Michael Levenston
Theatre Manager
1855-1904

Michael Levenston, born 1951, whose web site you are visiting, is named after Michael Levenston the theatre manager, born 1855. Michael's(1951) father Gerald was told as a young man by his father, Frederick, about theatrical Michael, a cousin.

It is an odd coincindence that Michael's(1951) family lives on Trafalgar Street in Vancouver in the Trafalgar Housing Cooperative and that Michael, the theatre manager, opened the Trafalgar Square Theatre, London, 1892.

See letter at bottom for further information about the connection between the two Michaels.

What follows are bits of information about Michael's(1855) history.


In Gaiety: Theatre of Enchantment by W. Macqueen-Pope, [1949, W. H. Allen, London, p.341] the author notes "Yet another of Edwardes's lietenants was Mike Levenston." George Edwardes was a famous theatre manager of the time and our Michael worked for him at the turn of the century.

From: The London Stage 1890-1899 - A Calendar of Plays and Players By J.P. Wearing

Michael Levenston was the Theatre Manager for the following plays.

1892:

The Wedding Eve - Trafalgar Square

The Wooden Spoon - Trafalgar Square

The Statue of Albemarle - Trafalgar Square

Dorothy - Trafalgar Square

1896:

The Gay Parisienne - Duke of York's

1897:

Lost, Stolen, or Strayed - Duke of York's

Francillon - Duke of York's

Oh! Susannah! - Royalty

A New Leaf - Royalty

The Cat and the Cherub - Royalty

1898:

Julia - Royalty

My Innocent Boy - Royalty

The Land of Nod - Royalty

1899:

Great Caesar - Comedy

The Weather Hen - Comedy

The Ghetto - Comedy


The Duke of York's Theatre
(The Trafalgar Square Theatre. The Trafalgar Theatre)

St Martin's Lane, W.C.2

Capacity: 700

Opened, as the Trafalgar Square Theatre. 10 September 1892 with The Wedding Eve, a comic opera by F. Toulmouche, adapted from the French of Bisson and Bureau-Jattiot by C. W. Yardley; lyrics by Frank Latimer. Produced by Thomas W. Charles under the management of Michael Levenston.

Mike on Stage

[Transcribed from the graphic above]

Private View of the Trafalgar Square Theatre
As seen from the Prompt Stage Box
Wednesday Evening August 31st, 1892

"Would the ladies like to dance?" [asks theatre manager Michael Levenston from the stage.]

Premier, Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt and Mr. Levenston request




Marie Tempest

Michael Levenston's second wife was Florence Etherington the sister of the famous actress Marie Tempest (born Mary Susan Etherington), later to become Dame Marie Tempest, DBE (15 July 1864-15 October 1942). See Marie Tempest.

Marie Tempest's Little Joke
A Musical Director of a London Theatre the Victim.

"Although it is not intended to open the Trafalgar Square Theatre until the middle of September, preparations for the production of the opera with which Mr. M. Levenston proposes to inaugurate the undertaking are active. ... It was Marie Tempest. She had persuaded her brother-in-law, Mr. Levenston, to allow her to figure on that occasion only as Miss 'Pickwick or Noakes or Stokes or Styles,' and in that disguise had delighted the musical director of the Trafalgar Square Theatre." See article in The New York Times, July 17, 1892.



The Building

The Trafalgar Square Theatre was built on a site at the south end of St Martin's Lane backing on to the Garrick Theatre (opened 1889) and was the first to be built in this street.

It was designed by Walter Emden for Frank Wyatt and his wife Violet Melnotte, and the builder was Frank Kirk. The Era of 3 September 1892 says:

The new Theatre is pretty and unpretentious, the general effect being created by the judicious use of cream and gold and yellow tints, the back of the boxes being of a warm russet hue. The corridors are ornamented with coloured portraits of well-known actresses, and the decorations generally are remarkably chaste and refined...

The stalls and dress-circle will be entered from St Martin's Lane. On the upper-circle tier are a large and ornamental vestibule and a pleasant saloon, with a balcony facing the roadway. The pit entrance is on the north side, and the entrance to the large gallery on the south side. The theatre is completely isolated, and from each of its four sections an extra exit has been made. It will be lighted by electricity, but in case of need gas will be available. The dressing rooms are in a detached building, connected to the theatre by a short, covered iron bridge; and a broad stone staircase leads from the stage to the open air.

