Pantomimes at Drury Lane

THEATRE ROYAL, DRURY LANE

 

Inside Drury Lane - 1893

 

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the fourth building on this site. The present one dating from 1812. The First Theatre Royal opened in 1663. It was granted the Royal Charter by Charles 11 in 1662.

 

The first theatre was rebuilt in 1672-1674 after a fire, and was designed by Christopher Wren. In 1677 the character of “Harlequin” was seen here, and by the 1700’s the “Italian Night Scenes”- early forerunner of pantomimes were staged here. It was managed by David Garrick from 1747-1776

 

Garrick staged the first pantomime “Harlequins Invasion”, and by 1761 it had become the premier pantomime venue.

Drury Lane 1787

In 1791 the building was demolished by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, as the building was in a poor state, and rebuilt with a seating capacity of 3,611. “a Wilderness of a place”- it’s fortunes declined, and in 1809 the theatre was once again destroyed by fire. In 1804 the first version of “Cinderella” was seen here.

 

The fourth and present day building was built in 1812, designed by Benjamin Wyatt. It originally had 3,060 seats, now reduced to 2,184. In 1819 one of the first female Principal Boys made her entrance in “Jack and The Beanstalk”.- her name was Eliza Povey, and the pantomime was 'Jack and the Beanstalk, or Harlequin and the Ogre'.

 

Joseph Grimaldi the famous clown split his appearances between Sadlers Wells and Drury Lane- on occasion playing both theatres in the one night!

 

We are very grateful to Will Hobbs who has supplied us with information about the 1829 pantomime called 'The Queen Bee or Harlequin and the Fairy Hive'. He has a playbill from the production which states that it was so popular that it played for the whole of January and February. On the evening of the 20th January 1829 it played alongside The Critic and a drama called Charles the 12th.

 

The spectacular scenery of William Beverley was seen during early pantomimes in the mid 1850’s, he could be called the inventor of the “Transformation Scene” - and by 1869 the Vokes Family were appearing here in pantomimes for the next ten years.

 

E. L. Blanchard was the author of the Drury Lane Pantomimes from 1852-1888. It was during this period that the major changes began to occur. These changes were to transform pantomime into the template of today'’ entertainment.

Drury Lane 1864

Blanchard’s pantomimes or “annuals” as he called them set the tone for productions everywhere. His first Drury Lane pantomime was in 1852. He established a style of rhyming verse and wit- often topical. Although pantomimes today rarely have rhyming couplets throughout (with the odd exception) this tradition is carried on by the “immortals” who often begin a pantomime prologue today in rhyme.

In Blanchard’s “Jack And The Beanstalk” in 1859 the hero is selling his cow to Fairy Crystalline-

 

Crystaline:      “Well, give the calf”

Jack:                “I do!”

Crystaline:      “The beans are thine.

Jack:                “though this transaction bears a strange character, I look upon you as my Beany Factor!

 

We have managed to piece together a list of pantomimes which were presented at Drury Lane from 1852 with scripts by E. L. Blanchard -

1852 - Harlequin Hudibras; or, Courtiers and Roundheads in the Days of the Merry Monarch

1853 - King Humming Top and the Land of Toys

1854 - Jack and Jill; or, Harlequin King Mustard and Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

1855 - Hey Diddle Diddle and the Seven Ages of Man

1856 - See Saw, Margery Daw; or, Harlequin Holiday and Ups and Downs

1857 - Little Jack Horner; or, Harlequin A.B.C.

1858 - Robin Hood

1859 - Jack and the Beanstalk; or, Harlequin Leap-Year, and the Merry Pranks of the Good Little People

1860 - Peter Wilkins, or Harlequin and the Flying Women of the Loadstone Rock

1861 - The House That Jack Built; or, Old Mother Hubbard and Her Wonderful Dog

1862 - Little Goody Two Shows; or, Harlequin and Cock Robin

1863 - Harlequin Sindbad the Sailor; or, The Great Roc of Diamond Valley

1864 - Hop o' my Thumb and his Eleven Brothers!; or, Harlequin and the Ogre of the Seven-Leagued Boots

1865 - Little King Pippin; or, Harlequin Fortunatus and the Magic Purse and Wishing Purse

1866 - Unknown

1867 - Faw-Fee-Fo-Fum; or, Jack the Giant Killer

1868 - Grimalkin the Great; or, Harlequin Puss in Boots and the Miller's Son

1869 - Beauty and the Beast (the debut of the Vokes Family)

1870 - The Dragon of Wantley; or, Harlequin and Old Mother Shipton

1871 - Tom Thumb, or King Arthur and The Knights of The Round Table

This pantomime was perhaps the first to employ an artiste from the world of Music Hall- G. H. Macdermott - before he became a major star turn

1872 - Unknown

1873 - Unknown

1874 - Aladdin featured Harriet Coveney as Principal Boy

1875 - Dick Whittington

1876 - Harlequin and the Forty Thieves with the Vokes Family

1877 - The White Cat

 

The Vokes Family

Throughout this ten year period from 1869 the Vokes family reigned supreme at Drury Lane, until the arrival of the new manager, Augustus Harris.

 

AUGUSTUS HARRIS “Druriolanus” 1852-1896

 

Augustus Harris was the son of a theatre manager, Augustus Glossop Harris. At the age of 28 he was the youngest manager in the history of Drury Lane. He presented lavish and spectacular pantomimes at “the lane”, removed the transformation scenes and replaced them with huge and expensive processions and tableaux, often involving hundreds of people on stage.

 

His pantomimes were months in the planning. His working day started at the breakfast table. He would call for Charlie Alias, the costumier, and would draw him pictures of what he wanted. Secretaries were in attendance, auditions going on, and authors and scenic artists were milling around.

 

His pantomimes could cost between £6,000 and £8000- unheard of expenditure at that time.

 

http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/guided_tours/pantomime_tour/the_great_victorian_pantomime/drurylane.php  Augustus Harris information

 

He cast on a lavish scale. He assembled a top notch collection of Principal Boys, Principal Girls and Music Hall comedians. These included Kate Santley, Ada Blanche, Arthur Roberts, Vesta Tilley, Herbert Campbell, Harriet Vernon, Little Tich, Paul Cinquevalli, Marie Lloyd Harry Nichols, James Fawn and of course, Dan Leno.

