- Although a theatre fire caused it to close prematurely, Bronson Howard's melodrama of Wall Street opened on 26 September 1887 at the Union Square Theatre for 158 performances to become one of the most popular plays of its era. The Henrietta engrossed Gilded Age audiences and spawned continual revivals into the early 1910s (an updated version called The New Henrietta was first performed in 1913). Its exploration of the corrosive aspects of money matters on a grand scale, mixed with romantic intrigue, was inspired, in part, by William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. In The Henrietta, Nicholas Van Alstyne, portrayed in the original production by W. H. Crane, has amassed a fortune in the stock market. His nefarious son, Nicholas Jr., resents his father's success and attempts to manipulate the market (in part by stealing some of his father's securities) to make his own fortune and undermine his father's wealth. Nicholas Jr. has also been cheating on his loyal wife Rose, but his younger brother Bertie destroys incriminating evidence to protect both of them. As the financial panic started by Nicholas Jr. commences, Nicholas Sr. confronts him and the profligate son dies of a heart attack. The loving Bertie gives all of his money to his father to save the family fortune and Rose, who has refused to believe the truth about Nicholas Jr., finds true love. The financial turmoil resulting from rises and falls in the market and the manipulations of monopolies created a welcome climate in the late 19th century for a play exploring Wall Street's growing significance in American life. Many theatre historians rank The Henrietta as one of the most influential Broadway plays prior to the emergence of Eugene O'Neill.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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