PANTOMIME has resumed her Christmas reign triumphantly at every theatre that owns her sway ; and if the magic bat of Harlequin per- forms fewer feats than of yore, the one great achievement of filling houses nightly is sufficient evidence that the influence of the motley crew is unabated. At the Haymarket, his minikin mightiness Tom Thumb was coldly received ; though his new representative, Master GEOltGE WEBSTER, is most efficiently impotent, and King Arthur boasts a glorious court. And the audiences of the Promenade Concerts seem to have been following the example of the orchestra when in play- ing HAYDN'S Farewell Symphony the musicians steal off successively, leaving the conductor alone in his glory.
Covent Garden takes the lead, as usual, and distances all competitors in the extent and efficiency of its stage mechanism and appoint- ments; The Castle of Otranto, or Harlequin and the Giant Helmet, is a magnificent burlesque spectacle, with a few Harlequin tricks and gambols interspersed, terminating with a Diorama. The Spirit of Ro- mance summons her heroes to defend her domain against the inroads of the Spirit of Burlesque ; but, having chosen so flimsy a fortress for her stronghold as the Castle of Otranto, no wonder that Burlesque triumphs, though on this occasion less felicitous than is his wont : the Seven Champions and the " Scottish Chiefs "—gallant knights, castle spectres, bleeding nuns, and mysterious monks—flock to her standard ; but vain is their resistance to the prowess of the basket chivalry of Burlesque headed by General Bombastes and Tom Thumb, with the two Kings of Brentford in their train : the Castle of Otranto is stormed, and the gigantic helmet, for all its black forest of plumes that are so fearfully agitated, is devoted to ridicule. The stupendous casque, whose crest reaches to the very battlements of the castle, lifts up its beaver, and re- veals a stern visage seen in profile, with an eye rolling awfully around,. the sight of which turns the attendants' faces ashy pale, and lengthens the phiz of the usurper Manfred to a preternatural extent : but pre- sently an enormous hand rises, with outspread fingers and the thumb placed gnostically to the tip of the nose, accomplishing that familiar style of nasal recognition, called, in vulgar phrase, " taking a sight." The universal roar that follows this demonstration is fatal to Romance ; who, though she appears surrounded with the flower of her chivalry from out the same helmet, filling the scene with her pomp, isvanquished by Burlesque, with the aid of the Spirit of Pantomime, who transforms the characters. The apparition of the headless trunk from the tomb, and the intrusion of the mailed limbs into the lobbies of the castle, pummeling and trampling down the usurper and his retainers, are very efficacious : but unfortunately the body and members of the armed spectre are of too slender proportions to claim relationship to the head in the helmet ; and the gigantic sabre is but a dagger in proportion, though taking half-a-dozen men to carry it. So potential a blade, by the way, ought to do some execution; one naturally expects to see the -visionary hand grasp it, and sweep off a score of heads at a blow : but the capabilities of the subject for fun are by no means exhausted.
The harlequinade is as unconnected as ever, and more than com- monly barren of originality and whim : the tricks and changes, such as they are, -work capitally well; Mr. BRADWELL, the machinist, the author of the pantomime, being more ingenious in effecting than in- venting them. The "dancing circle," with its miscellaneous groups of involuntary dancers, including some fish in a basket—the hoard covered with posting-bills with cross-readings, and vanishings, changing to the Nelson Pillar, which is replaced by the ship Victory manned by a tiny sailor who dances a hornpipe—the furnished lodgings, with candlesticks whirling round, chairs sinking in the floor, sofas vanishing through the walls, the grate performing evolutions, the window-curtains whisking out of sight, and the chimney-glass and ornaments flinging themselves at the head of the delinquent lodger—and the Temple of the Drama shored up by Melodrama and Spectacle, converted into a pro- menade concert, the statues of the great dramatists figuring as fiddlers and trumpeters, till Shakspere appears and raises Thalia and Melpo- mene on their pedestals again—are the most effective incidents. There are no clever hits at the follies of the day, beyond such trite jokes as "Old Bailey concerts—free-list suspended," "subaqueous tunnel con- certs—nightly overflow," and other punning placards : the bull in the china-shop, and sending a pig per post, only serve to show the poverty of jocular allusions to current topics : not even the fashions are ridi- culed; and the " tiger " is a poor substitute for the "dandy lover."
