An Absolutely Fabulous Day!

 

008.JPG

 

L to R: Dean Caston, Debbie Hudd, Adam Borzone, Jan Hunt, Roy Hudd, Dame June Whitfield, Wyn Calvin, Edward Thomas

A Crackerjack of a day! The British Music Hall Society’s Summer Tea with Jan Hunt and Dame June Whitfield!

Finally, after so many years we can finally say welcome Dame June! In her own words when she received the OBE she called it “Old But Energetic”, and upon receiving the CBE she named it “Caught Before Expiry”- she is now musing what to call the DBE she will be collecting from Buckingham Palace later this year. I’d say “Dutifully Brilliantly Earned!”

images (3)

The event- talks by both doyens of comedy and pantomime, and an afternoon tea at the Royal Lancaster Hotel were organised by the BMHS, and it was a sold out full house affair!

Not only was there one Dame in the room but I counted a further six- Pantomime Dames that is- Roy Hudd OBE (President of the BHMS), Wyn Calvin MBE (Vice President of BHMS) along with Adam Borzone (Chairman), Simon Bashford, Andrew Ryan and my good self!

003

Half of the Dames in the room! Andrew Ryan, Simon Bashford and yours truly!

Jan Hunt was the first speaker, in conversation with Dean Caston, and she spoke about her days as a juvenile in Panto, performing as a double act “Jan & Kelly” in the UK and Australia, and about her West End Musicals, including “Showboat”, Plays like “A Bedful of Foreigners” and “Run For Your Wife”, as well as a year in “The Mousetrap”.

jan-hunt

Jan told tales of terrible digs and dreadful gigs as well as the truimphs of BBC’s “Crackerjack”, and her career in Music Hall, both as performer and producer. Jan told us about The Players Theatre, appearances on BBC’s “The Good Old Days” and her love of Music Hall.

download (2)

Crackerjack with Peter Glaze & Don Mclean

images (6)

In Music Hall Mode

She spoke about her recent productions, bring “Sit Coms” onto the stage with succesful tours of “Dinner Ladies”, “Rising Damp” and the hugely successful “Birds Of A Feather” tours .

She told Dean about her panto career, something I am very proud to have been involved in for about six or so pantomimes with Jan as my Prince Charming from Aberdeen to Wimbledon!

images (5) croydoncinders1991

Two pictures from my scrapbook. Early Pantos with Jan and Fern Britton top, and us all at Croydon, alongside June Brown, Windsor Davies, the late Ed Stewpot Stewart,Andrew O’Connor, Amanda Bairstow and Cheryl Taylor with Peter & me.

Jan concluded her talk with a number dear to her heart- “How’d you like to Spoon With Me”? which she sang in “Showboat at the Adelphi alongside Cleo Lane, and sings to this day in her Music Halls, accompanying herself on the spoons! We all got to join in!

download (3)  download (4)

Accompanying her on piano was Laurence Payne, who led Roy and Wyn in aMusic Hall Sing-A-Long before Roy Introduced the Absolutely Fabulous June Whitfield.

42F81E2F00000578-0-image-a-8_1501890350080

Photograph Jenny Goodall courtesy of The Daily Mail

Afternoon tea, and more piano from Laurence Payne, and trhe rest of the afternoon in the company of a lady who is our longest serving comedy actress- Seven Decades of laughter, perfectly timed and delivered.

Roy Hudd once said that June has supported and fed so many of the top comedians that she is “The Comics’ Tart!” Her Comedy sparring partners have included Terry Scott, Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock, Jimmy Edwards and Ronnie Barker to name just a few!

When I first worked with June in Pantomime we left our doors open in Wimbledon so we could pop in and chat, drink tea, and allow access to June’s dog “Rabbit”, who had originally belonged to Jimmy Edwards. Now I leave my door open to allow access to Sullivan, who will be joining our Panto company this year.

download bwindsorjudy2

June’s distinctive “Ohhh Ron” catchphrase from “The Glums” is apparently included in The Queen’s repertoire of impressions. Perhaps June will hear this for herself when she collects her DBE this year!

The above “Love From Judy” was an early West End success for June, who had not long left the RADA. The second name on the cast list didn’t do too badly either- little Barbara Deeks “carried On” until she became landlady of The Queen Vic!

images (1)  junefairybabes

Wimbledon “Cinderella”- incidentally Jan Hunt took over certain performances as Fairy Godmother from June when we did this panto, as June was still filming “Absolutely Fabulous”, so I got to work with both ladies in one show!