 

Dan Leno had actually been the discovery of George Conquest, who told Harris about him. Harris engaged Dan Leno for the 1888 pantomime, “Babes In The Wood”. Leno as “The Wicked Aunt” did not have a very big part, as Harry Nichols and Herbert Campbell had the main part as “The Babes”, but Leno was a success, and Drury Lane became his Christmas venue for the rest of his life.

 

1895 was to be Augustus Harris’s last pantomime.

 

In 1895 Harris presented English Opera, followed by the appearance of Eleanora Duse, and shortly after the spring opera Harris died of a wasting disease on 22nd June. He was 45. he had controlled six or seven theatres in all, along with many touring companies and business speculations. He once owned “The Sunday Times” and wrote a series of articles for it. Every year he gave a matinee for the Royal General Theatrical Fund at Drury Lane. He was knighted in 1891 not for his services to theatre, but because he was an Under Sheriff of London during the visit of the German Emperor.

 

The public drinking fountain that stands at the corner of Catherine Street, at the front of Drury Lane  contains the bust of Harris. It was raised by public subscription.

 

THE PANTOMIMES OF AUGUSTUS HARRIS

 

The monopoly that the Vokes family (Ever increasing in numbers) had in appearing at Drury Lane was about to be changed. For information on The Vokes Family see our article:

 

 

1878    Cinderella    The Vokes Family. The revues were not kind. “They were on stage far too long”. “They are sublimely indifferent as to whether the story of Cinderella be a Sanskrit myth or a Greek fable” “If they want to retain their hold on the public, they should get someone to concoct for them new modes “ Losing popularity, the Vokes family discovered the pantomime was in debt .F.B. Chatterton the manager could not meet their salaries, and the production closed, owing £36,000 in February 1879.

 

1879    Bluebeard    Drury Lane reopened by Augustus Harris. He retained the Vokes family, but cut their routines severely. Spectacle was his speciality. Victoria Fokes as Fatima, Fred Vokes as Bluebeard, Mrs. Fred Vokes as Anne, Jessie Vokes as Selim and Fawdon Vokes as Shacabac. One innovation Harris brought in was that now the pantomime was the sole entertainment of the evening. Shortly he would remove the traditional Harlequinade at the end of the pantomime as well.

 

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1880    Mother Goose    (and the enchanted Beauty) This was the first time established variety stars were used. Harris employed Kate Santley from the Alhambra, and Arthur Roberts, (Dr Syntax) the popular music hall comedian, along with James Fawn, his hit number being “It must have been the lobster, It couldn’t have been the booze!”  and Fred Storey. According to The Stage review of January 1, 1881, "Mother Goose is a success and Mr A Harris can go to sleep at night with an easy head".  Again though, this pantomime version was actually the story of “The Sleeping Beauty”, with the character of Mother Goose again representing a “Good Witch”, pitted against the evil witch Malignia. The Golden eggs did feature, but were used as a magical device to awaken the sleeping court after their 100 years slumber.

 

1881    Robinson Crusoe    Arthur Roberts (Mrs Crusoe), James Fawn (Timothy), Fanny Leslie (Crusoe), Harry Nichols (Will Atkins). A chorus of 100, and a juvenile chorus of 200.

 

1882    Sindbad The Sailor    Arthur Roberts, James Fawn, Herbert Campbell, Harry Nichols, Nellie Power (Sindbad), Vesta Tilley (Captain Tralala), Fred Storey, Constance Loseby, Harry Parker, Sisters Mario and Charles Lauri.   In this pantomime Augustus Harris replaced the transformation scene with a spectacular pageant, a procession of every monarch from William 1st to the present time. Each monarch had many  knights, pages and men-at-arms with them- 500 people on stage. Jimmy Glover-the Drury Lane conductor wrote “Harris had a penchant for over-doing it”. The Author, Blanchard wrote “The music Hall element is crushing out the rest and the good old fairy tales never again to be illustrated as they should be”- a critic added “Mr Blanchard’s text is cut down to the very narrowest limit. I don’t think I ever followed a book of pantomime of which so few lines are spoken”.

 

1883    Cinderella    (No harlequinade for 1st time) The Flying speciality was provided by Aenea, an Islington born ballerina who developed an effortless ariel ballet in which the wires could barely be seen.

 

Link to article from John Culme's Footlight Notes on Pantomimes in 1883

 

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1884    Whittington and his Cat    Fannie Leslie (Dick Whittington), Charles Lauri Jnr (His Cat), Harry Parker (Alderman Fitzwarren), M. A. Victor (Mrs Fitzwarren), Kate Munroe (Alice Fitzwarren), Harry Nicholls (Tom), Herbert Campbell (Eliza the Cook), James T. Powers (Emperor of Morocco), Miss Minnie Inch (His Lord Chamberlain), Messrs John Ridley, Tully Louis & Walker Melbourne (His Cooks), Dot Mario (Zura - Princess of Morocco), Minnie Mario (Captain of the Ship), Percy Bell (Policeman), Reuben Inch (Policeman), Jessie Mayland (Genius of Drury Lane), Mdlle Aenea (Robin Goodfellow).

 

 

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1885    Aladdin    Herbert Campbell (Abanazar), Victor Stevens (Emperor), Grace Huntley (Aladdin), Charles Lauri (Kazrac), Nelly Bennett (Genii of the Lamp), Harry Nichols (Widow Twankay), Reuben Inch (Demon of the Swamp), H.M.Edmunds (Prime Minister), James Albert & William Albert (Private Secretaries), Vinnie Edmunds (Stri Kt), John Ridley & G.V.Wybrow (The Blue China Dog), Nelly Leamar (A Maid Of All Work), Kate Leamar (Princess Badroubadour), Clara Grahame (A Maid of No Work) Francesca Zanfretta (Principal Dancer)

 

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1886    40 Thieves  Harry Nicholls, Herbert Campbell, Connie Gilchrist and Miss M.A. Victor. The pantomime began at 7.30pm and finished at 1am At one point there were 500 people on stage.

