Florodora is an Edwardian musical comedy. After its long run in London, it became one of the first successful Broadway musicals of the 20th century. The book was written by Jimmy Davis under the pseudonym Owen Hall, the music was by Leslie Stuart with additional songs by Paul Rubens, and the lyrics were by Edward Boyd-Jones and Rubens.
The original London production opened in 1899 where it ran for a very successful 455 performances. The New York production was even more popular, opening the following season and running for 552 performances. After this, the piece was produced throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. The show was famous for its double sextet and its chorus line of "Florodora Girls".
The piece was popular with amateur theatre groups, particularly in Britain, into the 1950s.
Florodora was the first of a series of successful musicals by Stuart, including The Silver Slipper (1901), The School Girl (1903), The Belle of Mayfair (1906), and Havana (1908).
Upon opening in London on 11 November 1899 at the Lyric Theatre, the show originally starred Evie Greene, Willie Edouin and Ada Reeve Running for an astounding-for-the-time 455 performances, and closing in March 1901, the show would prove as a training ground for numerous up-and-coming stars of the British theatre. After moving to the Casino Theatre on Broadway in 1900, the spectacle ran for an astonishing 552 performances – the first instance of a London production achieving such a Broadway run, and only the third longest run on Broadway of any theatre piece up to that time. The show was subsequently mounted in Australia in 1900 by J. C. Williamson where it enjoyed another incredibly long run.
In addition to the numerous local productions being mounted throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, including productions translated into more than a dozen languages, the show toured extensively with numerous local touches, and engaging audiences both domestically as well as around the world as a result.
The Original Cast Album was made as well, featuring all six original sextet members from the New York Cast: Marie Wilson, Agnes Wayburn, Marjorie Relyea, Vaughn Texsmith, Daisy Green and Margaret Walker. Recorded on a series of six 78 RPM gramophone records with a full libretto enclosed, the album was a first for musical theatre at that time.
London's West End staged two successful revivals in 1915 as well as in 1931, and several Broadway revivals enjoyed great success as well, the first being mounted a mere year after the closing of the original production in 1901 followed by another notable foray into the public eye three years later.
In one of the more well-known revivals to modern audiences, a young Milton Berle played one of the Florodora Boys in a production mounted for the 1920–21 Broadway season. More recently, the show was revived once again at the Finborough Theatre in January 2006 for the first professional London production that it had enjoyed in many years.
Florodora's famous double sextet, "Tell Me Pretty Maiden", became the most successful show tune of its time. Other songs ranged from traditional waltzes such as "The Silver Star of Love" and "The Fellow Who Might" to the more quirky type rhythmic and long-lined dance numbers for which Stuart was known.
A good part of the success of the musical was attributed to its lovely chorines, called "the English Girls" in the score, but soon popularly dubbed the "Florodora Girls". They consisted of a "sextette of tall, gorgeous damsels, clad in pink walking costumes, black picture hats and carrying frilly parasols [who] swished onto the stage and captivated New York for no other reason than they were utterly stunning." More than 70 women, each 5 ft. 4 in. (about 1.63 m) tall and weighing in at 130 lb (59 kg) played these roles in the first run of the play. Pretty and petite, the girls were also the object of a great deal of popular adoration, and many young male admirers persuaded a good number of the girls in the show to leave and settle down. According to W. A. Swanberg: "Each member of its original sextette married a millionaire."
A 1930 MGM film starring Marion Davies was called The Florodora Girl. and in the Our Gang Follies of 1936 the children's troupe known to modern audiences as The Little Rascals satirized the show in a penny-per-head basement performance.Act I
In Florodora, a small island in the Philippines, the popular fragrance "Florodora" is manufactured from the essence of the Florodora flower. The perfume factory, along with the island itself, is owned by Cyrus W. Gilfain, an American who finagled the business away from Dolores' family and is now the island's reigning sovereign and sole employer. Although Dolores is now forced to work for Gilfain, she remains optimistic. Frank Abercoed, who is really Lord Abercoed in disguise, has arrived on the island to act as Gilfain's manager. He is immediately smitten with Dolores, and she with him.
Aboard a ship docked at the Florodora harbor are Lady Holyrood, titled but penniless, who has come to Florodora at Gilfain's suggestion to find a husband – specifically, Frank. She is accompanied by Gilfain, his daughter Angela, who is betrothed to Captain Arthur Donegal, Lady Holyrood's brother, and several of Angela's friends (the "English Girls"), who intrigue Gilfain's clerks. Also aboard the ship is Anthony Tweedlepunch, a detective who is searching for the girl who rightfully owns the perfume business. He comes to the island disguised as a traveling showman, phrenologist, hypnotist, and palmist.
Gilfain discovers that Frank and Dolores have fallen in love. In an effort to thwart Dolores' rightful claim to the Florodora fortune, Gilfain plans to marry her himself. He hires Tweedlepunch, who he thinks is an actor, to break up the love affair between Dolores and Frank, thereby making Frank available to marry Angela. By presenting Tweedlepunch as a highly respected phrenologist, Gilfain plots to marry off his clerks to the heads of the Florodora farms (all young island girls), thereby attaining even more control of the island. Tweedlepunch plays along, duly examining everyone's cranial bumps of love to pronounce the proper marriage couples.
