Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

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Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (علي بابا والأربعون لصا in Arabic) is one of the most famous stories from the One Thousand and One Nights.

The original story

Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves (علي بابا والأربعون لصا in Arabic) is one of the most famous stories from the One Thousand and One Nights, first introduced to the West by Antoine Galland in his 12 volume French translation between 1704 and 1717. (There is some suspiciuon in fact that Galland may have invented "Ali Baba" and "Alladin" himself.)


Both the character and the story have been the source for numerous books, plays, pantomimes, films and other media, especially for children.

See for example "Ali Baba" in Wikipedia[1] for more information.

International stage versions

The many international stage versions of the story include:

The Forty Thieves by Sheridan, Colman, Kelly and D'Egville (1806)

A musical drama in 2 acts written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) [2] and George Colman, the Younger (1762-1836)[3], with music by Michael Kelly (1762-1826) and choreography ("ballet and action") by D'Egville.)

Based on the story of Ali Baba , the scenario was by Sheridan and originally the dialogue by Charles Ward, afterwards revised by Colman the Younger for the 1806 edition.

First performed in London at the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane on 18 April, 1806, and in New York and at the New Theatre, Philadelphia, in 1808. It is described variously as a "Grand Operatical Romance" (1806 and 1808 Lacey and Carey editions) and "Grand Romantic Drama" (1825 Duncombe edition).

Published in 1806 by Lacey (London), 1808 by M.Carey (Philadelphia), and by Duncombe (London) in 1825.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or, Harlequin and the Magic Donkey by Saker (1868)

This is a pantomime version presented by Mr Saker at the Alexandra Theatre, Liverpool in 1868

Ali Baba by Taddei and Bottesini (1871)

A comic opera in four acts by Emilio Taddei, with music by G. Bottesini. English translation by C. L. Kenney, 1871

The Forty Thieves by Reece, Gilbert, Burnand and Byron (1878)

This is a "Pantomime Burlesque" based on the story of Ali Baba, and created as a charity benefit by members of the Beefsteak Club of London, produced at the Gaiety Theatre as the Wednesday matinee on 13 February 1878.

40 Thieves by an anonymous author (1886)

A pantomime performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1886. Quite probably a version of the text by Reece, Gilbert, Burnand and Byron.

Ali-Baba by Lecocq, 1887

(an opéra comique, with music by Charles Lecocq, 1887)

Chu Chin Chow by Asche and Norton (1916)

Chu Chin Chow[4] is a famous pantomime/musical comedy written, produced and directed by Oscar Asche, with music by Frederic Norton. The piece premièred at His Majesty's Theatre in London on 3 August 1916.)

South African versions

There have been a number of productions of local versions of the tale, including:

Ali Baba by Laubscher (c.1940s)

This is an Afrikaans version of the story, written by De Wet Laubscher. Though written and no doubt performed, much earlier, the text was published in their series of performance texts by DALRO in 1969.

South African stage productions

The story has been performed in South Africa and environs under a range of titles - below a chronological list.

c. 1825: The Forty Thieves (described as a "romance") was performed on the island of St Helena, with new scenery painted by an inhabitant of the island named Mr Julio.

1878: Performed as Ali Baba or The Forty Thieves from 1-25 January in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck. It was also billed under the more complicated title of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves, or The Fairy Brilliantina and Harlequin and the Magic Donkey (according to Bosman, 1980:p. 505, accredited to Taddei and Bottesini, but perhaps also indebted to Mr Saker). Apparently it was a local adaptation under management of Mr Vane, scenery by Mr Cooper. An interesting "local" facet is that the curtain opened on a scene in the kraal of the Xhosa king, Kreli, with the chief and his warriors taunting "Sir Castle Brere" and his British Flag. The production was a huge success, as also attested for by the fact that there were additional performances consisting of extracts from the pantomime, while a certain W.L. Sammons did an acrostic[5] on the name Ali Baba on 12 January.

1878: A "second edition" of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves opened in the Good Hope Gardens on 18 February, with the addition of Mr Harvey's Celebrated Grotesque and closing with the Grand Demon Ballet Zig Zag by the Kickapoos. Performed on and off till 2 March.

1908: Forty Thieves, a pantomime version, was performed by a Gaiety Company at the Opera House, Cape Town.

1944: Presented by the pupils of the Ashley Street Primary School in Cape Town's City Hall, 1944, decor by Sydney McKie. Carl van der Rheede as Ali Baba, Edna Young as his wife, Eric Titus as the Forest Enchanter.

194*? An Afrikaans pantomime version by De Wet Laubscher.**

1968: Performed as Ali Baba by the Port Elizabeth Gilbert and Sullivan Society,

19**: Performed by CAPAB as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, with Ulric Charteris in the lead role.


Facsimile version of Carey's 1808 edition of the The Forty Thieves: Hathitrust Digital Library[6]

Facsimile version of Duncombe's 1825 edition of The Forty Thieves, Google E-Book[7]

George Watson. 1971.The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: Volume 2 (1660-1800):p. 820[8]

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [9]: pp. 390-1

Bosman, F.C.L., Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. 1980: pp. 353, 364-6, 428.

Trek, 9(9):20, 1944.

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