 

1887    Puss In Boots    Herbert Campbell (King), Harry Nicholls (Consort) Charles Lauri Jnr (Puss), Jenny Dawson (spirit of love) Letty Lind (Princess), Marie Williams (handmaiden), Miss Wadman (Jocelyn) and Lionel Rignold. Augustus Harris, prompted by George Conquest offered Dan Leno a role in his forthcoming pantomime “Babes In The Wood and Robin Hood and his merry men and Harlequin who killed cock robin”. Joseph Merrick (Known as “The Elephant Man”)  attended a performance of this pantomime.

 

Link to article from John Culme's Footlight Notes on Puss in Boots

 

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1888    Babes In The Wood    Debut of Dan Leno. (Baroness) Harriet Vernon, (Robin Hood) Herbert Campbell & Harry Nicholls (as the Babes), Maggie Duggan and Victor Stevens. E. L. Blanchard's last pantomime for Drury Lane.

 

Link to article from John Culme's Footlight Notes on Babes in the Wood

 

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1889     Jack and the Beanstalk  (or harlequin and the midwinter night’s dream) Dan Leno, Herbert Campbell, Johnny Danvers (King), Nellie Stewart (Jack), Maud Nelson (Princess), Rita Presano (Prince Racket), Mollie Lowell (Marjory, the Dame's daughter), Messers Queen & LeBrun (The Cow), Ernest D'Auban (Cat), Rita Barrington (Miss Fifi Cat), William Morgan (Demon King)), Charles Trevor (A Secretary), Madame Griggolati (Spirit), Birdie Sutherland (Fairy Queen), Mr H.A.Lonsdale (Bessie-a child) Mr G. Lakegrange (Thomas- a child) Alfred Balfour (Auctioneer), Mr Pollock (The Mayor).T.Hendon (The Giant).  The Brothers Griffith (Pictured) were a comedy double act. They played Chinese Policemen in “Aladdin” at Drury Lane, and specialised in “skin” parts- a wrestling lion, Mr & Mrs Wolf, Daisy The Cow, and their most popular act (performed in Music Halls) “The Blondin Donkey”, in which the donkey walked a mock tight-rope!

 

Review from Time by Alec Nelson

 

1890    Beauty and The Beast    – Dan Leno (Sir Lombard Streete), Vesta Tilley (Principal Boy), Herbert Campbell. Harris seized upon a current court trial as inspiration for this pantomime. The public were reading about  Belle Bilton (pictured)- one of “The Bilton Sisters” in Music Hall, who had married Lord Dunlo in a secret ceremony. They were both aged twenty. The Earl of Clancy (His Father) in anger sent his son to Australia after nine days, and forced his son to petition for divorce. In Court her husband declared his belief in her innocence, and applause rang around the courtroom. Drury Lane decided to change their plans for “Dick Whittington” and perform instead “Beauty and The Beast”.

 

Harris decided to engage Lady Dunlo as “Beauty”, with Vesta Tilley (Later to become Lady DeFrece) as King Courage. Harris failed to tell her that from the second scene, she would be completely masked.. Miss Tiley then insisted the Stage Manager (John d’Auban) play the “Beast” role, leaving her free to accept Music Hall Engagements throughout the run (after her fifteen minute appearance), and trebling her salary! Harris had offended her, and she never appeared at Drury Lane after that. Belle Bilton (Lady Dunlo) left the run after a slight accident, and shortly after the run ended her Father In Law died, and she became Lady Clancarty! All ended happily ever after!

 

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1891    Humpty Dumpty (or the yellow dwarf and the fair one with the golden locks)     Dan Leno (Queen) in partnership for the first time with Herbert Campbell (King), Little Tich (Humpty), Marie Lloyd (Princess Allfair). This was the Drury Lane debut of Marie Lloyd. “She brings all her well known chic and vivacity” (The Stage). Marie- known for her risqué style shocked some of the critics when, as Red Riding Hood (or Robinson Crusoe two years later, depending on which source you use!) she climbed out of bed and, in place of saying her prayers, searched under the bed for the chamber pot!

 

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1892     Hop O’ My Thumb (“Little Bo Peep, Little Red Riding Hood and Hop O’ My Thumb”)    Dan Leno, (Daddy Thumb) Herbert Campbell (Goody Thumb) Marie Lloyd (Red Riding Hood), Ada Blanche (Little Boy Blue), Arthur Williams (Dame Mary Quite Contrary ), Marie Loftus (Little Bo Peep), The Griffith Brothers. Stage directions read: “Mr Wolf very drunk, fired out of door by Barman. A Fight Ensues. Any special business of the Bros Griffiths could come in here. i.e Insert their Burlesque Kangaroo Boxing Match”.

 

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1893    Robinson Crusoe    Dan Leno (Mrs Crusoe), Herbert Campbell (Will Atkins), Marie Lloyd (Polly Perkins), Ada Blanche (Crusoe), Little Tich (Man Friday) and Newland & Le Clercq. This production, overladen with stars and effects lost £30,000.

 

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1894    Dick Whittington    Dan Leno (Idle Jack) Herbert Campbell (Eliza The Cook),  Ada Blanche (Dick), Brothers Griffiths, Fawdon Vokes, Marie Montrose, Lily Harold, Agnes Hewitt, Lydia Flopp, Queenie Lawrence and Lily Morris (Fairy Snowdrop)

 

 

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1895    Cinderella    Three months after the pantomime, Augustus Harris “Druriolanus” died aged 45 . Dan Leno (Baroness), Herbert Campbell (Baron), Ada Blanche (Prince) Miss A.Dagmar (Dandini), Isa Bowman (Cinderella), L.Rignold, Sophie Larkin and Emily Miller (The Sisters), Lily Harold, (Fairy Godmother) Miss M.Cornille. The carriage for Cinderella was horseless, an early form of “car”, and illuminated by over 500 electric lamps-“Cinderella will be escorted by a troop of youthful outriders, mounted on diminutive ponies, bred by the Marquis of Londonderry. The Grigolatis troupe (from the Alhambra) will float down from the clouds in the scene with the Fairy Godmother (Lily Harold) bringing Cinderella her pretty dress for the ball”. (The Era November 1895) The car was controlled by a thick black cable powering the lamps. As it drove off stage Dan Leno convulsed the audience by crying “Oh Look! The great sea serpent is going as well!”  (Norman Robbins : Slapstick & Sausages).