Frank refuses to marry Angela, and Gilfain discharges him. Gilfain, based on the fraudulent pronouncements of Tweedlepunch, has decreed that the clerks will wed the island girls or be discharged. Everyone is upset. Frank must now return to England, and he tells Dolores he must go but will return for her if she waits patiently. Everyone meets at the dock to see Frank off.Act II
Six months later, Gilfain has managed to become the owner of Abercoed Castle, Frank's ancestral home in Wales, and everyone has travelled there. Gilfain's clerks, having been discharged rather than marry the island girls, finally meet up with their English girls (Angela's friends). Tweedlepunch has finally realized that Dolores is the rightful heir to the Florodora fortune. He tells her that her father was his only friend, and that he will help her retrieve her family business. They break into the Abercoed castle but are surprised by a chorus of lords and ladies who demand to know who they are. In desperation they try to convince everyone that they are the evening's entertainment.
Lady Holyrood, with no prospective husbands in sight, decides that Gilfain will become her next husband. Frank, who has been refused entrance to the castle by Gilfain, defies orders and maneuvers his way inside the courtyard. There he sees Dolores for the first time since he left the island. After some confusion, Frank tells Dolores that he is really Lord Abercoed and was unable to return to her in Florodora because he was trying to keep Gilfain from acquiring his ancestral home. Tweedlepunch finally confronts Gilfain and spins a wild ghost yarn that terrifies Gilfain into admitting that he has stolen the perfume business. Gilfain returns the properties he has taken from Dolores and Frank. Frank marries Dolores; Gilfain marries Lady Holyrood; and Angela marries Captain Donegal.Cyrus W. Gilfain – Charles E. Stevens (Proprietor of the perfume factory and holder of the island of Florodora)
Frank Abercoed – Melville Stewart (Manager, for Cyrus, of the island of Florodora)
Leandro – Frank Holt (Overseer of Farms)
Capt. Arthur Donegal – Edgar Stevens (4th Royal Life Guards - Lady Holyrood's brother)
Anthony Tweedlepunch – Willie Edouin (Detective disguised as a phrenologist, hypnotist & palmist)
Gilfain's clerks: Tennyson Sims, Ernest Pym, Max Aepfelbaum and Reginald Langdale – Roy Horniman, Ernest Lambart, Alfred Barron and Frank Hascoll
Dolores – Evie Greene (Rightful heir to the island)
Valleda – Nancy Girling (Florodorean maid to Lady Holyrood and head of one of the farms)
Angela Gilfain – Kate Cutler (daughter of Gilfain)
Lady Holyrood – Ada Reeve
Farmers, flower-girls and others
No. 1 - Chorus – "Flowers a-blooming so gay"
No. 2 - The Clerks' Song – Sims, Pym, Aepfelbaum, Langdale, Crogan and Scott - "The credit's due to me."
No. 3 - Dolores – "Bright silver star of love"
No. 4 - Dolores and Abercoed – "If you're in love with somebody"
No. 5 - Chorus of Welcome – "Hurrah! The master comes!"
No. 6 - English Girls and Clerks – "Come, take us round to see the sights"
No. 7 - Lady Holyrood – "I'm a lady, don't forget, with a sense of etiquette"
No. 8 - Angela and Donegal – "Love in his youth is a fiery steed"
No. 9 - Lady Holyrood, Gilfain and Tweedlepunch – "I want to marry a man, I do"
No. 10 - Angela and Chorus – "There was a maiden decidedly fair"
No. 11 - Gilfain – "There is nothing we disparage"
No. 12 - Lady Holyrood, Donegal and Angela – "When an interfering person such as you"
No. 13 - Abercoed – "There is a garden fair"
No. 14 - Finale Act I – "Hey! hey! Alack-a-day! Our loving hearts asunder"
No. 15 - Chorus – "Come, lads and lasses, trip your light and airy"
No. 16 - Lady Holyrood – "There are people who have tried to be smart and dignified"
No. 17 - Gilfain – "When you're a millionaire"
No. 18 - English Girls and Clerks – "Tell me, pretty maiden, are there any more at home like you?"
No. 19 - Lady Holyrood – "Now I've met, in my time, some curious men"
No. 20 - Finale - "And the nation will declare"
No. 21 - Dolores – "In the Philippines lived a maiden fair"
No. 22 - Valleda and Leandro – "A maid's career is skittles and beer"
No. 23 - Donegal – "I want to be a military man."
No. 24 - Dolores – "A woman's love is but a tender flow'r"
No. 25 - Angela – "Willie was a gay boy."
No. 26 - Dolores and Tweedlepunch – "We're both on the stage, we two"
No. 27 - Dolores – "Far away on the ocean of sunshine and foam"
The musical film The Florodora Girl (1930) stars Marion Davies as a chorus girl playing one of the English girls in the original Broadway production of Florodora.
A subplot in the Our Gang ("Little Rascals") film Our Gang Follies of 1936 revolves around the specialty act "The Flory-Dory Sixtet" [sic], and their failure to appear at the Little Rascals' show.
In the film On the Town, Chip (Frank Sinatra) rides with Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), a female cab driver, who sings that she wants him to "Come Up to My Place." He is picking sights to see from an out-of-date guidebook and tells her that he wants to see the Florodora Girls. She informs him that the show closed many years ago.