Willie Edouin

Willie Edouin (1 January 1846[1] – 14 April 1908) was an English comedian, actor, dancer, singer, writer, director and theatre manager.After performing as a child in England, Australia and elsewhere, Edouin moved to America, where he joined Lydia Thompson’s burlesque troupe, performing with this company both in the U.S. and Britain. He returned to America in 1877, where, by 1880, he managed his own company. For over a decade, starting in 1884, Edouin managed theatres in London, particularly the Strand Theatre, producing and starring in comedies, farces and burlesques. From the 1890s, he appeared as the comic lead in several hit Edwardian musical comedies, including Florodora.Edouin was born in Brighton under the name William Frederick Bryer, the youngest of five children of John Edwin Bryer, an English dance instructor, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (née May). He and his siblings played together in children’s shows in London and Brighton. By 1849, the children were appearing as “The Living Marionettes” in London in farces, ballets d’action, and extravaganzas.[3] In 1852 and 1854, the Edouin children played in pantomimes at the Strand Theatre. In 1857, Edouin’s parents took the family on a six-year tour of Australia, India, China and Japan. In 1863, Edouin and his sister Rose (later Mrs. G. B. Lewis of the Maidan Theatre, Calcutta) played in Fawcett’s stock company at the Princess’s Theatre, Melbourne, in burlesque.Edouin moved to the United States in 1869, where he first appeared with Laurence Barrett and John McCullough at the California Theatre in San Francisco. He soon became popular for his burlesques of popular plays and local celebrities. He made his New York debut in 1870 in The Dancing Barber as Narcissus Fitzfrizzle. Edouin next played the role of Murphy in Handy Andy with the Bryant’s Minstrels. In 1871, he joined Lydia Thompson’s burlesque company, as its leading male comedian, and met his future wife, Alice Atherton (1854–99), who was also appearing with the troupe. The couple had two daughters, Daisy and May, who also became actresses. Edouin played with Thompson for six seasons in burlesques, many of them by H. B. Farnie, of Bluebeard, The Princess of Trébizonde! St. George and the Dragon! The Forty Thieves, Lurline, Robin Hood, Mephisto and the Fourscore, and others. He earned particular praise in Robinson Crusoe, for his acrobatics and clowning as Friday, and in Bluebeard, for his portrayal of Chinaman Washee-Washee. He returned to England with Thompson in 1874 and repeated the latter role in London that year. Edouin continued to perform with the troupe both in London and on tour in Britain for three seasons.In 1877, Edouin returned with Thompson to New York. He soon appeared with Colville’s Folly Company, an American farce-comedy troupe, and then with E. E. Rice’s Surprise Party in pantomimes such as Babes in the Woods, The Lost Children, and Horrors. In 1880 he formed his own company, Willie Edouin’s Sparks, co-authoring and starring in a successful farce, Dreams. In 1881, Edouin purchased a photo gallery in the Philadelphia but sold it the following year.