 

Arthur Collins becomes Managing Director.

 

THE PANTOMIMES OF ARTHUR COLLINS

 

ARTHUR COLLINS: 1863-1932

 

His widow carried on running Drury Lane for a year, and there were rumours that the Duke of Bedford was unlikely to renew his lease, and that the vast theatre might be demolished, and merged with Covent Garden Market.

 

Arthur Collins was the man who remedied the situation, and continued the tradition of pantomime at Drury Lane.

 

He had joined the staff of the scenic painter, Harry Emden, working in the scene painting room “The Paint Frame” at Drury Lane in 1881.

 

Collins was to remain at Drury Lane for 43 years.

 

He had asked Harris to let him act, and was sent on tour in “A Run of Luck” for 30 shillings a week. He was discovered by Harris repainting the touring scenery one evening, long after the show was over, and in recognition of his dedication, was made Stage Manager of Drury Lane.

 

Collins helped Harris’s widow and her brother carry on for the season following the death of Augustus Harris. The theatre appeared to be on the brink of doom, but Collins needed to raise £1,000 to transfer the lease. He raised this sum (helped by an Australian merchant) and Collins – also (helped by the public outcry that the theatre was endangered) renewed the lease on Drury Lane for a further eighty years. He became Managing Director in 1897. He remained there until he retired in 1924.

 

Collins’s pantomimes were speedier and less cumbersome than those of Harris, but they were also extremely long. He would take his call at the end of the first half- it would have been too late at the final curtain. One theatregoer was heard to remark to her husband, as they left the theatre “I wonder what time it is?” to which her husband replied “You mean you wonder what day it is!”.

 

The interval is created:

Up until this point pantomimes were watched in a single sitting. Oscar Barrett’s pantomimes from 1893 at the Lyric theatre introduced an interval. Arthur Collins embraced this idea at Drury Lane, dividing the story into two halves. Grand spectacular parades were now placed at the end of Act One, and the refreshments trade at the theatre increased dramatically.

 

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1896    Aladdin    directed by Oscar Barrett with Arthur Collins assisting. Dan Leno (Widow Twankey) Herbert Campbell, Ada Blanche. Paul Cinquevalli (Slave of the Lamp)

 

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1897    Babes In The Wood    Dan Leno. Herbert Campbell (The Babes), Ada Blanche (Robin Hood) and Violet Robinson (P.Girl).

 

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1898    40 Thieves    Dan Leno (Abdullah), Herbert Campbell (Zuleika-a maiden), Johnny Danvers (Ali Baba), Nellie Stewart (An Australian P.Boy), Ernest d'Auban and Rita Barrington (Spirits of Malice), Whimsical Walker (as Clown), Rita Prestano and Daisy Stratton.

 

Link to article on John Culme's Footlight Notes on 40 Thieves

 

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1899    Jack & The Beanstalk    Dan Leno (Dame Trot), Herbert Campbell (King), Nellie Stewart (Jack), Rita Presano (Prince Racket). The Boer War had begun, When the giant fell  an actor opened his pocket with the cry: “Why! He’s got the whole British army in his pocket!” and out of his pocket emerged hundreds of children in uniform. The Giant’s name that year was not Blunderbore but Blunderboer.

 

1900    Sleeping Beauty & The Beast    Written by J.Hickory Wood. Dan Leno (Queen Ravia), Herbert Campbell (King Screwdolph), Elaine Ravensberg (Prince Caramel), Madge Lessing (Beauty) and Fred Emney (Martha the Nurse). In this version, Campbell and Leno awake from their hundred years sleep to discover the country has become a republic, and they are penniless.

 

See the article from the Black and White Budget Magazine December 22nd 1900 - Preparing the Drury Lane Pantomime

 

Death of Queen Victoria

The Drury Lane Pantomime, along with other entertainment was suspended for four days in January 1901 after the death and funeral of Queen Victoria

 

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1901    Bluebeard    Dan Leno (Sister Anne), Herbert Campbell (Bluebeard), Elaine Ravensberg, Julia Franks, Fred Emney and Little Zola. This pantomime split the action into three acts.

                 

Hickory Wood & Arthur Collins create the Definitive “Mother Goose”

 

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1902     Mother Goose    Dan Leno (Mother Goose), Herbert Campbell (Jack), Ethel Negretti (Ida), Maude Beatty (Colin), Marie George (Gretchen), Madge Lessing (Jill), Fred Zola (Alexander), Laurence Caird (The Laird).

Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell - Drury Lane - Mother Goose 1902

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1903     Humpty Dumpty     Dan Leno (Queen Sprightly), Herbert Campbell (King Sollum), Louise Willis (P.Boy), Marie George (P.Girl), Ruth lytton, George Barstow, Hugh Ward and the debut of Harry Randall. Marie George fell ill, and was replaced by Mabel Love. Harry Randall had been booked by Collins to partner Herbert Campbell- Dan Leno having suffered a breakdown during the summer months. On the return of Leno the part was reshuffled, and he became “Queen Sprightly”

 

Humpty Dumpty was the last pantomime for Leno and Campbell. In the finale they both spoke the lines:

 

    “And we hope to appear

    For many a year

    In the panto at old Drury Lane”

 

Dan Leno had worked the Music Halls all year in addition to the pantomime. His fragile mental state fell apart. “The King’s Jester” as he was known went into retreat. He had not been well at the start of  “Humpty Dumpty”. A few months later Herbert Campbell died, and later, after a second breakdown Dan Leno died . He was aged 43.

 

Arthur Collins had to find a replacement for his two stars. Dan Leno had begun under Harris at £28 a week. By 1903 his fee was £240 a week. Harry Randall was retained, and James Welch introduced. Criticism of too much “Music Hall” influence led to Collins engaging a “Legitimate” actor-Welch. The Pantomime of 1904 was a failure. The first failure. The “White Cat” proved to be unlucky, and bore the stigma of being regarded as vulgar. “Not fit for children”. James Welch left the pantomime after only ten performances.

