The Cingalee

The Cingalee, or Sunny Ceylon is a musical play in two acts by James T. Tanner, with music by Lionel Monckton, lyrics by Adrian Ross and Percy Greenbank, and additional material by Paul Rubens. It opened at Daly’s Theatre in London, managed by George Edwardes, on March 5, 1904 and ran until March 11, 1905 for a total of 365 (another source giving 391) performances. The musical had a short Broadway run, opening at the Original Daly’s Theatre in New York on October 24, 1904 and running for 33 performances.

The Cingalee is set in Ceylon and concerns colonial tea planters (one of the most popular songs in the score is called simply „Tea, tea, tea“!) in an era before this island paradise became the more troubled Sri Lanka. It was given a showy production and was a success in London. The fashion there for shows set in Asian locales had been started by The Mikado and continued by The Geisha, San Toy, The Nautch Girl, A Chinese Honeymoon and others. There is little in the music to give The Cingalee an Eastern flavour. However, Monckton’s catchy sextet, „The Island of Gay Ceylon“ and „Pearl of Sweet Ceylon“ and Ruben’s „White and Brown Girl“, „Sloe Eyes“, „Monkeys“ and „You and I“ are highlights of the musical score. The condescending racial nature of The Cingalee’s libretto, however, would be unacceptable today, and so The Cingalee is unlikely to be revived.

The London cast included Hayden Coffin, Rutland Barrington, Huntley Wright and Isabel Jay. A young Lily Elsie also appeared in the show, as did Topsy Sinden.

The first professional recording of Monckton works, including The Cingalee, was made in 2003 by Theatre Bel-Etage chorus and orchestra, conductor Mart Sander.

Act I – Vereker’s Tea Plantation, „Karagama,“ Ceylon

Act II – Boobhamba’s Palace by the Lake of Kandy