June was in conversation with Edward Thomas, and talked about her life in radio, television and films. She recalled The “Terry & June” years, the tours abroad and the “Carry On Films”- four of them.

images (2)

In Pantomime she began with Wilfrid Pickles at The Alhambra Bradford, having worked with him in a play in the West End. I have the programme in the IBY collection.

June is on the top right, with Pickles in the centre.

brad47

June recalled her times in the “Coward Family” when she appreared in “Ace Of Clubs” for “The Master”, Noel Coward, and in other reviews, and recalled the great cabaret seasons at the Cafe Royal . She and Roy had a discussion mid way through her talk- recalling her “audition” for the News Huddlines while appearing in Panto with Roy. She did one Thatcher impression during the kitchen scene and never looked back!

download (1)

The time flew, and decades of Dame June were still unexplored. This is the second time I’ve enjoyed a June Whitfield talk- the first time was at the Film Museum in South London. I also enjoyed “between shows “chats in panto when we both went through the book “Funny Way To Be A Hero” by John Fisher. June has worked with almost all the comedians in it!

A really great way to spend an afternoon with two fabulous theatrical ladies and a room packed with people who above all Strive to keep Music Hall Alive!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the BMHS and their programme of events, look at http://www.britishmusichallsociety.com

 

 

Pirates Of The Pavilion

115 (2)

Summer Panto sails into the Pavilion Theatre Weymouth once again this year.

Wednesday 26th July to Tuesday 29th August 2017

Pirates Of The Pavilion plays July through August on Mondays and Tuesdays, twice daily, written and presented by Lee Redwood and Made To Measure Productions- the company that presented last season’s “Jack & The Beanstalk” at The Pavilion.

114 (2)

The show features Liam Mellor, Lee Redwood, Charlotte Allen, and Robert Squire, with stunning effects provided by THE TWINS FX.

piratespav1

Charlotte Allen and Liam Mellor

  piratespav2

Tickes can be found at The Pavilion Theatre Box Office- The Esplanade, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 8ED : Box Office: 01305 783225

127.PNG

Weymouth’s  favourite Dame- Lee Redwood as Demonia The Sea Witch

 

An Ancient Curiosity!

IMG_1443

Reminded this week of an old gag- Old Mother Riley asking Daughter Kitty where she has been. Kitty replies “I went to a museum, Mother, to see an ancient curiosity”

“An Ancient Curiosity? An Ancient Curiosity? Why didn’t you come home and see your Mother?”

Well, we finally made it into a museum this week- Peter Robbins and I – when Catherine Haill, and Assistant Curator Alex Clayton came to take us away! The museum in question is The Victoria & Albert Museum, Department of Theatre and Performance, and hopefully one day we will get an airing, and make a display of ourselves!

20424594_10207900954600402_1209368240_o

Catherine Haill & Nigel, with Peter & Nigel photobombing!

The story started many years ago when Catherine asked Peter and I if we would consider donating a costume or two to the museum. Catherine especially liked our ballgowns. We were being filmed by the V&A for their pantomime archive at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

20394602_10207900954920410_2146813871_o

The Ballroom wigs- created by Kevin Powling and Geraldine Westley : “Wigart”.

At the time we were unable to hand over our Ballroom frocks, as there were many ballroom stairs to descend and slippers to be retrieved. This year I decided it would be the time to gift these two costumes and wigs, along with crinolines and plumes. I thought it would be nice for a little bit of Robbins & Ellacott to be kept somewhere for posterity- I can almost here Peter saying “You’re not keeping ME in any old Posterior!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our final panto together at Nottingham Theatre Royal. (2009) With the lovely Dawson Chance.

These gorgeous costumes were made by Margaret Brice for Peter & I to my designs. Margaret was resident maker at the Kenneth More Theatre for over twenty-one years, and before that was at Berman & Nathans creating costumes for film and TV.

20427196_10207900954680404_669779029_o

Margaret Brice’s costume for Nigel. Circa 2000

Margaret already has some of her workmanship at the V&A. She worked on the Cecil Beaton “My Fair Lady” among many projects stored in their archive.