 

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1904    The White Cat    Harry Randall (Fairy Asbestos), James Welch (Prince Patter), Johhny Danvers (King Ivory of Oddland), Queenie Leighton (Prince Peerless)), Marie George (Cupid)), Jeannie McDonald (Princess Aurora), Fred Eastman (Prince Plump), Hugh J. Ward (Simeon), Tom Wootwell (Populo), Ruth Lytton (Aristo), Tom Hearne.

 

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1905    Cinderella    Harry Randall (Alfonso, a Page), Harry Fragson (Dandini), Queenie Leighton (Prince Jasper), May De Sousa (Cinderella), Walter Passmore, (The Baroness De Bluff). Johnny Danvers (Snap), Tom Wootwell (Growler), Arthur Williams (Baron De Bluff),  Polly Emery & Emilie Spiller (The Ugly Sisters), Queen & Le Brun (Trim & Trott), Arthur Conquest (Spirit of Midnight & The Cat), Daisy Cordell (Fairy Godmother), Minnie Abbey (Ferdinand) Edward Morgan (Beadle), Alec Davidson (Father Time). Whiteley’s had become London’s first department store. Daisy Cordell as Fairy Godmother- “In crystal slippers you shall trip it lightly, I have them here- for I’m the Fairy Whiteley!”

 

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1906    Sinbad    Arthur Roberts. James Fawn. Fred Emney, Harry Fragson, Marie George, Florence Warde. Ethel Oliver, Walter Passmore, Mabel Page. Emney & Fragson performed the sketch later known as “A Sister To Assist Her” which later toured the Music Halls. One hit number was “Funny, Very Funny” performed by James Fawn and Arthur Roberts.

 

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1907     Babes In The Wood    Drew & Alders (Robbers). Harry Fragson. Johnny Danvers. Neil Kenyon. Walter Passmore. Harrison Brockbank. Agnes Fraser (Principal Boy). Marie George. Meredith Meredro. Madge Vincent. Lennox & Palle, The Pender Troupe of Giants.

A Fire backstage in the early part of 1908 closed the theatre for many months.

 

Tommy Alders ,Harry Fragson, Jack Drew and Harry Randall backstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane Green Room 1907.

Harry Randall (if it is him pictured) was either visiting backstage from his pantomime in Camden- he was billed as appearing there in the Autumn of 1907, or he has been drafted in to Drury Lane and did not appear at Camden!

 

 

1908    Dick Whittington    Wilkie Bard.(Jack Idle), Johhny Danvers (Alderman), Arthur Conquest (Dame Sarah Slapp), George Ali (Mouser,the cat), Queenie Leighton (Dick), Truly Shattuck (Prince of Phantasia), Bert Monks (Cpt Keel), Marie George (Katrina), Fred Penley (Tax Collector), Edward Morgan (The Farmer), Marie Wilson (Alice), Aubrey Fitzgerald (Will Worthless), Nellie Stratton (A serving maid), Doris Trevelyan (Spirit of Love), Irene Smith (Spirit of Industry), Crissy Cranford (Spirit of Fame), Joan Burton (Spirit of Wealth).(Neil Kenyon is billed as Alderman in the Pantomime Annual of 1908. He does not appear however.) Truly Shattuck was “a large Handsome American”- McQueen Pope.

Aubrey Fitzgerald, Neil Kenyon, Queenie Leighton and Truly Shattuck

 

This photograph shows Drew & Alders.

Signed “To Dear Loo from her old friend Tom (Tommy Alders) it is dated 1908. This must be the 1907 Pantomime, signed after the new year- 1908. In 1908-09 Drew & Alders were appearing at the Theatre Royal Birmingham.. “DREW and ALDERS are dancing comedians with a weakness for talking back to each other. They have known the distinction of a Drury Lane engagement, and are thoroughly established as necessary pantomime adjuncts.” 1908. In 1908 Drew & Alders appeared with Ethel Negretti and Sybil Arundale at the Theatre Royal Birmingham, along with Tom Foy “The Lancashire Lad”, Mr “Nipper” Lupino Lane and Clara Reid. Across the road at the Prince Of Wales the pantomime stars that year were G.H.Elliott and Hetty King, Horace Mills, Miss Rita Everard, Jay Laurier and Tom E. Murray (an American!).

 

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1909     Aladdin     Wilkie Bard (Twankey), George Graves (Abanazar) Marie George, Ida Rene, Truly Shattuck, George Ali. George Graves made his first entrance in an aeroplane, surrounded by chickens!

 

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1910    Jack and the Beanstalk    Harry Randall (Dame) George Graves, Arthur Conquest, Dolly Castles, Julia James, George Baritt, Austin Melford, Barrie Lupino. The Pender Troupe (appearing as Giant Storks). A vast mechanical Giant that was seen in sections- an arm, a huge leg, and so on.

 

Will Evans was to appear for the next 11 pantos. He was the son of  Fred Evans, and mostly played Dame.  He was an eccentric comedian who performed in pantomime from a young age, and appeared on the halls in 1890. His most famous solo sketches were” Papering A House” and “Whitewashing A Ceiling”. He died in 1931 aged sixty-four.

 

1911    Hop O’ My Thumb    Violet Lorraine (P.Boy), Daisy Dormer (Zaza - P. Girl), Renee Mayer (Hop), George Graves, Arthur Conquest, Maudie Thornton, Will Evans (Potterini), Barry Lupino (Smilo). The Pantomime of 1912 featured the musical comedy star Florence Smithson. (She became the first wife of Dan Rolyat - see our article on Dan Rolyat). A period of employing Male Principal Boys from Musical Comedy followed.

 

Link to an picture from John Culme's Footlight Notes on Hop O' My Thumb

 

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1912    Sleeping Beauty    William Douthitt (Prince Auriol)), Florence Smithson (Princess Marcella - Beauty) George Graves (Count of Monte Blanco), Will Evans , Barrie Lupino (Finnykin), Renee Mayer, Charles Rock, The Poluski Brothers (Blake & Holmes). George Graves entered as a scarecrow, with a golf ball in his ear, and mice nesting in his pockets. He introduced a “Papering the Parlour “ scene to pantomime.

 

1913    Sleeping Beauty Re-Awakened    A sequel. Florence Smithson (Princess Marcella - Beauty), George Graves (Duke of Monte Blanco), Will Evans (Pompos - Dame), Stanley Lupino (Finnykin), Arthur Poole (Jacques), Arthur Conquest (a Monkey), Wilfred Douthitt (Auriol), Renee Mayer (Puck), Gladys Trevor (Zizi - A Dairy Maid), Alice Chartres (Anarchista), May Hannam (Jeanne).

