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B. C. Stephenson


STEPHENSON, B[enjamin] C[harles] (aka Bolton Rowe) (b 1838; d Taplow, 22 January 1906).

The nephew of General Sir Frederick Stephenson, 'Charlie' Stephenson began his working life in government service whilst simultaneously turning out some little dramatic texts. He collaborated with the young composer Frederic Clay on three pieces played by amateurs The Pirates Isle, Out of Sight and The Bold Recruit the last of which was picked up to be played at a benefit at the Gallery of Illustration in 1870. His first professional success came at the same venue, two years later, when he provided the text for Alfred Cellier's little operetta Charity Begins at Home, and another short comic piece, The Zoo, set by Arthur Sullivan, brought his name further to the front.

Stephenson's first full-scale successes came when he collaborated with Clement Scott on the English versions of Sardou's plays Nos intimes (as Peril) and Dora (Diplomacy) and the text for Lecocq's operette Le Petit Duc, but his most notable was his first full-length musical, the comedy opera Dorothy, manufactured around Alfred Cellier's second-hand Nell Gmynne score. Much criticized on its first production, Stephenson's libretto was subjected to all sorts of scholarly analysis after Dorothy became the hit of the century, and its initially despised plot was traced seriously back to the Restoration playwrights, Garrick and Aphra Behn. Although the pair bohemian, chattery Cellier and the fussy, health- and money-conscious Stephenson made up an unlikely pair, together they continued to prosper and another Cellier remake, Doris, had a good run. However a collaboration with Arthur Goring Thomas on another staunchly period comedy piece, The Golden Web, in spite of some appreciative critical nods, was short-lived and Stephenson did not again find a musical-theatre success.

1868 The Bold Recruit (Clay) 1 act Theatre Royal, Canterbury 4 August

1872 Charity Begins at Home (Alfred Cellier) 1 act Gallery of Illustration 7 February

1875 The Zoo (Arthur Sullivan) 1 act St James's Theatre 5 June

1878 The Little Duke (Le Petit Duc) English version w Clement Scott (Philharmonic Theatre)

1886 Dorothy (Cellier) Gaiety Theatre 25 September

1888 Warranted Burglar Proof (Ivan Caryll, H J Leslie) 1 act Prince of Wales Theatre 31 March

1889 Doris (Cellier) Lyric Theatre 20 April

1892 The Young Recruit (Le Dragon de la reine) English version w Augustus Harris et al (Newcastle)

1893 The Golden Web (Arthur Goring Thomas/w Frederick Corder) Lyric Theatre 11 March

1893 The Venetian Singer (aka The Improvisatore) (Edward Jakobowski) 1 act Court Theatre 25 November

1896 On the March (John Crook, Edward Solomon, Clay/w William Yardley, Cecil Clay) Prince of Wales Theatre 22 June

1896 Belinda (Walter Slaughter/w Basil Hood) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 5 October


Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.

Page updated 8 October 2004