It was lovely to see Catherine again, along with Alex, and also a sad day in some ways. The ballroom wig has been with me (the wig part replaced several times) since about 1983. It started off life as a flower pot turned into a Champagne bucket! Kevin cleverly sorted out the “firing mechanism” that made every ballroom “Go with a bang!”

IMG_1444

Peter at Nottingham 2008-09

The costumes have historical connections- The plumes and appliques on mine started life at The Folies Bergere in the ’50’s, were sold to Holiday On Ice International and then to me. The crinolines date back to The Royal Opera House in the 1940’s. I’ve looked after these bits of costume for many years, and now the V&A is going to look after them for a very long time into the future. I hope there will be panto still going in that far off future of flying cars and day trips to the Moon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Ballroom, showing the appliques from The Folies Bergere.

Sad to see them go, but very happy and proud that a little bit of Peter & I get to stay together- and who knows, they may well spark a bit of attention now and again if they go on display! We all love a bit of attention!

“You know what dear? I’m SO beautiful, I look just like an Oil Painting”

“I’ve thought that too dear”

“Really?”

“yes. You’re old,and cracked, and ought to be hung. In a museum!”

Farewell frocks. We’ve had a ball!

 

 

JOHN SPILLERS a tribute from David Lee

Lisa-John-&-Kay-Spillers-7th-May-08LR

Lisa, John and Kay

David Lee writes:

Can it be that we shall no longer experience the fun, smiles and laughter my dearest friend always generated whenever one was in his company? As I am sure it will be the same for all who knew this genial and fun-loving Gentleman of the Theatre, it is with deepest sadness that I came to the realisation yesterday of his passing.

I first met John when I auditioned for a summer season in the days when there were no holiday villages, centres or entertainment resorts, they were called Holiday Camps! I’d answered an advert in The Stage for Brown Coats for Morecambe Bay Holiday Camp and Entertainment Manager Johnny Spillers Esq. For any artist who has ever auditioned for John they’ll know this can be quite an experience! He had me singing song after song for about thirty minutes until I said, “Have I got the job?” “Course you have”, came the immediate response, “I just can’t believe someone so young knows so many (Expletive!) old songs”. Little did we know in 1970 that our friendship would last almost fifty years, he truly was like the older brother I never had.

Floral-71-Panto-Flyer-ADJ-Web

As with many Panto Producers John was a performer first and producing came later. He learnt most of his trade in what he affectionately referred to as the ‘Rubber-Dubs’ (Working Men’s Clubs) cabaret and of course holiday camps, starting out in Kent and later Morecambe and Golden Sands in Great Yarmouth. His pantomime debut was playing Friar Tuck opposite Hit Parade Legend Craig Douglas who was starring as Robin Hood in Peterborough for the late great Jerry Jerome. That’s when he fell in love with the genre.

Aladdin Cast 1971 Southport Floral Hall w Names LR

For those who never saw John perform, well you really did miss out. He was a superb comedian but more than this he was a master at working an audience, always very funny, a fantastic ad libber and impressionist. Only John could get a standing ovation for calling the Bingo! Yes I did say calling the bingo, for he turned what is a chore for most holiday camp entertainers into an entertainment experience! It might have been a holiday camp but he presented five variety shows in the camp’s theatre each week with star guests on Sundays who were invariably appearing in Blackpool for the summer. There was also a straight play and a farce! I learnt more about the business, it’s rules, traditions, policies and comedy timing in three months for John that season than if I’d had a scholarship to a top theatre school for three years.

Cinderella Southport 1970 LR

John persuaded the recently departed Impresario Duggie Chapman to book me for Southport with him and Tommy Trafford as Uglies. They were great days no-one got rehearsal pay then by the way! The cast camaraderie was fabulous, after the show the entire company would go to a bar and the entertainment continued with sing-alongs and the telling of wonderful theatrical stories of the greats of the past like Miller, Randle, Formby and Clitheroe etc. We then went on to appear in two more pantomimes together as Chinese Policemen in Southport and Bury St Edmunds.

