(1846–1908), comic actor. Although he spent little more than a decade on American stages, he became an especially popular comedian and was one of the progenitors of American musical comedy. The son of an English dance instructor, he and his five brothers and sisters made their debuts in children's shows in London and Brighton. Coming to America in 1869, Edouin first appeared under Laurence Barrett and John McCullough at San Francisco's California Theatre. He won quick celebrity there with his travesties of popular plays and local figures. His initial New York appearance was in 1870, playing Narcissus Fitzfrizzle in The Dancing Barber, then he joined Dan Bryant to perform Murphy in Handy Andy. In 1871 he was enlisted in Miss Thompson's troupe as its principle male comedian. Edouin remained with her for six years, appearing in Blue Beard, Lurline, Robin Hood, Mephisto and the Fourscore, and Robinson Crusoe. His make-up, clowning, and acrobatics as Friday in the last-mentioned play earned him special praise. At this time, a genre of elementary, prototypical musical comedies called farce-comedy began to take hold. Edouin performed briefly in 1877 with an early farce-comedy troupe, Colville's Folly Company, then switched to an even more famous band, E. E. Rice's Surprise Party, where he appeared in such pieces as Babes in the Woods, The Lost Children, and Horrors. In 1880 he organized his own troupe, Willie Edouin's Sparks, collaborating on one of the most successful of farce-comedies, Dreams, and taking several of the principal roles in it as well. He left for England in 1884, returning only occasionally, most memorably to play Tweedlepunch in Florodora (1900).
From The Oxford Companion to American Theatre in Oxford Reference.