The new three-tier theatre was the only one in London at that date with real fires in the auditorium.

In 1894 the theatre became known as the Trafalgar, then in September 1895 the name was changed to the Duke of York's.

In the Second World War it was closed from 1940 to 1943 owing to blitz damage. Taken over by the present management in 1950 the theatre was completely reconditioned, and given an entirely new scheme of decoration, designed by Cecil Beaton and carried out under the supervision of W. Wylton Todd. It is one of the few London theatres still to retain its unreserved gallery. Another redecoration took place in May 1960. The theatre belongs to the Sir John Leigh family trust.

Duke of York's Theatre

The Plays

The Trafalgar Square Theatre opened on 10 September 1892 under the management of Michael Levenston with an adaption from the French, The Wedding Eve. This opening piece was not a success and was followed by a revival of Dorothy in November of the same year. In January 1893 the theatre was closed owing to a disagreement between Levenston and the Wyatts. but it reopened in February with The County Councillor. During its run matineés were given of Ibsen's The Master Builder with Elizabeth Robins. Later the same year Frank Wyatt produced Mam'zelle Nitouche, then he and his wife let the theatre on a lengthened lease to Charles Cartwright and Henry Dana in July 1895.

In September 1895 the name of the theatre was changed to the Duke of York's and in April 1896 Louie Freear made her debut here in The Gay Parisienne. with Ada Reeve. which scored 369 performances.

Theatre Notice

[October, 1896, Michael Levenston again leased the Duke of York's Theatre. In October, 1897 "Application by Michael Levenston on Behalf of St. Martin's Syndicate Ltd., not granted as he was bankrupt."

A most important chapter in the theatre's history began in 1897 when Charles Frohman, the American theatrical manager, took a long lease. Frohman made a point of encouraging the interchange of artistes between this country and the States, introducing many American players of distinction to London. For two or three years Evelyn Millard was his main attraction, creating the parts of Lady Ursula in Anthony Hope's comedy, The Adventure of Lady Ursula (1898), Glory Quayle in The Christian (1899), and the title role in Jerome K. Jerome's Miss Hobbs (l899); Belasco's one-act play Madame Butterfly was the curtain raiser. Also in 1899 Frohman introduced Maxine Elliott and her husband Nat Goodwin in The Cowboy and the Lady and An American Citizen, and in 1901 Pauline Chase and Joseph Coyne. both of whom were afterwards to become popular stars. were seen with Edna May in The Girl from Up There, written by the same team as The Belle of Ney York, but which did not achieve the same success.

In 1902 Marie Tempest appeared in The Marriage of Kitty, and the same year saw the first production of Barrie's The Admirable Crichton. A sensation was caused on the first night of this play because the scene-shifters went on strike after the second act and the members of the cast had to shift the scenery themselves. Many of Barrie's plays first appeared here: 27 December 1904 saw the first production of Peter Pan, which was revived annually each Christmas until 1914 at this theatre. The Peters were Nina Boucicault (1904), Cissie Loftus (1905), Pauline Chase (1906 to 1913) and Madge Titheradge (1914). It is also interesting to note that Charles Chaplin played Billy in Sherlock Holmes, a revival with William Gillette in 1905 at this theatre.

Other notable productions were Barrie's Pantaloon, with Alice Sit by the Fire (1905), plays with Marie Tempest, Pauline Chase, Gerald du Maurier, Cyril Maude, John Hare, Irene Vanbrugh and many other stars follow and in 1908 What Every Woman Knows was first produced with Hilda Trevelyan.

In 1910 Frohman started a repertory season, presenting plays by George Meredith, Pinero, Shaw, John Galsworthy, Barrie, Granville Barker and others. It commenced on 21 February 1910 and lasted until June 17 of the same year, during which eight new plays were staged and two old ones revived. They were produced under the direction of Dion Boucicault, Granville Barker and Bernard Shaw. The new plays were Galsworthy's Justice. Shaw's Misalliance, Barrie's Old Friends and The Twelve Pound Look.