Hazlitt-Theatre-Spring-83

By the late 1970’s John had decided to make a career change and was Entertainment Manager for the Maidstone Borough Council running the 388 seat Hazlitt Theatre when he asked me if I’d be interested in being his Assistant? I held the position for three years and over that time Pantoni Productions was created when he and I produced the Hazlitt’s six-week pantomime. I left to run Pantoni commercially and John stayed until retiring, then becoming a commercial pantomime producer himself, and as they say… the rest is history. Spillers Pantomimes is a true family-run business, his lovely wife Kay and family always the most precious aspects of his life have been an integral part of the successes of the company he was so proud to head. Spillers Pantomimes continues to provide excellent ‘Family’ entertainment for countless hundreds of thousands of people continuing I’m sure John’s legacy and his diligence in setting many a young theatrical hopeful on the road to a successful career.

Johnny Spillers & David100dpi

One reads the cliché’s so often; he was a legend, a gentleman, a true showman, a very funny man etc, and although all that is true, if I may I’d close with the immortal words of the one and only Max Miller – “There’ll never be another!”

R.I.P. Sergeant Ping – Love You Mate – PC Pong (aka David Lee)

 

Facebook has had some tributes to Johnny Spillers: Here is one from Father and Son, Rusty Goffe and Ben Gambrill:

RustyJohnSpillers

Ben John Spillers

Martin John Spillers

 

Happy Birthday Brick Lane!

018

Twenty Five years of Brick Lane Music Hall! Enjoyed a night at the Music Hall last Saturday, with a show devised by Vincent Hayes to celebrate a quarter century of entertainment.

This week “The Stage” newspaper has run a special feature on Vincent Hayes and The Brick Lane Music Hall. Here’s the link:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/?s=brick+lane+music+hall

Here we all are after the show, with guests Anita Harris, her husband Mike Margolis and Tom Owen, from “Last Of The Summer Wine”  joining Kate Plantin, casting director, and Derek Martin. Derek is better known as Eastender’s Charlie Slater.

Andrew Ryan and myself joined Danny Lawton backstage with Vincent Hayes and Andrew Robley.

Today was Anita’s Birthday! As part of the show Lucy Reed and Shelby Morgan sang a tribute to Anita Harris, and as a surprise she joined them on stage, and sang a number.

The show featured a great Pantomime line-up with characters from various Brick Lane Pantomimes over the years, costumed by Zara Kattan in shades of red and gold. Stunning! In January BLMH is presenting “Aladdin”- a grown-ups pantomime,  from January through to March 2018.

021

Jordan and Lucy

016

Anita on stage – The Birthday girl herself!

022

Carry On Anita!

020

On The Town!

With the Summer upon us, Brick Lane’s Outreach project takes to the schools of Newham, and this year the Brick Lane teams will be introducing the primary school children to Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!”, with a performance in each of the selected schools before term ends. Here are some of the Music Hall gang taking part.

023

First Day at School!

024

A great celebration of a show- thank you Vincent for Twenty Five Glorious Years. Here’s to the next Twenty Five!

Ashleigh & Sullivan- Champions!

AshleighSully

Huge Congratulations to Ashleigh Butler and Sullivan- or to give him his full title, The Closet Monster Of Ashpen!

Sullivan is officially Agility Champion, having run through his course like a streak of lighting in France this month as part of the Team GB.

Britain-s-Got-Talent-Pudsey-Crufts-862495

Pudsey at Crufts this March

In March I had a great day at Crufts in Birmingham watching Ashleigh put Pudsey through his paces in his last appearance at Crufts in the agility final. Sullivan won small singles that day with two firsts, and two seconds…. and now He’s World Class!

Britain-s-Got-Talent-Ashleigh-Pudsey-Crufts-862498

Looking forward to joining the trio of Ashleigh, Pudsey and Sullivan again when rehearsals begin for The Wycombe Swan in November- meeting up with Simon Webb again, and working with my mate Chris Jarvis for the first time in Beanstalkland! Can’t wait!

article-2681734-1F6ACB0A00000578-746_634x963

Photograph by Les Wilson.

Dame Dolly’s Edinburgh Adventure

poster

Steve Boyce is taking his alter ego, Dame Dolly Donut on a journey into Fringe Pantoland- Appearing for the whole of the Fringe Season in a play that will appeal, like Pantomime itself, to children and adults of all ages.

The show will play seven days a week for the duration of the Fringe At C (venue 34) with a running time of one hour. Once daily at 1.35pm!

For more information click on the link:

www.cthefestival.com/2017/the-dame-dolly-donut-show

Also you can follow Dame Dolly on twitter @DameDollyShow

leftletback.jpg