Monthly Archives: May 2015

Past Panto Handbills-Yvonne Marsh

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Taking a look through some more flyers or hand-bills in my collection, I came across Yvonne Marsh. The first bill has Yvonne appearing with Freddie (parrot-face) Davies as “Aladdin”. The second bill shows her as a Principal Girl- “Goody” in “Little Miss Muffet”  for Emile Littler at the Empire Theatre Leeds.

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one of the country’s leading Principal Boys- often billed as “Britain’s Favourite Principal Boy”.The  photograph below shows a group of Principal Boys taken in 1969. Yvonne is far right.

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She appearing that year as Aladdin at the Hippodrome Bristol with Bernard Bresslaw and Freddie Davies, along with the Dallas Boys as can be seen in the first flyer here.

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Yvonne was a veteran of Stage Screen and Pantomime- having started in films as a child, and appeared in the title role of “Goody Two Shoes” for Emile Littler at the Casino Theatre London in 1950 playing opposite Arthur Askey and Charlie Cairoli.

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Yvonne, the sister of actress Jean Marsh of “Upstairs Downstairs” fame, began in British films such as “The Little Ballerina” in 1947. Her film career included appearing in the 1953 Bio-Pic on the life of Gilbert & Sullivan, and in “Come Dance With Me” in 1956 opposite Max Wall, Barbara Hamilton and Anne Shelton. She made a small appearance in the original film “Casino Royale” in 1967.

Yvonne is currently the Cover Girl of the British Music Hall Society’s Journal “Call Boy”, and there is an excellent interview with her in this by Geoff Bowden.

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In 1964 Yvonne had been leading lady in “Round About Piccadilly” with Max Bygraves at London’s Prince Of Wales Theatre. Other musicals included “The Water Babies” at the Royalty Theatre London and numerous television and theatre appearances in variety.

Well known to viewers from BBC’s “You Rang M’Lord”, Yvonne played Madge Cartwright in the series alongside Jeffrey Holland, Su Pollard, Paul Shane and the company.

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Yvonne appeared in major pantomimes, often for the Delfont organisation, and among her many seasons were Bristol Hippodrome “Aladdin” with Rod Hull & Emu, Birmingham in “Jack & The Beanstalk” with the Batchelors and Frank Carson, “Babes In The Wood” with Hughie Green and Monica Rose, The Empire Liverpool with Norman Wisdom and Birmingham Hippodrome with Roy Hudd and Charlie Williams in “Robinson Crusoe”. She directed several Pantomimes at the Theatre Royal in Norwich.

Yvonne is a stalwart member of the Grand Order Of Lady Ratlings.

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Strictly Between us…It’s a Panto Announcement!

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Announced by Venue Cymru- The Qdos pantomime “Snow White” has Robin Windsor from “Strictly” joining John Evans and myself for a fantastic panto season at Llandudno this year! Time to think up a name for “The Dame”- I’ve been Queen Blodwen in “Sleeping Beauty” and “Widow Twankey” in “Aladdin” at Venue Cymru- this time she could be a Nurse.. She could be a Nanny..Blodwen was a nice Welsh name- thinking caps on please! Could she be a Nerys, or a Gladys? Let us know here at IBY!

Stop Press! July 1st 2015. Many thanks for the Dame Name suggestions that came to IBY for Llandudno’s Dame this year. Many thanks to fellow Dame Lee Redwood for the winning title “Nanny Myfanwy!” I shall look forward to playing Nanny Myfanwy From Deganwy this season. Diolch yn fawr Lee!

Kathryn Rooney’s Panto Baby Shower!

Sunday 24th May 2015

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All the fairest in the land were gathered today to celebrate the Baby Shower organised by Godmother-to-be Lesley Joseph in honour of Kathryn Rooney & Michael Harrison’s expected new arrival!

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Kathryn’s Mother Mary, and Lesley’s daughter Liz along with Michael’s family were there to celebrate, along with many of Kathryn’s mates from Pantoland. A great day and a lot of laughter- thanks for being the perfect Hostess Lesley!