The Lease

(bound) Counterpart Lease of the Trafalgar Square Theatre, St. Martin's Lane, London, 19 pages (in the possession of Roger Cookman, Bromley, Kent, England)

dated, 4th August, 1892.
Mrs. Violet Wyatt and Another,
to
Michael Levenston, Esquire. (of 4 Tavistook Chambers Oxford Street in the said County of London)

(Counterpart.)
Lease of The Trafalgar Square Theatre, in St. Martin's Lane, London.
From 11th August, 1892
For Years, 7
Expires 11th August, 1899
Renewable as within.
Rent, 5,400 pounds per annum.

Cooper & Bake, 6, Portman Streetm W.


Michael's Marriages

1st Marriage: (13 Sep 1876)
Michael married Rebecca (Rose) Simmons when he was 21.

The following information is written by Kurt Gänzl, author of Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre, for his forthcoming book titled In Search of a Singer about Emily Soldene, her life in music, the theatre and the limelight.

"ROSE LEE (née Rebecca SIMMONDS or Polish variation, Mrs Levenston) came to Emily as a teenager, and proved good value. However, her career didn't really take off in spite of the efforts of her husband, producer Levenston, to make her a star. When she didn't prove star material he walked out. And her voice developed a fatal wobble. She ended up singing ballads on the halls. I have Rose-Rebecca's marriage certificate, on which it is revealed that her father was a Polish furniture dealer called .. Mark SIMMONDS?! It also indicates that she was born in 1856. Another hint I have picked up points to 30 March being her birthday.. but can I find Rebecca Simmonds, Szymsonds, Szy-anything born in London round that time? Nope. Nor do I know what happened to her after Levenston departed. I suspect she had an affair with Bignell of the Trocadero Music Hall .. my last sighting of her is in 1903."

Kurt GŠnzl has written a new book,Emily Soldene: In Search of a Singer , which includes more information about Rose Lee. I have not read the book yet.


And this about the marriage in "The Illustrated Police News" June 15, 1889

Levenston v. Levenston. Đ

This was the petition of Mrs. Rebecca Levenston, an actress, better known as "Miss Rose Lee," for a divorce by reason of the desertion and misconduct of her husband, Mr. Michael Levenston, a theatrical manager. He filed an answer denying the charges, but there was no defence. Mr. Rose-Innes appeared for the petitioner, and Mr. Barnard for the respondent. The petitioner deposed that she was an actress, and was professionally known by the name of "Miss Rose Lee." She was married to the respondent on September 13th, 1876, according to the rites of the Jewish faith, at St. AlbanŐs Synagogue, Haymarket. Her husband was now a theatrical manager. In July, 1883, when they were residing at Bloomsbury, she had occasion to complain more than once of his using strong language towards her, and he left her without giving any reason.

Mr. Justice Butt: Had there been a quarrel?

Witness: Not more than ordinary. (Laughter.)

Mr. Justice Butt: That accounts for it. (Renewed laughter.)

Examination continued: During the period he was away she had to support herself by performing in different companies to which she belonged. In the early part of this year she was told that he was employed at a theatre, and she had an interview with Alice Goldby in the presence of her husband. While he was away from her he had not contributed towards her support. Alice White, formerly Goldby, of no occupation, a single woman, gave evidence as to having known for three years the respondent, who had visited her when she was living in Edith-grove, Fulham.

Mr. Justice Butt granted a decree nisi, with costs.


2nd Marriage:(Dec. 1889)
His second wife was Florence Etherington (daughter of Edwin Etherington, dcsd).

3rd Marriage: (Dec. 1903)
Almost at the end of his life, Michael married actress Kitty Gordon. See new site and photos of Kitty: Kitty Gordon Site

Photo of Kitty Gordon

Another Photo of Kitty Gordon

Only months after Michael died his widow married Henry William Walter Horsley-Beresford on 6 Oct 1904.

Mrs Henry William Walter Horsley-Beresford

Obituary of Kitty Gordon from "Variety", an American entertainment paper, May 29, 1974.

Kitty Gordon (Mrs. Ralph) Ranlet, 96, stage and vaudeville actress, retired for many years, died May 26 at a Brentwood, N.Y. nursing home. Born in England, she started her theatrical career there. Between 1901-02 she was seen in "Kitty Grey" and "The Girl From Keys", as well as in a Gus Edwards company.