 

Outbreak of World War1

 

1914     Sleeping Beauty - Rebeautified    Bertram Wallis (Prince Auriol)) Fern Rogers (Princess Marcella)). Will Evans (Dame)

Fern Rogers resigned from her part and was replaced by Miss Nancy Buckland in January, as reported by The Daily Mail.

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1915    Puss In Boots    War had broken out. Business was bad to begin with. The cast were all asked to accept half salary for the run. They all agreed with one exception. At the end of the season- business picked up, and it ran until Easter) Everyone received a cheque making their salary up to the full amount. Will Evans again appeared as Dame. Eric Marshall (Principal Boy)

 

1916    Puss In New Boots    The Principal Boy as Male was no more. Madge Titheradge (P.Boy), Lennie Deane (an actress- as Puss). Lennie Deane later became a well known Principal Boy.

 

1917    Aladdin    Madge Titheradge, Will Evans, Stanley Lupino, Robert Hale. Harry Claff. The Tiller Troupe.

 

1918    Babes In The Wood    Marie Blanche (P.Boy) Florence Smithson (P.Girl) The “Babes” were Stanley Lupino & Will Evans, Harry Claff, Bros Egbert, Dernier C.Warren, George Green, Kathleen O’Hanlon, Lily Long. Marie Blanche was the niece of Ada Blanche, Principal boy at Drury Lane through the 1890’s. 

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1919    Cinderella    Marie Blanche, Florence Smithson, Harry Claff, Will Evans, Stanley Lupino (Buttons) Du Calion. The Sisters were Lily Long and .Dernier C. Warren. “Hilarious Sisters”.

 

After this final pantomime, there was to be no further pantomime at Drury Lane until the revival (briefly) by Julian Wylie in 1929 and 1934, and again in 1935 by Prince Littler and in 1938 by Tom Arnold.

 

Pictures from 1929 The Sleeping Beauty - Click on Image to Enlarge

Eve Gray as Sleeping Beauty - Click on Image to Enlarge

 

JULIAN WYLIE'S DRURY LANE PANTOMIME 1929 The Sleeping Beauty

 

 

One of Wylie’s greatest achievements was to return pantomime to it’s ancestral home- The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. In 1929 he produced “The Sleeping Beauty”  there, in addition to a further four major pantomimes across the country.

 

 

Drury Lane’s “Sleeping Beauty” featured G.S. Melvin as the Queen, with Lilian Davies, Eve Gray, Clarice Hardwick, Mark Turner (Wicked Witch), James Craig (The King) and Jay Laurier (Rudolph the Reckless).

Wylie loved publicity, and saw to it that all the world was told that pantomime was back at the lane. One day at rehearsal he complained of feeling unwell. “What’s the matter with you?” asked Herman Fink. “I think it’s vertigo, “replied Julian. “Vertigo?” countered Herman, “you mean ad-vertigo”.

 

“Julian brought back all the old Drury Lane glories. He thought pantomime, he dreamt pantomime, he talked pantomime all the year round: and to be at Drury lane was the height of his delight. “The Sleeping Beauty” ran from 24th December 1929 to 1st March 1930, and was a winner”

 

(Theatre Royal Drury Lane: W. Macqueen Pope)

Taken from our Wylie-Tate Impresario Article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from The Stage - 2nd January 1930

 

1934 CINDERELLA AT THE LANE AND THE DEATH OF JULIAN WYLIE

 

H.M.Tennent was the newly appointed General Manager of Drury Lane, having previously been with Moss Empires. It was Tennant who was faced with an empty theatre, and decided to call in Julian Wylie to present pantomime for 1934. – this time “Cinderella.

“It was a production worthy of Drury Lane. One of the scenes was a vast lake, into which marched an army of girls, entering the water and walking-down, down, down until they were entirely submerged and lost to sight beneath the surface of the lake. It was an exciting scene and provided some thrills at rehearsals too. Once a bathing cap was seen floating on the surface, There was a moment of panic until it was discovered that the girl was safe ashore but had lost her cap in transit.

 

(Macqueen Pope: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.)

 

The cast included Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Prince Charming, Billy Danvers as Buttons, and Dan Leno (Jnr) the son now appearing in the home of his late father, playing the Baron Mumm. The undoubted stars of the show were the duo, Revnell and West playing “The Ugly Sisters” - Maxie and Minnie Mumm . Billed in variety as “The Long and The Short Of It”,

 

Click on Image to EnlargeEthel Revnell (1895-1978) and Gracie West (1894-1989) were a highly popular act. Ethel at just over 6’ tall and Gracie at just over 4’ played two evil schoolgirls in the variety halls. Perfect casting for female “Sisters” in “Cinderella”

 

*This photograph is from the Wylie production of “Cinderella” at Drury Lane. It hangs on my wall, and I often wonder about the dedication “To  Four Very Sweet Girls”- perhaps Juveniles in the pantomime in 1934?

 

Just as the pantomime was about to open at Drury lane Julian Wylie died suddenly- possibly from overwork, and possibly as a result of his near addiction to large quantities of ice-cream. The last few rehearsals were taken by Herbert Bryan, and it was Bryan who saw the production through it’s run  and to the end.

The death of Julian Wylie was a shock to both theatre folk and to the public. Millions of them had experienced a “Wylie-Tate” pantomime  in various parts of the country, and news of his death was important enough to be a feature in the “Pathe News” reels, shown at cinemas through the land at Christmas 1934.

Taken from our Wylie-Tate Impresario Article

 

1935 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK - Produced by Emile and Blanch Littler

 

The cast included Binnie Hale as Jack and Shaun Glenville as Dame.

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Taken from our Littlers Impresario Article

 

1937 Babes in the Wood

 

The cast included Greta Fayne, Vincent Lawson, G.S. Melvin, Fay Compton, Charles Cornford, Jack Edge, Moya Macqueen Pope, Beryl May, Pat Warner, Chevalier Brothers, Royal Mastersingers, Agar Young Duo, Florenc Chumbecos, Ganjou Brothers and Juanita, The Arnaut Brothers

 

This could possibly have been a Julian Wylie Production Limited production, but this is unclear.