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Ben Stock  at the piano. Gok and Lesey

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Robyn Mellor, Kathryn & David Robbins Above

Lesley & Dena Payne

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From Left To Right: Nigel & Jean Fergusson, Jonathan Kiley & Martin Ramsdin

Lesley & Ruth Madoc

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Left to Right: Martin Hinkins & Andrew Ryan, Anita Dobson & Martin Ramsdin

Group photo: Kathryn, Nick Thomas, Janette & Ian Krankie, Nigel & Paul Du Freitas

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From the top: Tony Priestley, Andrew Ryan, Dave Nelson, Martin Hinkins & David Robbins

Paul Bouchier enjoying a cream tea, and Lesley & Elaine C Smith.

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Chris Biggins joins Lesley & Kathryn

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A lovely afternoon, great to see everyone together when it’s NOT the depths of Winter for a change! Thank you so much Lesley and congratulations Michael & Kathryn!

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Another Nod to the past- More Panto Flyers

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Here are a few more recent Pantomime Flyers that I’ve acquired- the first three have “Freddie & The Dreamers” in common- Freddie Garrity topped the bill in the Leeds Grand “Cinderella”, and Freddie and his group The Dreamers Top the bill in the Pavilion Bournemouth “Aladdin”, and Freddie and The Dreamers topped the bill at the Gaumont Theatre in Doncaster- 1968.

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Freddie GarrityBorn in 1936,Freddie Garrity founded “Freddie and The Dreamers” in 1959, They were, In Freddie’s words “the first group to leap about and do comedy on stage”. They made their first broadcast in 1961 and had their debut at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1962.

1963 was the groups major year- they auditioned for EMI and their demo was thought good enough to release- “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” shot to number 3 in the charts.

Freddie and the Dreamers first panto was 1963. The Royalty Theatre Chester in “Cinderella”. That year their huge hit “You Were Made For Me” came out that Christmas and went to Number 3 in the charts.

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The same year Freddie and the group were in a film “What A Crazy World” with Marty Wilde and Joe Brown. 1964 they released hits “Over You” and “Just For You”.

Our feature “Popstars In Panto” can be found in the articles section. It covers many of the pop stars who appeared in Pantomime over the years.

In 1965 Freddie And The Dreamers starred in “Aladdin” at The Palace Theatre Manchester. The panto also starred singer Des O’Connor. That year Freddie released the film “Every Day’s A Holiday”, and he and the Dreamers had a further two hit records in the charts.

In 1967 Freddie & The Dreamers starred in “Cinderella” at the ABC Stockton.

“Little Big Time” made Freddie Garrity a children’s TV star. The show ran for nearly three years to 1973.

He played Wishee Washee with Lulu at Oxford New Theatre in “Aladdin”, 1976.

In the 1980’s Freddie played Jack in “Jack and The Beanstalk” frequently for John Farrow. He played the Oxford Apollo with Anne Charleston, Alvin Stardust and with Lynsey de Paul.

Peter Thorne would often play Dame Trott. I hired a panto cow to this pantomime and had to repair the unspeakable things that Freddie attached to it during its short trip to Pantoland! It would have “Not Wanted On The Voyage” stuck on its side, or large stickers saying “This End Up” or flyers advertising a Freddie Garrity Gig. The state of her udders were disgraceful! Poor Daisy obviously suffered for her art in the hands of joker Garrity.

Freddie played Muddles in “Snow White” with Letitia Dean at the  Davenport Theatre Stockport  in1993 and in ”Jack & The Beanstalk” at Hanley Theatre Royal- With Alvin Stardust. At one stage in his career the zany antics of geeky looking Freddie Garrity- he created his own dance moves to rival the twist- Freddie and The Dreamers topped the bill over the rolling stones on a UK tour.

Sadly Freddie became an invalid in 2001 and died in 2005.