In New york she was seen in the 1904 "Veronique", as well as "Three Kisses" and "Nelly Neil" plus roles in "Dollar Princess", "Girl and the Wizard", The Enchantress" and "La Belle Paree". She toured in "Lady Kitty" and was seen in vaudeville in "A Pink Nightgown" and Alma's Return".

Her last appearance was in 1952 on television in "Life Begins At 80". There are no known survivors.

Variety's "New Acts" file has entries on Miss Gordon going back to 1906 as "Kitty Gordon and her Broadway Commediennes", plus later reviews of her vaude turns in 1906, 1911 and in 1913. In a 1919 review of her turn by the late Joshua Lowe (Jolo) afterwards chief of the London Bureau, citied her gowns. "She is as beautiful as ever and knows how to wear clothes" but her voice appeared to have grown tired. One song number was "Nowadays It's All The Craze To Have A Jazz Band".



Mrs. Beresford Wed to Ralph Ranlet
Former Kitty Gordon, Actress, Widow of the Brother of Lord Decies is Broker's Bride.
"The bride several years ago was a noted British actress, appearing on the stage under the name Kitty Gordon. Before her marriage to Captain Beresford, she had been the wife of Michael Levenston. Article in New York Times, September 16, 1932



More about Kitty Gordon

From: Who Was Who In Theatre 1912-1976
Published 1972
Gale Research Co.

Gordon, Kitty

Actress and vocalist: b. Folkstone, 22 Apr., 1878; e. Dumfries; d. of the late Lt.Col. Blades, R.A.; m. (1) Michael Levenston; (2) the Hon. H.W. Horsley-Beresford; (3) Ralph Ranlet; made her first appearance on the stage at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol, Mar., 1901, as one of the "six little wives", in "San Toy"; subsequently toured as Olivia in "Kitty Grey"; made her first appearance in London at the Apollo Theatre, 7 Sept.., 1901 as Olivia in "Kitty Grey"; appeared at the Apollo Theatre, Nov., 1902 as Nancy Lowley in "The Girl from Kay's"; at the Lyric, Oct., 1903 was seen as the Grand Duchess of Berg and Cleves in "The Duchess of Dantzic"; at the Apollo, May 1904 played Agatha in "Veronique"; went to New York to play in the same piece, appearing at the Broadway, New York, 1905; appeared at the Aldwych, Jan., 1907, as the Princess Rasslova in "Nelly Neil"; at the Apollo, Aug., 1907, played Teresa in "The Three Kisses"; subsequently appeared at the Palace Theatre; at the Waldorf Theatre, Nov., 1908, appeared as Speranza in "The Antelope"; at Prince's, Manchester, Dec., 1908, played Olga in "The Dollar Princess"; then went to America, and at the Casino, New York, Sept., 1909, played Murietta in "The Girl and The Wizard"; at Rochester, New York, Sept., 1910, appeared as Mdlle. Alma in "Alma Where do you Live?"; at the Winter Garden, New York, Mar., 1911, played Lady Guff Jordon in "La Belle Paree"; at the New York Theatre, Oct., 1911, played Vivien Savary in "The Enchantress"; subsequently toured in this play, and also played in "vaudeville"; at the Burdock Theatre, Los Angeles, Jan., 1914, played Mrs. Smith in "Pretty Mrs. Smith"; subsequently played in "vaudeville", in "The Pink Nightgown" and "Alma's Return"; at the Winter Garden, Oct., 1915, played Sylvia Stone in "A World of Pleasure"; subsequently devoted herself to the cinema stage, and has appeared in several successful picutres; during 1919 toured in "That's It"; during 1920 toured in "Lady Kitty (Inc.)"