 

Click on Images to Enlarge

 

At the end of World War II the theatre was now known as the home of Musical Comedy.          

 

THE MUSIC HALL STARS

 

Many of the greatest star turns in Music Hall and Variety played at Drury Lane during the era of Harris and Collins. Here are just a few of these “headliners”:

 

Dan Leno 1860-1904- see our article on Dan Leno & Gallery.

Herbert Campbell 1846-1904

Arthur Roberts 1852-1933

James Fawn 1849-1923

Little Tich (Harry Relph) 1867-1928

Marie Lloyd 1870-1922

Marie Loftus 1857-1940

Wilkie Bard 1874-1944

Harry Nicholls 1852-1926

 

 

WILKIE BARD 1874-1944

 

A Music Hall star with a penchant for “Tongue Twisting” songs, such as “She Sells Sea Shells On The Seashore”, “That Tongue Twisting Tango” and “The Leith Police Dismisseth Us”. Born in Manchester, he gave his first performance at The Slip Inn, Manchester, and in 1895 played the Grand Manchester. A Month later he was in London as a Coster Singer.

 

He adopted a high bald forehead with large spots over his eyes as his make up, and this helped his fame to spread. His sketches often saw him in female guise-as well as the “Boot Shop” salesman, “The Park Keeper” and the Golfer. He appeared twice at Drury Lane- as Idle Jack in Dick Whittington (1908) and as Widow Twankey in Aladdin the following year.

 

HARRY FRAGSON 1869-1914

 

Harry Fragson, born in London ventured to France to find fame as an  Anglicised Frenchman in Paris. Becoming a huge star in his adopted country, he returned to star in the Drury Lane Pantomimes. He sang humorous and patriotic songs on both sides of the Channel, and remained a star turn in both English and French. He was one of the first performers to accompany himself onstage on the piano.

 

“Billy Brown” was a hit song he introduced at Drury Lane in “Babes In The Wood”:

 

We’ve heard a lot about the Scot,

Of Sandy and his Jean

There’s lots of songs of Ireland’s wrongs

And wearing Of the Green

But not one word is ever heard of the lad of London Town

So I’m going to sing to you of Mister William Brown..”

 

Fragson, as he was known returned to Paris at the outbreak of World War1 and died tragically- shot by his insanely jealous 83 year old Father, on New Year’s Eve 1913. His death created headlines in Britain, Europe and in America.He was buried in Paris, with much outpouring of public grief. His memorial plaque can be seen in the  cemetery of Pere Lachaise.

 

More on Harry Fragson from John Culme's Footlight Notes

 

LITTLE TICH 1867-1928

Christened Harry Relph, When he was born his Mother was 32, and his Father was 77. He was one of sixteen children. Not noticeable from the stage was the fact that he had ten fingers in addition to his thumbs. When his father was 84 the family moved to Gravesend, and Harry made his debut in local pubs and halls aged 12. Billed as “Young Tichbourne”. By the age of 17 he worked in towns across Britain, often walking from one venue to another.

 

He toured America in 1887, taking with him his “Big Boot Dance”.

 

 Little Tich was famous for his “Big Boot Dance”- oversized shoes that he could use as stilts, or to lean at acute angles. He was just over four feet  Six inches tall, with enormous talent. He performed his “Big Boot Dance” throughout Europe. He came to resent his “Boot” dance- understandably, as it must have caused him excruciating pain, and refused to perform it for the last thirteen years of his life.

 

After two years in America he returned to London, and appeared at the Empire Theatre for £12 a week. He played Page to the Baron in “Babes In The Wood” in Manchester, and became a huge star in Music Hall. By the time he played “Humpty Dumpty” at Drury Lane he was being paid £80 a week. He returned to Europe and became just as big a star in Paris as he was in London by 1897.

 

By the early 1920’s Little Tich earned in excess of £9,750 in a year. (£195,000 by today’s standards) but his appeal began to wane. Having given up his Big Boot Dance, his popularity declined. By 1926 his earnings were now £2,200 for the year. He suffered an accident that seemed slight at the time, whilst performing at the Alhambra Theatre London in 1927.  However, a week later he suffered a stroke, and died three months later.

 

GEORGE GRAVES 1876-?

 

A star of musical comedy and pantomime, George Graves also appeared in Music Hall. He was a huge success in the 1907 production of “The Merry Widow” at Daly’s Theatre London. Like Wilkie Bard, he too was fond of “tongue Twisting” songs like “Does This Shop Stock Shot Socks With Spots?”

 

Does this shop stock shot socks with spots?

Does this shop stock shot socks with spots?

Shot socks with spots gives my wife shocks

So does this shop stock shot socks with spots?”

 

MARIE LLOYD 1870-1922

 

“Our Marie” and “Queen of The Halls” were a few of the titles bestowed by the public on their heroine. Notorious for her “risqué” songs, she proved (in court) that the songs were completely innocent- that is until she added her winks and gestures and turned them into her own. Often accused of being “too earthy” the public adored her, but this reputation meant that she was omitted from performing in the first Royal Command Performance of 1912.

 

Her first appearance in Music Hall was in 1885 at “The Eagle” as Bella Delmere, but she soon changed her name. She had previously appeared under her own name, Matilda Wood, and changed to Marie Lloyd, singing a number made famous by Nelly Power- “The Boy In The Gallery”.

 

She toured Music Halls in the United Kingdom, and in America, South Africa and made four further return trips to New York. She appeared in Australia in 1901, and married for the third time in Oregon in 1913.

 

After her engagement in “Humpty Dumpty” at Drury Lane, Marie Lloyd’s salary went from £10 a week to £100 a week (about £6,000 by today’s standards).

 

Her hit songs were many, and include “Every Little Movement Tells A Tale”, and “A Bit of Ruin that Cromwell Knocked About A Bit”,(1920) “Oh! Mr Porter!”(1893), “A Little of what You Fancy Does You Good” (1915) as well as her biggest hit- “The Cock Linnet Song” or “Don’t Dilly Dally On The Way”.(1919)

 

Years of ill health dogged her later years, but she continued working. Finally at the Edmonton Empire in 1922 she collapsed as the curtain fell, and died three days later. At her funeral 50,000 people lined the processional route. In her will she left £7,500.