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Ayshea, born in 1948 is billed as the star of her own Granada TV pop music program, “Lift Off With Ayshea” which ran from 1969 through to 1974.She played the Principal Boy, Prince Charming This panto was the following year, when she represented the UK in “The World Song Festival” held in Tokyo. Elton John wrote a song for her- “The Flowers Will Never Die”.

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She had a recording and acting career, and married the president of CBS living in Beverley Hills Hollywood before returning to London in 2000.

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Lesley Manville played Cinderella- billed as “Rosmary from Emmerdale Farm” the “Farm” was dropped from the title in 1898, she played Rosemary Kendall for 80 episodes, from 1974-1976.

Lesley won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in 2014, and has been nominated for the Bafta awards – her films include “Dance With A Stranger”, “Topsy Turvey”, “Secrets and Lies”, “Vera Drake” and “Mr Turner” in 2014. A member of the Royal Shakespearer Company, and The Royal Court Theatre she has had a non stop career in theatre, film and television.

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The Ugly Sisters in this “Cinderella” were Burdon and Moran- the top “Sisters” who played almost every major theatre during their partnership. Maurice Moran teamed up with Roger (Charles) Burdon in variety shows as magicians “Maids of Mirth and Deception”, which included a washing machine to change their pets from black to white and the trunk illusion where they would change places in an instant. Often they performed their magic speciality at the Ball in Cinderella, and performed a “Willow Patterned Plate” illusion in variety and Music Hall.

Burdon & Moran produced and presented shows and pantomimes around the UK, and employed Paul Holman in their theatre ventures. Paul now heads PHA which presents many pantomimes across the country, and after Maurice died, Roger reverted to his given name and returned to Pantomime as a Dame- he is of course Charles Burdon, and each year can be seen as a very glamorous and funny dame for UK Productions.

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I saw Burdon & Moran in many pantomimes from Swansea to Leeds, and I worked for Maurice at his St George’s Theatre a few times, and it is a delight to hear from Charles/Roger every so often for a catch up on “Those Good Old Days!”

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Here is a picture of Peter Robbins and I with Charles Burdon. He came to see our “Cinderella” at the Southampton Mayflower that year.

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Charles Burdon in this year’s pantomime for UK Productions.

The next Freddie Garrity Panto is “Babes In The Wood”- Doncaster 1968.

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This panto Flyer has a mystery- I’m hoping someone out there can solve it for us! Billed as The Robbers are Davies & Gray, “From the Film Oliver”. I’ve not come across this double act before, and the film “Oliver”, the Musical film was released this same year- 1968.

Scanning the full cast lists, there is no mention of an actor called either Davies or Gray. However… here’s the intriguing part- the David Lean film “Oliver” in 1947 had a child actor called John Howard Davies” in the title role, aged eight.

There is sadly no actor with the name “Gray” in this film either! If it were this John Howard Davies, he was to become the most influencial producer and director of the BBC- the head of Comedy, The Head of Light Entertainment, the man who launched Blackadder, Monty Python, Mr Bean, The Goodies, Yes Minister, Hi-De-Hi.. But I’m running away with myself. On the other hand, it might be a completely different actor in 1968 playing The Robber. If anyone has information, we’d be very happy to hear from you!

The stars of this panto were Freddie & The Dreamers, and a star of early “Coronation Street”- Jennifer Moss.

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In those days “Corrie” allowed its actors time off to do a panto- something that does not happen today, or in recent times. Jennifer Moss was the tearaway teenager introduced aged 15 to Coronation Street in 1960. She played the Sister of Davy Jones- later to find fame in “The Monkees”.

Jennifer played Lucille Hewitt in the soap for 756 episodes over fourteen years. She had a sad life after leaving “The Street” with many marriages and drink related problems, but achieved a happy ending towards the end of her life. She made a few television appearances in the years up to 2005 and 2006 when she died.

This flyer includes Clifford Henry as Dame. I recall he played Dame in a “Dick Whittington” at Swansea Grand, and I believe he had a television spot called “Clifford’s Kids” if my memory serves me right. Tom De Ville played Sheriff billed here as from the Stage version of “Oliver”, and he had begun his career in a TV series called “The New Forest Rustlers” in 1966 which had Anita Harris in the cast .

