MUSGROVE, George (1854-1916)

MUSGROVE, George (1854-1916)
theatrical manager
was born at Surbiton on Thames, England, on 21 January 1854. His mother, Fanny Hodson, was an actress related to the Kemble family, and was a sister of Georgina Hodson, who married William Saurin Lyster (q.v.), and Henrietta Hodson, a well known London actress, who married Henry Labouchère. Musgrove was brought to Australia by his parents when he was 12 years of age, was educated at the Flinders School, Geelong, Victoria, and on leaving school was given a position as treasurer by Lyster. He visited England in 1879 and at the end of 1880 put on a remarkable production of La Fille du Tambour Major at the opera house, Melbourne, which had a record run of 101 nights. This success of a young man, still in his middle twenties, led to the partnership with Williamson (q.v.) and Garner, which lasted for nine years. Musgrove then withdrew and managed a successful season of Paul Jones with Marion Burton and Nellie Stewart (q.v.) in the leading parts. At the end of 1892, Williamson and Musgrove went into partnership again for about seven years, Musgrove living much of the time in London. In 1898 he brought a complete American company to the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, to play The Belle of New York, which had an enormous success. In 1900 he took a grand opera company to Australia, consisting mainly of artists from the Carl Rosa Company, which performed Tannhauser, The Flying Dutchman and many other well-known operas. In 1903 he was responsible for possibly the finest all-round productions of Shakespeare ever seen in Australia. Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and A Midsummer Night's Dream were played by a first rate company, and ran for several weeks in the Australian capital cities. In 1907 a German grand opera company was brought out which had successful seasons, and introduced The Valkyries, Romeo and Juliet and Hansel and Gretel to the Australian public. Another opera season in 1909 was less successful. In his last years Musgrove suffered from financial worries and indifferent health. He died suddenly at Sydney on 21 January 1916, the sixty-second anniversary of his birthday.
Musgrove was a great producer, with the soul of an artist. He could be brusque but was really kind-hearted, and was considerate and just to all the members of his companies. He was reputed to have made over £60,000 from the production of The Belle of New York, but he probably lost more than that over his opera companies. Money, however, was really a secondary consideration with him, his chief interest was that his productions should be as good as possible artistically speaking. He married and had a daughter, Rose Musgrove, who made successful appearances in comedies and musical comedy, before her retirement from the stage at the time of her marriage.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 1916; The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 22 January, 1916; Nellie Stewart, My Life Story, which gives an account of his long association with the author.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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