The scenery of the opening is imposing ; the moonlit ruins, and the Castle of Otranto at sunset, are fine pictures ; and the passages and court-yard are fitting scenes for romance : Messrs. GRIEVE'S "Views of the Eastern Question," however, are not very enlightened, nor in- deed always true, though unfolded at great length; the "squadron in a gale," in which moveable vessels glide up and down green mounds of solid wave, and the "bombardment of Acre" by a couple of Roman candles, are utter failures ; and the views of China, with their porcelain pagodas, junks, and triumphal arches, are more curious than attractive : the representation of the British troops scaling the wall of Chusan and entering the town is ingenious ; but the concluding tableau of Neptune and Blritannia was hailed as a welcome relief to the tedium of the moving pictures.
There is so little scope for grotesque pantomime in the introduction, that the funny firm of SMITH, PAYNE, and Co. return "no effects" to the demands on their drollery. As for Clown and Pantaloon, no one expects humour from them now-a-days. Atthe Adelphi, the pretty story of the Fisherman and the Genie, from the Arabian Nights, forms the introduction to the pantomime of Earle- -quin and the Enchanted Fish, or the Genie of the Brazen Bottle ; and so beautiful are the scenes, dresses, and metamorphoses, that the burlesque acting appears out of place. The liberation of the Genie from the brazen bottle, and his disappearance into it, and the apparition of the sprites who evoke the fish from the frying-pan, are splendidly managed. The tarlequinade is less prolific of fan than usual ; but the redundancy of WIELAND'S comical antics as Clown makes' up for the paucity of tricks : his veins seem to flow with quicksilver, and his muscles and bones to be of caoutchouc : he is perpetual motion personified—the very demon of distortion. The veteran ELISE, WO, still graceful and expert, though less agile, is mated with a modest and featly Columbine, Miss BULLEN. The present to John Bull of a case of "Annuals for 1841-5"— which changes to five royal bantlings—is most loyally greeted; and the post-office intelligence of "A Male due for 1841," is heartily responded to. The squabbles in John Bull's poultry-yard between the Gallic Cock and the Turkey, with the interference of the Russian Bear, are not very edifying ; and the laying of an egg by a French hen, which hatches a young Sultan, was not understood. The best practical joke is the struggle between the Clown and Pantaloon to carry off a Policeman on a "stretcher "; in which the stretcher realizes its appellation, and the body is elongated the whole length of the stage. There is no diorama, but TELBIN'S scenery is beautiful.
The Surry appears to have turned to amusing account the nursery rhyme of" Goosey Gander"; and a stupendous gander with a progeny of prodigious goslings were greeted with roars of laughter. The prac- tical jokes, too, seem to tell ; especially the railway "accident,' where
legs and arms are mis.fitted to wrong bodies. The Nelson Monument and the Royal Academy, the Black Bottle affair, and the tiff between France and England, are among the successful allusions. The diorama of Syria, by BRUNNINGS, is well spoken of; and the posturing and feats of strength are described as extraordinary. At the Victoria, where Miss E. MONTAGU is playing tragedy he- roines, MONCRIEFF is the author of the pantomime—Harlequin Jack of 1Vewbury, or the Old Womaq of Berkeley; with which the audience seem to have been well pleased, notwithstanding the Clown himself apologized for the imperfections in its performance.
Sadler's Wells, though no longer boasting a GRIMALDI, still main- tains its pantomimic reputation ; and Harlequin Poor Richard, or Time
and the Almanack-maker, seems to have been got up in capital style. A cut is made at the "royal cheese," among other absurdities ; but the loyal spirit is apparent in the introduction of the Queen and Prince -with the infant Princess in the "hall of history" among the " triumphs of Britain," from the time of Alfred downwards.
Though the Promenade Concerts were comparatively deserted, each boasted of some new feature of attraction. Drury Lane gave HAYDN'S
Abschied Sinfonia—the Farewell Symphony before alluded to—and a
grand pot-pourri by STRAUSS ; the English Opera has added a vocal corps and chorus to its orchestra—Mr. FRAZER, Miss NuNN, from Milan, and Signor PALTONI, a basso-cantante from San Carlos, at Naples ; and the Princess's Theatre has engaged Mr. HARPER, who, with Messrs. BA17MANN, ITJEN, and LAURENT junior, played the voice parts of HANDEL'S Acis and Galatea, on the trumpet, bassoon, clarinet, and cornet. The Moorish decorations of the English Opera stage saloon are in good taste ; and its promenade, and that of Drury, are warmed by gas-stoves.