Once again Yvonne Lloyd played Principal boy, as she was billed in the previous flyer “Cinderella”.

The final Freddie and The Dreamers themed pantomime flyer is “Aladdin” at the Pavilion Bournemouth, presented by Stepham-Bell.

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This Pantomime starred Freddie and The Dreamers, and starred as Emperor one of the country’s biggest television stars of the 1950’s- Tommy Trinder.

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Tommy Trinder was the first host of ITV’s “Sunday Night At The London Palladium”- before Bruce Forsythe took over the reins, and was one of the biggest stars of stage, television and radio before and after World War Two. Born in 1909 Tommy was appearing on stage in 1921 at the age of twelve. He worked in Music Hall and revue,and became a household name by the 1940’s.

Ealing Studios made him a major film star- “Champagne Charlie” and “Sailor’s Three” were just a few of his films, and after several years hosting Val Parnell’s “Sunday Night at The Palladium” he hosted his own series “Trinder Box” from 1959 on the BBC.

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Here’s a youtube clip of Tommy Trinder talking about another great star- George Formby.

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Here’s a photograph from the excellent on the buses fan club website, sent to th fan club by Janita Morrel. It shows Tommy Trinder in Pantomime alongside some other famous panto faces.

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Juel Morrel is centre with Craig Douglas – Craig features in our “popstars in pantomime” article here on IBY. Tommy as Buttons is standing next to Reg “Confidentially” Dixon , who I played the Belgrade Coventry panto with. It goes back to how I began this article- one degree of separation! Also I spotted on the left of the photograph  the wonderful Terry Gardener. Terry, a neighbour of mine  was a pantomime Dame and along with his stage partner Barri Chat, Two Wonderful Ugly Sisters. Craig I spent an evening with recently at a Brick Lane Celebration, so it truly is a small, small world this Pantoland!

Tommy Trinder’s catch phrase “You Lucky People!” was repeated everywhere he went. The star of six Royal Variety Performances, he was created a CBE. He appeared in many pantomime- some on ice at Wembley and Olympia, and appeared as Emperor in Paul Elliott’s “Aladdin” at The Shaftesbury Theatre for Theatre Of Comedy.

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I had the huge pleasure of appearing in The Tommy Trinder Show for a week back in the day with my piano act. Every night when the show was over Tommy would sit in the Green Room and entertain us with stories of his life, of London during the pre war years, and his love of football. He was Chairman of Fulham Football Club from 1959 to 1976. That was an amazing week full of stories and laughter. “If it’s laughter you’re after, Trinder’s The Name!”

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Second Billing on this flyer is Joyce Blair as Principal Boy. Joyce was the Sister of Lionel Blair, and partnered her Brother in song and dance for many years. She had a Television career throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s appearing in countless comedy shows alongside stars like Morecambe & Wise and Dick Emery.

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Joyce & Lionel Blair

Her debut performance was at the Embassy Theatre in 1945 playing in J.M.Barrie’s musical “Quality Street”.

Here is an early clip of Joyce Blair from Youtube:

https://youtu.be/JrkwoCzrQzA

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Joyce appeared in several West End Musicals from South Pacific (1951) and Guys and Dolls (1953) and in the late 70’s played the Mother in “The Barmitzvah Boy”, a short lived musical. She had a personal success in “Dames At Sea” in London. Joyce Blair’s daughter Deborah Sheridan-Taylor played Saskia Duncan in BBC’s “EastEnders”.

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At the time of this pantomime “Aladdin” in 1982 Joyce was aged Fifty, playing a very glamorous blonde Aladdin- a concept that children today would probably find very odd, but The revival of the Female Principal Boy with the legs and the style was all thanks to Cilla Black starring in the Palladium Pantomime for bringing the Female Boy back, and to producers like Paul Elliott and Duncan Weldon for employing these wonderful ladies! I was lucky to start my Panto career with the Girls playing the boys, and I’m very pleased I got that chance before the wheel turned again!

