dances; dismissed with mild applause. Jeppo and Fannie Delano then tried to please in a funny sketch called the Bashful Lovers. Their acting was crisp and neat; but evidently their male auditors were looking for something else.
“ Miss Lottie Bordeaux came out and opened her mouth and was supposed to sing, and posed in a very abbreviated skirt was supposed to dance. This was better but still the spectators acted as if was only tantalizing.
“Then the scenes were shifted, and a dozen pair of female legs clad in tights of various hues came out before the footlights, bearing their owners with them. The spectators settled themselves in their seats with sighs of relief. The entertainment had begun.
“It was a burlesque in seven scenes, founded on the classical story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was represented by a pretty girl in an open linen duster, a pair of trunks and flesh-colored tights. Eurydice was also in tights, but she wore side-skirts several inches long to let the spectators know that she was a woman.
“All the more respectable gods and goddesses of Greek mythology were represented, and, of course, all of those which were represented by females were in tights. Charon, the ferryman on the Styx, was personated by a man and made up as something between a slugger and a clown. Jupiter was also personated by a man – a little fellow with a huge scarlet nose, spindle legs, and a cracked voice. The amorous proclivities of the king of the gods were of course made more prominent by the most prominent feature of his character.
“Proserpine, Queen of Hades, was represented as an amiable and amorous ogress, in huge bonnet, side curls, Mother Hubbard gown and pantalettes. Of course, this character was taken by a man. Plato, the King of the infernal regions, was evidently intended to be represented by as a god of Hibernian extraction, for the gentleman who personated him spoke in the broadest kind of Irish accent.
“Orpheus and Eurydice cannot be criticized like an ordinary dramatic or musical piece. The success of a piece of this kind is proportionate to the scantiness of the costumes of the female performers. Judged by this standard, O. and E. is one of the greatest successes of the season.
“In the fifth scene, the Orpheus of the play appeared in nothing but a narrow silver fringe, beside her tights, and her bosom was barer even than a fashionable ladies at a ball. The forms of Juno and Pallas and Venus were nearly as much exposed to the audience as they were to Paris when the three goddesses presented themselves for judgement.
“The Venus of last night, however, had an accomplishment which the original Venus never dreamed of; she could kick eighteen inches higher than her head, and several times proved her ability to perform the feat.
“The curtain finally went down on a chaos of wildly swaying arms and legs and heads, and bared breasts palpitating and gleaming in the glare of the footlights.
“Such was Orpheus and Eurydice. The audience was not composed principally of youths engaged in the work of wild cat sowing, but of respected citizens and fathers of families.” 1
1 “Music and the Drama : Information Concerning Singers and Players : Items of Interest About Those Who by Voice and Action Instruct and Amuse the Public.”
Hamilton Spectator March 13, 1885.