On March 31, 1873, after three months of touring and stops in 31 different cities, the Scouts of the Prairie starring Texas Jack, Buffalo Bill, Ned Buntline, and Giuseppina Morlacchi made their Broadway debut at Niblo's Garden. As they had at every stop, eager theatergoers crowded the floors and balconies to see the famous western heroes. And just like in all of those cities, critics were scathing.
This review is from the April 1st edition of the New York Daily Herald.
“The Scouts of the Prairie” at Niblo’s.
The long-promised production of “The Scouts of the Prairie” at Niblo’s was accomplished last night without accident. A densely crowded house greeted the heroes of the drama, and as these were also the genuine heroes of many a feat on the Western prairies, a piquancy and interest were given to their appearance seldom felt upon the appearance of real actors.
The drama, of which we understand Ned Buntline is the author, is about everything in general and nothing in particular. Every act ends with a fight between the scouts and the Indians—the first act being still further embellished by a characteristic war dance. The Indians, as well as the scouts, are the genuine article.
The real hero of the piece is Cale Durg, the part represented by Ned Buntline, the American Bulwer. Mr. Judson (otherwise Buntline) represents the part as badly as is possible for any human being to represent it, and the part is as bad as it was possible to make it. The Hon. William F. Cody, otherwise “Buffalo Bill,” and occasionally called by the refined people of the Eastern cities “Bison William,” is a good-looking fellow, tall and straight as an arrow, but ridiculous as an actor. Texas Jack, whose real name, we believe, is Omohundro, is not quite so good-looking, not so tall, not so straight, and not so ridiculous. Mlle. Morlacchi, as Dove Eye, is only an insipid forest maiden, but the worst actor of the lot is Senorita Carfana, the representative of Hazel Eye, a young white woman who is very tall, very straight, and very virtuous. She is worse, even, than Ned Buntline, and he is simply maundering imbecility. Her first appearance is ludicrous beyond the power of description—more ludicrous even than Ned Buntline’s temperance address in the forest.
To describe the play and its reception is alike impossible. The applause savored of derision, and the derision of applause. Everything was so wonderfully bad that it was almost good. The whole performance was so far outside of human experience, so wonderful in its daring feebleness, that no ordinary intellect is capable of comprehending it—that no ordinary mortal can discuss it at any length with good taste and good temper.
Buffalo Bill was called before the curtain at the end of the first act, when he made a speech that was neat and appropriate, as well as short. The entertainment began with a farce by Ned Buntline called “The Broken Bank,” probably the worst ever written, and certainly the worst acted atrocity ever seen on any stage.