Ronne Coyles appears as Dame in this panto flyer. Ronne must be the longest serving and, before his retirement the oldest working Dame at the time. A small fast  firecracker of a Dame- he always said the secret to being a Dame was “To Be Yourself”

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Ronne, who was born in Blyth, Northumberland, started in showbiz at the age of 14 as a boy soprano.

He began performing at 14 as a boy soprano, going on to appear in over 66 pantomimes, most notably as the dame.Diminutive in statue, but towering in performance, Ronné Coyles has been a perennial Pantomime Dame since he first donned the skirts in the early 1970’s.

A seasoned pantomime and cabaret performer, Ronné began his career at an early age in concert parties.  As a young man he was on the bill with Bud Flanagan at the Bristol Hippodrome, singing one of the Flanagan and Allen songs in his act. This led to him appearing with “The Crazy Gang” at the Victoria Palace, and making several films including “Here comes the Sun” with them. During his career has been a trapeze artist, acrobatic dancer, singer and tap dancer.

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As Dame his dancing skills were often called upon- one of the fastest “tappers” in the “business”, he incorporated these skills into his unique “Strip” routine, when as Dame he would begin to remove his clothing, only to be interrupted- hide behind a small screen, and almost impossibly change into full 1920’s “flapper” gear, and dance a frenetic Charleston before collapsing into a laundry basket- it still remains one of the most creative “strip routines” I have seen on stage to date!

Ronné was featured in one of the first documentaries about Pantomime for BBC2’s “Man Alive”, which dealt with the life of a pantomime performer. A firm favourite in Summer seasons at Morecambe and around the country, he appeared as Dame in “Humpty Dumpty” at London’s Dominion Theatre, a lavish production starring Keith Harris that was presented in several other cities during the next few years.

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Ronne came to Morecambe in 1965 and his season at the Ocean Room was such a success he was invited back the following yearIn 1972 Sybil Sheldon, the owner of the Palace Theatre on the Battery Promenade, asked Ronne to top the bill at a new variety revue show.

“I was there for 10 glorious years and it was wonderful,” he says.

At its peak the Palace would run three shows a week, all hosted by Ronne, called: ‘This is Showbusiness’, ‘This is Music Hall’ and ‘This is Command Performance’. Recent years saw him teamed up with Keith Harris in pantomimes at the Fernham Hall in Fareham, where Keith presented panto from 2001 to 2007- he appeared as Dame Tilly Trott in Goldilocks, as Sarah The Cook in Dick Whittington, and as Baron in “Cinderella” when the Lavelle Twins played Sisters.

He achieved Television fame in 2001 when he joined Harry Hill in the Children’s series “TV Burp” which ran until 2004. One of this businesses longest serving Panto Stars. Possibly the longest serving!

llandudno Dame again!

Delighted to announce I’m back in Llandudno at Venue Cymru this Panto Season from December 10th, through to December 31st with my mate John Evans in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

Watch the diary for announcements of a special guest star joining the fun and the magic- soon be be revealed!

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A nod to the past! Recent purchases for the archive!

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The its-behind-you.com archive gets fuller each and every year. Filing cabinets full of pantomime programmes and handbills marked “Ancient” and “Modern” (ancient being from the earliest examples and modern from 1970s onwards!).

When I get hold of programmes these days I am increasingly aware of a “degree of separation” with the contents- quite often I’ve worked with, or watched someone featured, or played the venue- a sign of getting older I guess, when the programmes pre date me! This Pantomime Business that we love is often based on traditions handed down from one generation to another- there is a cross over. I did my early pantomimes in the 1970’s with Panto stars of the 1940’s and earlier, and they taught me routines and traditions that I have tried to pass on in the same way.

