Tiny in stature, Maggie Mitchell was a giant on the Civil War and Reconstruction-era stage. A phenomenally talented actor, singer, and dancer, she dominated the boards for four decades. The Lincolns loved her, inviting her to tea at the White House. John Wilkes Booth was fascinated by Maggie as well. They could only get in line. The animated and attractive “little Maggie” won applause on every side.
Thomas A. Bogar, one of the nation’s premier theatre historians, has finally given “our little Maggie” the second life she deserves. Carefully researched and beautifully written, Bogar’s biography brings to life one of the 19th century’s most fascinating personalities.
With the first book-length biography of sprightly actress Maggie Mitchell (1836-1918), Thomas A. Bogar continues his heroic rescue of major figures and episodes that inexplicably fell by the wayside in American theatre history studies. Unearthing the minutiae of American presidential theatregoing, backstage views of the action, the careers of John E. Owens and Thomas Hamblin and now the beloved Maggie involves endless digging to reconstruct trajectories and critical responses, yet Bogar embeds his gleanings in such compelling narratives that we can relive our theatrical past on the page.
The book's title evokes the appeal of the effervescent Maggie Mitchell's nimble charm in performances over a forty-year career. The tiny dynamo kept her hold on the American theatre-going public by her relentless touring schedule, which serves as a lens for Thomas A. Bogar's insights on evolving theatre management and touring conditions before, during, and after the Civil War. He carefully sifts for evidence apart from rumors and half-baked reporting on subjects like her close friendship with John Wilkes Booth and her early secessionist sympathies. Champagne Sparkle proves that a book-length biography of Maggie Mitchell was long overdue.
It’s a wonderful world Thomas A. Bogar has created! Champagne Sparkle is a welcome and valuable addition to our understanding of the world of 19th century theatre, and in particular to the world in which John Wilkes Booth lived and operated. I will certainly be recommending it to colleagues and including it in our list of go-to reference books for the theatre staff.