Michael's Death:

Certified Copy of an Entry of Death
Registration District: St. Marylebone
1904 Death in the subdistrict of All Souls in the County of London
Died 29th March, 1904
Where: 57 Beaumont St.
Michael Levenston, Male, 48 years
Theatrical Manager of 34 Queensborough Terrace, Hyde Park
Cause of Death: Generalized Sarcoma 2 Months, Exhaustion, Certified by W.H White M.D.
Signature, description and residence of informant: Nora Levenston, Sister, Present at Death, 27 Lilybank Gardens, Hillhead, Glasgow

Michael's Birth:

Michael Levenston, Male, born July 19 1855 at 41 London Street Glasgow.
Father: Samuel Levenston, Medical, 30 Years, London
When and where parents married: 1851, Glasgow 2 Girls deceased
Mother: Rebecca Levenston, maiden name Lazarus, Her 3rd Child, 34 years, London

Michael's Sister:

Samuel and Rebecca had a daughter born 19th Dec.1857 at 48 London Street. Her name was Leonorah, sometimes known as Norah, Leonora, and Nora in later census documents. She is the sister named in Michael's death certificate.


Census Material:

1861 Census:
at Samuel's house, 48 London St., Glasgow
Michael son aged 5
Norah daughter aged 3

1871 Census:
at Samuel's house, 6 Hope St., Glasgow,
Michael son 16
Leonora daughter 13

1881 Census:
at Samuel's house, 6 Hope St., Glasgow,
Nora aged 23, unmarried


Death of Michael's Mother

Death of Rebecca Lazarus or Levenston:
On the 31st Jan.,1875 at 6 Hope St, Glasgow, Rebecca Levenston died aged 57; married to Samuel Levenston, MD and the daughter of Eleazer Lazarus, draper and Eliza Lazarus.


Michael's Father Remarries

2nd marriage of Samuel Levenston
On 6th Nov. 1905 at 27 Lilybank Gardens, Hillhead, Glasgow,
Samuel Levenston, doctor of medicine, widower, aged 79
and Jane Findlay, spinster, aged 41 of 9 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow: the daughter of William Findlay, ship wright (foreman) and Jane Findlay, maiden surname Guthrie.

Michael's Father's Death:

Extract of an Entry in A Register of Death
Samuel Levenston, Doctor of Medicine, Married to:
1st. Rebecca Lazarus
2nd Jane Findlay
When and Where died: 1914, January 21, at 27 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow
Male. 93 years old,
Father and Mother: Michael Levenston (deceased) Sarah Levenston Maiden name Josephs (deceased)
Cause of Death: Senile debility, Pneumonia cert. by F.K. Monro M.D.
signed Jane Levenston Widow, (present)

Letter from my Great Aunt Nellie to my parents just after my birth in 1951. (Mike)

21 Eade Road London N4 August 5th, 1951 (I was born July 10, 1951)

Dear Ruth and Gerald, (my mother and father)

I'm so pleased to hear that Michael arrived safely and that he is a fine baby and put on weight. I expected it would be a boy, as I am the 'only' girl in my family with six brothers, and my Mother was the 'only' girl with eight brothers. But it is nice to have a girl. Anyhow in a few years the boys will be such company for each other.

He is not the first Michael Levenston. The other Michael, my uncle, was very well known in London theatrical circles. He was partner with George Edwardes and ran the Gaiety and Dalys Theatres. He first of all married Marie Tempests' sister and then Kitty Gordon American Star in the early 1900's.

I've just finished reading a book called "The Naughty Ninetees" by McQueen Pope, and his name is mentioned several times. He was a very handsome man, tall, and very charming. In fact, quite by accident last week I met an old lady of 81 at my Conservative Club, and we started talking about the Theatre. When she knew my name, she told me that she remembers Mike, and that he took her and a Company to all the Capitals of Europe. She was an old Gaiety Girl, Molly Montrose, and to look at her you would never have thought so. I wrote to McQueen Pope and told him and he said he was very interested and would contact her as soon as he could but at present was very busy writing the life story of Ivor Novello. It really was very unexpected to meet such a person at our local club.

Let us hope your Michael will grow up tall and handsome and charming and be remembered after all those years.

Auntie Nell

Helen (Nell) Francis Levenston 1882-1972 My father's aunt, sister of his father Fred Levenston

Enclosed in the letter was this photo of actress Kitty Gordon.

Kitty

  

Levenstons Migrate to the Internet

The Levenston and Stibbe Families (5000 names)

Some Irish Levenstons

Scottish Levenstons

A Century in Western Canada

Mike's Martial Arts - 8th Degree Black Belt - San Sho Do

Michael Levenston, Theatre Manager, 1855-1904

Gerald Levenston, born 1914, Toronto, Canada




  

updated September 16, 2013

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