Each programme I look at often has a connection to these traditions and maybe that is why I find them so fascinating. The programme or handbill tells a story of the artistes and the theatres and the era they were performed in. Here are a few recent IBY acquisitions I thought I’d share. Every one has a story to tell! Starting with:

“Dick Whittington”: 1955.

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“Dick Whittington”, The Winter Gardens Morecambe-under the management of L.Benjamin for Val Parnell & Moss Empires. They had taken the lease two years before this panto.

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This Pantomime featured Jack Stanford– “The King of Eccentric Dancers”.

Here’s a clip of Jack from 1935 on Youtube. :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZvUlVudNwc&feature=youtu.be

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And from Pathe: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/jackstanford

I did a panto once with Jill Stanford-Jill was a relative of Jack Stanford, and I recall also related to the Salberg Family. I believe that Jill was my agent Keith Salberg’s neice.

In 1956 Derek Salberg  put Jack Stanford into his production of “Babes In The Wood” at the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham alongside Terry Hall & Lenny The Lion.

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the City Varieties Bill is from 1962.

Joe Crosbie– “Idle Jack”: His number in this show (according to the “Stage” archive” was a hit- entitled “You Can’t Keep A Cow on Cokernuts!”

Joe Crosbie comedian and entertainer was born Joseph Thomas McKeign in Atherton in 1908.

It was in the pre-ear years that he started his stage career, working the Northern Club circuit. In 1944 he made his professional debut at the Bolton Grand Theatre. On the 17th of December 1948 he made his first broadcast on radio in “Northern Lights”. In 1949 he made his first TV appearance when he topped the bill in “Variety Bandbox”.

It was in 1951 that he signed up with the impresario Emil Littler to appear in Pantomime at the Empire Theatre Sheffield, followed by a summer season at the Blackpool Hippodrome. He toured in his own show “Give it to Joe”. In 1959 he signed with Jack Gillam Entertainments Ltd and topped the bill in many of Gillams Pantomimes and Varieties.

This handbill gives some indication of the hard work involved with eleven shows in the week and at the same time Joe would have rehearsing for his next show. He made several more appearances on TV, a number of times with Morecombe and Wise, Joseph Lock and a very youthful Petula Clarke.

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Jeanette Landis 1963 “Doctor In Distress”

Jeanette Landis was the Principal Boy-Born in 1928 , She appeared later in television, most notably “Doctor In Distress” (1963) “The Rag Trade” and “Dr Jeckell” 1968. That year she appeared in the film “Star”, which had Julie Andrews as Gertrude Lawrence. Jeanette Landis was a comic Daffoldil Dancer appearing in the number “In My Garden Of Joy”.

The Emperor in this”Dick Whittington” was played by Frank Seton. I had the great joy of working with Frank twice in Pantomime, some twenty five years after this show.

The year before this Pantomime, Frank had been Arthur Lucan’s understudy . In fact he had never been on stage for “Old Mother Riley” until that night on the 17th May 1954, at the Tivoli Hull when Arthur died in the wings, and Frank was ushered onstage in his place in “Old Mother Riley In Paris”.

The full story of Frank’s appearance as Old Mother Riley can be found in Dr Robert V Kenny’s book “The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley”published by BearManorMedia (ISBN: 978-1-59393-771-3). Some of the anecdotes Frank told me, as well as those related to me by the chief Electrician of the Tivoli in 1954- Roland Watson, can be found in this excellent book.

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The first Panto I did with Frank was a “Puss In Boots” at the (then) Civic St.Albans.1980. It was, I think Hilary O’Neil’s first panto as Principal Boy. I later worked with Frank in “Dick Whittington”, a lovely gentle and very funny man. The press cutting above from 1980 shows Frank dressed as King,  third from left (front row), I’m sitting in the rickshaw with Hilary O’Neil .

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The Dave Lee who played “Daphne The Cook” in the Morecambe pantomime is of course not the same Dave Lee, sadly no longer with us, who played Dame to great acclaim at Chichester in recent times. This Dave Lee had a number in the Pantomime entitled “On Windmill Hill”.