HICKS, [Edward] Seymour (Sir) (b St Helier, Jersey, 30 January 1871; d Fleet, Hampshire, 6 April 1949). Suave, light comedy leading man of the British musical stage.
An actor from the age of 16, Hicks played in the British provinces and appeared with the Kendals in their Broadway season with The Squire and The Queen's Shilling before his performance as a kind of comical Sherlock Holmes in the revue Under the Clock at the Court Theatre brought him to the attention of George Edwardes. Hicks was hired to star in a Gaiety Theatre revival of Little Jack Sheppard, in the role famously created by Fred Leslie, and he put sufficient individuality into his part to win himself the lead juvenile role, opposite Ada Reeve, in Edwardes's next production, the musical comedy The Shop Girl (1894, Charlie Appleby). The pair, comedy players both, gave an unaccustomed light-hearted air to the show's juvenile roles for, until that time, sentimentality rather than fun had been de rigueur in such parts, and Hicks scored a hit with the first of the many borrowed songs he would perform in shows over the years, Felix McGlennon's 'Her Golden Hair Was Hanging Down Her Back'. The emphasis on charming light comedy was increased when Hicks's wife, Ellaline Terriss, took over as 'the shop girl', and together this attractive, bright pair of young performers helped materially to seal the fate of the drooping/sighing, tenor/soprano lovers in London musical plays.
Hicks repeated his Shop Girl role on Broadway, but refused the 'unsuitable' juvenile part of Edwardes's My Girl (1895), which drove the angry manager to court to bar Hicks from breaking his contract by appearing anywhere else. However, all was back in order in time for him to join his wife in the starring juvenile roles of the next Gaiety show, The Circus Girl (1896, Dick Capel). It was Hicks's last appearance at the Gaiety, but he maintained sufficiently good relations with Edwardes to work as co-author on one of the house's most successful shows, A Runaway Girl, in which Miss Terriss played the lass of the title.
A Runaway Girl was, in fact, Hicks's second venture into authorship. He had 'adapted' an Armenian operetta, Leblébidji Horhor (which had caused a sensation in Constantinople) for the London stage as The Yashmak the previous year. The adaptation seemed more like a total rewrite, and the piece was, in any case, not a success.
The Hickses then joined forces with producer Charles Frohman and, in his company, over a period of some seven years, they played in a series of musicals written by Hicks and designed as vehicles for them: Bluebell in Fairyland (1901, Dicky), The Cherry Girl (1902, Moonshine), The Catch of the Season (1904, Duke of St Jermyns), The Beauty of Bath (1906, Richard Alington), which opened the Frohman-sponsored Hicks Theatre, and The Gay Gordons (1907, Angus Graeme). Hicks, as author, also ventured further pieces on similar lines. For William Greet he wrote the highly successful The Earl and the Girl and the indifferent The Talk of the Town, for Frohman, My Darling, a piece destined, unsuccessfully, to be played by a B-team of would-be Terriss and Hicks clones.
Hicks and Miss Terriss established themselves, during this period, not only as the town's favourite musical comedy hero and heroine, but also as the theatre's 'ideal couple'. As with most such couples, the ideal was a pretty fictional one, but Miss Terriss tactfully ignored Hicks's repeated trips to the ladies' chorus, and their charming public image lasted happily, to the great good of their popularity.
An attempt to put Miss Terriss into breeches as the hero of The Dashing Little Duke did only fairly, but gave place to an interesting incident when Hicks played some performances for his indisposed wife (surely the only case in the history of the musical where a husband succeeded to his wife's role), and the 1910 Captain Kidd, a version of the American comedy, The Dictator, adapted by Hicks, was a smart flop, marking the end of the Hicks/Terriss era of supremacy in the musical theatre in post-Merry Widow London. Hicks put his hand to several more not unsuccessful libretti, and the pair appeared together on the halls in Pebbles on the Beach, singing and dancing 'Alexander's Ragtime Band', as well as in the Palace Theatre musical Cash on Delivery, but, although Hicks remained a respected theatrical figure and, indeed, was awarded a knight-hood in 1935, he did not appear further on the musical stage.
Amongst a limited list of film appearances, Hicks starred as Sir John Tremayne in the 1939 The Lambeth Walk, the film based on the stage musical Me and My Girl.
1895 Papa's Wife (Ellaline Terriss/w F C Phillips) 1 act Lyric Theatre 26 January
1897 The Yashmak (Napoleon Lambelet/w Cecil Raleigh) Shaftesbury Theatre 31 March
1898 A Runaway Girl (Ivan Caryll, Lionel Monckton/Aubrey Hopwood, Percy Greenbank/w Harry Nicholls) Gaiety Theatre 21 May
1901 Bluebell in Fairyland (Walter Slaughter/Hopwood, C H Taylor) Vaudeville Theatre 18 December
1903 The Earl and the Girl (Caryll/Greenbank) Adelphi Theatre 10 December
1903 The Cherry Girl (Caryll/Hopwood et al) Vaudeville Theatre 21 December
1904 The Catch of the Season (Herbert Haines, Evelyn Baker/Taylor/w Cosmo Hamilton) Vaudeville Theatre 9 September
1905 The Talk of the Town (Haines, Baker/Taylor) Lyric Theatre 5 January
1906 The Beauty of Bath (Haines/Taylor/w Hamilton) Aldwvch Theatre 19 March
1907 My Darling (Haines, Baker/Taylor, P G Wodehouse) Hicks Theatre 2 March
1907 The Gay Gordons (Guy Jones/several) Aldwych Theatre 11 September
1907 A Dress Rehearsal (Frank E Tours, 'A Lotte'/w A C Robatt) 1 act Tivoli 2 December
1909 The Dashing Little Duke (Tours/Adrian Ross) Globe Theatre 17 February
1910 Captain Kidd (Leslie Stuart/Ross) Wyndhams Theatre 12 January
1912 O-Mi-ly (Tours, Herman Finck) 1 act London Hippodrome 25 March
1912 Pebbles on the Beach (Haines) 1 act London Coliseum 16 December
1916 The Happy Day (Sidney Jones, Rubens/Ross) Daly's Theatre 13 May
1917 Cash on Delivery (Haydn Wood/H E Wright, Davy Burnaby, James Heard) Palace Theatre 13 October
1918 Jolly Jack Tar (Herman DarewskVBurnaby, Heard, J Harrington/w Arthur Shirley) Princes Theatre 29 November
1920 The Little Dutch Girl (Das Hollandweibchen) English version w Harry Graham (Lyric Theatre)
1923 Head Over Heels (Harold Fraser-Simson/Ross, Graham) Adelphi Theatre 8 September
Autobiographies: Seymour Hicks: 24 Years of an Actor's Life (Alston Rivers, London, 1910), Between Ourselves (Cassell, London, 1930), Me and My Missus (Cassell, London, 1939) etc
Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.
Page created 31 August 2004