 

TOM WOOTWELL 1864-1941

 

A Cockney Comedian who specialised in “eccentric Dancing”, earning him the title “The Loose Legged Comedian”. One of his popular songs was “How Dare They?”

 

Tradesmen keep sending their bills in to me,

The Laundress declares I owe her one and three

How dare she? How dare she?

Say that often I’ve marched off with linen she’s starched

How dare she? What’s that?

Why I’ve not had a shirt washed for years, the old rat!”

 

HARRY NICHOLLS 1852-1926

 

Harry Nicholls, like Dan Leno owed his introduction to Drury Lane to George Conquest. Nicholls arrived at the Drury Lane Pantomime in 1880 with his stage partner, Herbert Campbell. Up until the arrival of Leno it was Nicholls and Campbell who were the top comedians,

 

After Dan Leno’s ascendancy, and partnership with Campbell, Nicholls began writing pantomime scripts and plays, many of which were performed in London’s West End. He also wrote and composed songs, such as “In My  Fust Husband’s Time”, sung by Herbert Campbell.

 

NEIL KENYON d.1946

 

Born  in Greenock as Neil McKinnon, he combined acting in theatre with touring in Variety. He appeared in Shakespeare, drama and burlesque. In 1897 he made his London debut in Osmond Tearle’s Company at the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham. A character actor, he used his skills to create character songs, and dame impersonations. He made his variety debut at the London Pavilion in 1904,, and had great success with  songs like “The Caddy”, “The Station Master of Dunrobin” and “The Postie”. He appeared at Drury Lane in 1907 in Babes In The Wood.

 

GEORGE CONQUEST d.1901

 

George Conquest was one of a large theatrical family. Among their accomplishments were playing animal roles, and Dame roles in Pantomime. George ran the popular Grecian and Surrey Theatres. (he took over in 1880).

 

The Conquests sold the Grecian for £21,000 in 1880. That figure would be around the One Million Pound mark by today’s values.

 

 He would recommend artistes working in his pantomimes to Augustus Harris, and was responsible for Johnny Danvers and  Dan Leno being employed at Drury Lane. George played every sort of animal (and if required insect) in pantomimes. Crows, Eagles, Monkeys and Gorillas- Spiders, vampires and one eyed demon pirates! He trained his three sons to follow in his career, and to specialise in animal roles. Fred and Arthur Conquest achieved fame in pantomime, like their Father. Arthur appeared in Drury Lane as Man Friday, Dick Whittingtons cat, and even a talking tree!

 

HERBERT CAMPBELL 1846-1904

 

Herbert Campbell progressed through Music Hall from a minstrel act in the 1870’s to becoming principal comedian of the Drury Lane Pantomimes ten years later.

 

He made his name as a comic singer and often played the “Dame” role in Music Hall.

 

Arriving at Drury Lane in the 18880 pantomime, along with Harry Nicholls, he was to be teamed up with Dan Leno by the manager, Augustus Harris. He played twenty three pantomimes at “The Lane”, often partnering Leno. He died in an accident in 1904 aged sixty.

 

JOHNNY DANVERS

 

He was the nephew of Dan Leno, but while Leno was born in London, (the site is now covered by St. Pancras Station) Danvers was born and educated in Yorkshire, making his first appearance at the Alexandra, Sheffield. He was engaged by Conquest to play “Silly Billy” in Robinson Crusoe with Dan Leno at the Surrey Theatre, and then followed a career with “The Mohawk Minstrels” for twenty years before appearing at Drury Lane in 1907 as Grist in “Babes In The Wood”.

 

MARIE LOFTUS 1857-1940

 

The Sarah Bernhardt of the Halls”, Marie Loftus began her Music Hall career in Glasgow in 1874, arriving in London  three years later.

 

She had a great success with the song “I’m So Shy”, and toured America and South Africa singing songs like “To Err Is Human, To Forgive Divine” and “A Thing You Can’t Buy With Gold”. She died in 1940 aged eighty-three. Her daughter was the Music Hall and Theatre Star, Cissie Loftus-She played Peter Pan in its second year, 1905.

 

FLORENCE SMITHSON 1884-1936

 

Florence was Principal Girl for two years consecutively at Drury Lane-as Sleeping Beauty and in Sleeping Beauty awakened, she also played  Princess in “Puss In Boots” and “Puss In New Boots”, as Joy in “Babes In The Wood”, and lastly “Cinderella”. She had a doll-like face and figure, and took the glamour of musical comedy around the world on her variety tours. Born in Leicester in 1884, her father was a theatre manager, and first appeared in his pantomimes aged three.

 

She was the star of “The Arcadians”, and was married to Dan Rolyat who played “Simplicitas” (see our article) and it was while they toured to in Newcastle that he suffered an accident on stage whilst riding his horse. Florence nursed him devotedly, but they were later to separate, and both remarried. Florence helped to raise subscriptions for her ailing ex husband until his death in 1927.

 

ARTHUR ROBERTS 1852-1933

 

Arthur Roberts achieved fame in Music Hall from 1871 as a vocal comedian and mimic. In 1883 he became a star of Musical Comedy, and comic opera. He was later to return to Music Hall with his songs and sketches in 1904, and, living until he was eighty, became a “Veteran of Variety”.

 

In 1907, along with fellow stars such as Marie Lloyd, Little Tich and Joe Elvin, he was at the forefront of “The Music Hall War”. Those taking part went on strike to achieve better working conditions, to remove “barring clauses” that forbid an artiste to work within so many miles of his previous venue, and for higher wages for those not holding “Star Status”. Out of this action the V.A.F was founded- The Variety Artist’s Federation, a trade union for the Music Halls, begun in the spring of 1906.

 

CREDITS:

Pillars Of Drury Lane (1955) by W.MacQueen-Pope

Winkles and Champagne" by M. Willson Disher (1975)

Pantomime Pageant by A. E. Wilson

British Music Hall by Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson

British Music Hall by Richard Anthony Baker

"Slapstick and Sausages - The Evolution of British Pantomime" by Norman Robbins. (2003)

 

This page was last updated 26th August 2012

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