Although the Imperial's pre-eminence would end when the Vancouver Opera House opened, until then it was a popular venue for visiting stock companies, offering melodramas, minstrel shows and variety entertainments. There was also the occasional visit from popular contemporary performers, including the tragedian Thomas W. Keene in the Imperial's second run of Richard III in 1891.
Local offerings appeared as well, which the press enthusiastically covered. Miss Peters, who had a school at 230 West Hastings Street, and her scholars gave a concert at the Imperial on May 6, 1889. At the Imperial in October, a Central School Concert included recitations, a chorus, solo and duet singing, instrumentals, and a Lancashire clog dance by John Cartmel. There were also a number of tableaux, including a cast of 21 in a tableau entitled May Queen, and another called Popping the Question, performed by Hector Stewart and Lizzie Austin. The press was genuinely interested in and supportive of school offerings, bestowing substantial attention on young people. The extent of their interest is suggested by an article on the Central School exams, in which the childrens' blackboard drawings are described and praised.
Miss Peters gave another school concert at the Imperial Opera House, The Sleeping Beauty, on January 13, 1890, and the World gave it front-page coverage the following day. According to the detailed and typically unsigned review, the tableau in the first part, “where the princess and her attendants were sleeping their hundred-year sleep was beautiful....” During the second part of the program, Master John Cartmel again performed a clog dance, for which “he was loudly applauded and compelled to return.” Miss Peters is given much praise “for the admirable manner in which she drilled her pupils, and the satisfactory way in which one and all acted the particular part assigned to them.”
Child performers were generally very popular on theatre stages. Those in the audience who were far from home enjoyed reminders of family life, and even a hardbitten miner or sailor could be moved to tears by a song about the struggles of a poor orphan child. On November 18, 1893, the World informed readers about “a plausible story of a lost child” called A Daughter of Rebekah, which played at the Vancouver Opera House with “little Edna Keeley, the wonderful child actress, in the star role.” The Uncle Tom's Cabin Company appearing at the Vancouver Opera House the following month advertised “Maude Sutton, the youngest topsy of the stage” and “Baby Edith, aged 5 years, as the Angel Child.” (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse