I like when things in my archive join up, and give a glimpse into a time gone by.
Recently the London Palladium has been host to The Qdos Pantomimes- “Cinderella”, “Dick Whittington” and, due in December “Snow White”.
In 1963 the Palladium tried an experiment. The management decided not to put on a traditional Panto, but opted to present a huge star of the time, comedian Charlie Drake, in a Musical called “The Man In The Moon”.
That wasn’t the best decision that this Palace of Variety and Pantomime had ever taken, and soon it reverted to Pantomimes once again, but for a short season the wings were filled with Space men and futuristic Space Cars and flying effects.
The popular comic “The Eagle” celebrated this with a special “Peep Behind The Scenes of “The Man In The Moon” in its 28th December 1963 issue. Dan Dare, The Mekons and Digby were on the front cover, but the backstage mechanics of The London Palladium were featured in a cut-away illustration on the back page. Here it is in all its 60’s futuristic glory, featuring the famous stage revolve!
Terry Powell has spent a lifetime backstage in Theatres around the country, and has been involved in countless scenic productions, including Pantomimes. Terry has this to say about the famous London Palladium revolve.
“Since Val Parnell presented his first pantomime Cinderella in 1948 the venue was used annually to produce long running spectacular pantomime until musicals took over seasonal entertainment from 1988.
Much of the success of these pantomimes was due to the use of revolves and centre drum lift in adding inventive scenic design to enhance, in particular, the extravagant first act finales providing a touch of magic that would amaze both adults and children in the audience. In addition, trap doors set into the stage provided both entry and exit for cast members plus stage properties.
Another technical innovation were three rising microphones situated at the front of stage providing the opportunity for performers to deliver script and song with amplification.
All of the above items were removed prior to the opening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in order to accommodate the mechanics of the car; none of them being listed as required to remain as part of the theatre’s equipment. Following the closing of Chitty the empty sub stage area provided additional space that could be used for storage and mechanics as required by incoming productions giving scenic designers an area to store and lift scenery to stage level.
As the stage has limited side or wing space the majority of scenery used in production needs to be accommodated in the roof void known as the fly tower to be raised and lowered to the stage floor as required.
The orchestra pit remains able to be raised and lowered as a feature of the variety days.”
This production “The Man In The Moon” was described as “A Space-Age Musical”. Some of the Musical Numbers were written by Tom Springfield, brother and co-performer with Superstar Dusty Springfield, along with Burt Rhodes, Max Diamond and John Taylor. The scenery was by Tod Kingman, who Terry (Powell) assisted frequently in Pantomime.
the area below the London Palladium stage has been in the news very recently. At the request of Sir Bruce Forsythe and his family, the ashes of this major entertainer, and compere of so many televised “Sunday Night At The London Palladium”, have been placed in the area beneath the stage.
The newspapers reported last week:
Sir Bruce Forsyth’s ashes have been laid to rest under the stage at the London Palladium. The late entertainer’s ashes were placed at the famous London landmark in a private ceremony attended by Sir Bruce’s family a year to the day after his death.
A blue plaque on the wall below the stage says that “without question the UK’s greatest entertainer, he rests in peace within the sound of music, laughter and dancing… exactly where he would want to be.”
Sir Bruce will be in good company. The esteemed Variety and Film agent Billy Marsh had his ashes placed here twenty-two years ago.
Billy Marsh worked for Bernard Delfont‘s London Management company, with responsibility for stars including Morecambe and Wise, until 1987 when he formed his own talent management agency Billy Marsh Associates, which survives him. In 1991, he founded his own show business promotions company, appointing friend and protégé Johnny Mans as managing director and partner, eventually becoming Johnny Mans Productions.
On 17 June 1996, his ashes were interred underneath the stage at The London Palladium, alongside an honorary plaque, which was “in recognition of his belief, encouragement and kindness to countless talented performers, many of whom have become legends upon this stage”.
A great tribute to two gentlemen who did so much to further the world of Variety and Pantomime, especially at The London Palladium.