Monthly Archives: July 2015

NODA Summer School!

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August 1st- August 8th 2015

I’m off to Warwick University for a full week’s Summer School-for NODA. My chosen subject -Pantomime!

Looking forward to a very full and very active week with the students exploring everything from the Origins of Pantomime, through Dames, Principal Boys, make up, costume and having fun with scripts.

Watch this space!

A Dream Afternoon!

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The Legend that is Stanley Baxter with Michael Harrison 16th July 2015

Michael Harrison , head of Qdos Pantomimes had one of the highlights of his theatrical year yesterday- having lunch with Stanley Baxter!

No, the master of Pantomime Dames and Television extravaganzas was not in talks about a return to the Pantomime stage- what a dream THAT would be- but it was a chance to chat about things panto . Michael is an enormous admirer of the legend that is Stanley Baxter who won Baftas in 1959, 1972 and again in 1981 for his Light Entertainment acheivements.

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It was shortly after the Second World War that Stanley Baxter left the Entertainment Section of the army, alongside Peter Nichols (later to write “Privates On Parade”) and Kenneth Williams to appear in his first pantomime for Howard and Wyndham

He was to appear in many glittering and gorgeous Terry Parson designed Pantomimes right up until his retirement in 1992, many of them in Scotland- both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in many alongside Jimmy Logan, Una McLean, Ronnie Corbett and Angus Lennie.

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A huge and long career has seen Stanley appearing in West End shows and Revues, The Half Past Eight revues, on Television as Mr Majeika, In Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special (appearing as almost the entire cast of “Upstairs Downstairs”!)

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He appeared in his own Television series and TV Specials, “Parliamo Glasgow”, series including The Stanley Baxter Picture Show, as well as a career in Films and on Radio.

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Recently Stanley has broadcast for BBC Radio 4’s Playhouse, in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014- quite a busy retirement!

Fortunately he was able to find time for that lunch! So here is this great picture of Michael alongside the pantomime legend himself, amazingly fit and well at a mere 89 years!

Brian Conley 600 and not out!

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Brian Conley surprised on stage at the Birmingham Hippodrome by Michael Harrison!

Wednesday 9th July

Brian Conley was about to make his curtain speech at the end of this evening’s performance of “Barnum” at the Hippodrome Birmingham, when co-producer and head of Qdos Pantomimes Michael Harrison stopped him in his tracks.

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Tonight was, it turns out the 600th performance that Brian has made on this historic and beautiful stage. At the end of the show he was presented with this amazing cake, created by Birmingham based Cake Moda. It has the boards of the stage, with Brian’s name (in lights, obviously!) and symbols of his many triumphs at this theatre- a slipper from “Cinderella” , a lamp from “Aladdin”,”Dick Whittington”,  symbols of Jolson and the many musicals he’s performed here.

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Brian Conley, centre with Michael Harrison and the company of “Barnum” currently on tour around the UK and playing Birmingham Hippodrome this week.

I was fortunate to be a part of this 600 celebration, in as much as I shared about 80 of those 600 appearing in 2006/7 in”Cinderella” alongside Peter Robbins, with Shobna Gulati, Dawson Chance, Sean Needham, Michelle Potter, Jody Crosier and the most wonderful company manager, my friend the late Ian Sandy.

Photographs courtesy of The Birmingham Hippodrome

Peter & I were with Brian’s “Cinderella” on quite a few pantomimes- Southampton, Manchester, Plymouth, High Wycombe, but that magical Birmingham Hippodrome show took some beating. I’ve seen Brian at the “Hippo” in a good few shows and pantomimes, and recently met up with him and Anne Marie when I saw “Barnum”- a fabulous show, and a great one to celebrate 600 performances at this beautiful theatre! Congratulations Brian- in Jolson’s words, “You ‘aint seen nothin’ yet!

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Master of Arts- Paul Elliott

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Paul Elliott, Producer and Director of so many Pantomimes was today awarded an Honorary Masters Degree from AUB-in his hometown- The Arts University Of Bournemouth.

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the ceremony took place today, Friday 3rd July 2015 inside the Bournemouth Pavilion, scene of many of Paul’s pantomime seasons presented by his E&B Pantomime Company. I was fortunate enough to be in two Pantomimes here- with June Brown, Windsor Davies, Stefan Dennis, and before that with Kathy Staff and Bill Owen. A joy to play and a great town to spend Christmas in!

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The AUB Honours, and I quote- “Persons who have made a significant contribution to the fields of arts, design, media or performance in a professional capacity or an educational role”

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Here’s a picture of The Master himself, with his wife, the stage and film actress Linda Hayden. Many thanks to daughter LJ for these photographs of a very happy and well deserved occasion!