The Geisha

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The Geisha is an Edwardian musical comedy in two acts. The score was composed by Sidney Jones (1861-1946)[1] to a libretto by Owen Hall (1853-1907)[2], with lyrics by Harry Greenbank (1865-1899)[3]. Additional songs were written by Lionel Monckton (1861-1924)[4]and James Philp (fl. 1890s).

The original text

The full title is The Geisha, a Story of a Tea House and it was first produced by George Edwardes at Daly’s Theatre in London, on 25 April, 1896, playing there on an off during 1896 and 1897, ultimately running for 760 performances. The piece began to spread itself around, first to the British provinces and colonies, the USA (e.g. 194 performances at Daly's Theatre on Broadway, and ultimately every corner of America, including San Francisco’s Tivoli Opera House), then around the world, to become one of the best-loved and most enduring of all 19th-century British musicals.

Published in London by Hopwood & Crew, 1896.

Translations and adaptations

It has been produced in many languages, e.g. adapted into German as Die Geisha, eine japanische Theehausgeschichte by C.M. Röhr and Julius Freund; into Hungarian as A gésák by Béla J Fái and Emil Makai; into French as La Geisha by Charles Clairville, Antony Mars and Jacques Le Maire, and so on.

A version filmed as a 1914 American short silent film, directed by Raymond West[5]. (NB: The Geisha, a 1983 Japanese film by Hideo Gosha[6], is an original work, unrelated to the musical.)

Performance history in South Africa

1901: The English version staged in the Good Hope Theatre Cape Town by a visiting Gaiety Company, under the auspices of the Wheeler Theatre Company. The members of the company included Mabel Nelson, Harold Thorley and Mr Danby.

1902: The English version staged in the Good Hope Theatre Cape Town by (the same?) visiting Gaiety Company, still under the auspices of the Wheeler Theatre Company.

1904: The English version staged at the start of the year in Cape Town by the visiting Royal Australian Opera Company, under the auspices of the Wheeler Theatre Company.

1952: The English version staged by the Port Elizabeth Gilbert and Sullivan Society from 3 to 8 November.


Kurt Gänzl. January 2001. "The Geisha, a story of a tea house Japanese musical play in 2 acts", The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (Second Edition). The article reproduced on the Operetta Research Center website)[7] and accessed on 30 January, 2020.

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.409, 412 and 417.

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