"In the late 1800's the idols of vaudeville and the theatre were Edward (Ned) Harrigan and Tony Hart.
A native of New York, Harrigan was a prolific writer, actor, singer, director, producer and
entrepreneur - the head of a theatre company described as 'the jolliest lot of local trash
that ever held the boards.' Hart, a product of the reform schools of Worcester, Mass.,
became Harrigan's partner and played both masculine and feminine roles; he 'caused more joy
and sunshine by his delightful gifts than any artist of his time.'
These, then, are the 'merry partners' of Mr. Kahn's witty and nostalgic excursion into the
Broadway of yesteryear. They flourished as an enormously successful musical-comedy team from
1871 through 1885, amidst scenes of tumult, consternation and rowdyism that the theatre has
not seen before and may never see again. Theirs was the gaudy era of pseudo-military target
companies and spirited Sunday picnics, of violent political satire and appreciative newsboys
in the balcony, of Harrigan's fictional 'Mulligan's Alley' and the glamorous new Theatre Comique.
It was a time of high living, and the devil-may-care antics of Harrigan and Hart -
recounted in full for the first time in this sparkling book - will revive many happy
memories of an almost-forgotten way of life." (Includes 37 photographs.)
If this book were being written today, instead of the very staid mid-1950s, I'm sure more attention would have been
called to the fact that Hart -- excelling as he did in feminine or "drag" roles -- had escaped a brutal reform
school at the age of fifteen. (I was surprised that the author was as candid about Hart's death from syphilis as
he was.) Surely the surface innocence of the Gay '90s hid more than "spirited Sunday picnics".
When the partnership of Harrigan and Hart was dissolved, the author says it is compared to "a pair of scissors burst
asunder." Their fans are as broken-hearted as boys whose favorite team has just lost the World Series, and I don't
think Broadway was ever the same.