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The Final Show of “Aladdin!”

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Our last two shows today- A matinee Tea at 2pm and a Dinner at 9pm. Brilliant audiences for both shows, not a seat to be had and a very jolly time had by all!

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We had a visit from Brick Lane regular Ross Tomlinson today- so good to see him again. He return to appear in the Irish Show which is next on the Brick Lane Schedule. I’ve left the dressing room space ready for him!

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Ross with the Gang.

During the second show I managed to pack as I went, and in typical panto fashion, ended up in just what I was left in in the finale to be packed away before vanishing into the night!

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The Finale. I’m not wearing that Pagoda. It really is scenery!

Had visitors tonight- my mates Jason Belne & John Pittom brought a party headed by Ian Gold- they are all BLMH regulars to the Panto. Great to see them at the end of the second show!

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Tom, John, Laura, Jason, Ian, Mike and Edmund At The Last Night of “Aladdin”.

It is hard to believe we started this journey to Peking on January 16th, and here we are seven weeks later, having played to  completely packed houses through rain, shine and snow!

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By next week the decorations in the auditorium will have completely changed, as Winter Wonderland comes down and Spring awakens! Costumes from Aladdin will be returned to their store, and the glittery green and gold shamrock costumes will be up on the rails.

My second panto of the year has been a blast!. Great bunch of people. Now it is time to put the lamp away, stop rubbing the ring, and put the curly slippers on! Farewell Brick Lane!

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Goodbye from us all. Thanks for reading the Blog!

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Friday 2nd March. Let It Snow!

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It has snowed and arctic winds have blown, and the Brick Lane Music Hall has continued to welcome our audiences all week. One or two fell by the wayside so to speak- the odd party from Snowbound Kent have not made it, but on the whole we’ve struggled through!

 

Today (Friday) was an example of the Music Hall spirit of team spirit. Poor David was stranded on a non moving train, and had signalled that he would be delayed. Our audience was delayed, but we had a quick conflab in the dressing rooms, and I played the role of Slave of The Ring and, I suppose, Abanazar my Master until the interval, by combining parts and announcing Abanazar was stranded on the platform at Gravesend Railway Station!

A group effort- Lucy gamely sang both parts of a duet, Rhys was a disembodied voice in the cave and Andrew and I did a custom job on dialoge until David flew in, arctic winds behind him in the Interval.

Great fun for a very jolly audience and a good example of team effort! Hoorah!

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This week saw Shelby and I representing The Welsh side of BLMH, and daffodils and welshcakes featured in our backstage day on March 1st- St David’s Day.

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Da Iown! St David’s Day at Brick Lane!

Matt Pallant played keyboards for the last time on this panto on Wednesday- He has been dep for both Martin and for Tom during this run. We waved him goodbye as he set off in the snow down the North Woolwich Road.

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This week saw My Birthday on Thursday and Vincent’s Birthday on Friday. A jolly thing to be working on your Birthday I always think. Great to meet up with some chums afterwards for drinks, and seeing friends who braved some dreadful weather to get there!

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My Birthday Drinks

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Vincent’s Birthday Surprise in the Finale

It is all but over. Only two performances remain- A show tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm and another at 9pm. Not bad finishing Panto on March 3rd! A full report on tomorrow follows!

Tuesday 27th Feb.

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Here we are after our second show of the week. Yesterday was the first Monday show I have done at Brick Lane- This being the fifth Panto- it shows the demand there has been for tickets, and apologies to those who I know haven’t been able to come and see us all.

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Martin, David Carter, Matt and Andy- a Musical Quartet!

Today we had a visit from Musical Director and accompanist David Carter. David and I go back so many years to touring shows and also variety shows, in the days when I did a piano act accompanying Silent Films among other routines!. David was the MD at The Palace Watford when Peter John presented Dick Whittington, along with his percussionist Perry Clayton. David has accompanied most of the major variety and music hall stars including Joan Reagan and Danny La Rue.

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We had a visit on Monday from Phil Randall, Pantomime Dame and Roy Sandy Powell. They came to a lunchtime show and it was great to have a chat during the Interval- shame it wasn’t longer. Phil is a fellow South Wales chap, he hails from Neath, next door to my home town of Swansea.

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Roy and Phil backstage

The Brick Lane Bowling Night out!

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A great night out for the Brick Lane Bowlers at Stratford’s Westfield after the show on Monday. Last week it was a trip to see Ibsen in Oxford, this week not Drury Lane but a Bowling Lane!

Here’s a little piece of panto history footage from the 1930’s, courtesy of Pathe News. A rehearsal of Aladdin. Nothing much has changed over the years!

 

Saturday 24th Twice Daily!

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Tom & Martin, with Andy on percussion.

Two shows today (Saturday) with a gap of four hours between- enough time for me to slip out with my make-up intact, hop into the car and head home for a few hours. I sent Dressing Room Two a picture of The Slave Of The Ring in transit (well, in a Mini).

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Little did I know that upon my return that snap shot had multiplied, been given the Warhol touch- and I had a surprise greeting from my artistic companions!

 

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Gorgeous piece of modern art!

we had visitors today- Don Sherman, Musical Director and Water Rat- a delightful gentleman, and always a joy to meet him. This called for a Grand Order Of Water Rats only picture backstage!

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Don Sherman and fellow members of the GOWR. (Brick Lane).

Also visiting today was Andrew Robley’s Mother, Pearl. She brought a group along and it was a jolly crowd, and a delight as always to see her. Here is Pearl with us all backstage in the interval.

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So it has been a busy week, with John Styles playing our Emperor for a show, and out two performances today at 2.30pm and at 9pm.

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John Styles

During the between shows break the Number Two Dressing Room residents not only created an art work worthy of the Tate, but played a game or two!

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Next week is a full one- our first Monday performance- demand for tickets means an extra show was added, and two on Saturday before we finish the season.

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Our Orchestra

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Oscar and just a few of the BLMH team

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Friday 23rd. Panto Royalty!

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Peter John & Chris Emmett

Delighted to have a visit today at Brick Lane from Panto Royalty- Peter John and Chris Emmett. Peter was doyen Dame Director at The Palace Theatre Watford a quarter of a century ago- they were among my favourite Pantomimes- especially Dick Whittington and his last there, “Mother Goose”. Wonderful inventive shows and a joy to watch!

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Peter is of course a pillar of the Music Hall Pantheon, and has been presenting characters and chairing music halls across the country. Always so good to have him visit!

Chris Emmett is known to listeners of The News Huddlines and from the wonderful Television “321” shows with Ted Rogers- the last variety sketch shows to be combined with an incomprehensible quiz format. Great sketches those! Chreis has spent a lifetime involved in Pantomime, and, Like Peter John is a Panto Dame.

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If you want a treat, go to ebay and purchase CD’s of Chris Emmett’s wonderful Audio Pantomimes with a host of guest stars from Barbara Windsor to Bernand Cribbins. Every one a wealth of gags. Here’s just one example!

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Yesterday (Thursday ) we had a new Emperor for the day, in the guise of John Styles. John very kindly and professionally stepped in for the show as our Emperor Paul James had a long standing commitment. John was rehearsed in and this week Princess So-Shy has had two dads. Here is John in Dressing room 2.

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He brought some of his magic tricks along and added them into his portrayal of So-Shy’s Dad- great fun to watch, ands a lovely chap- famous too in the world of Puppetry- John is an expert in “Punch & Judy”.

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It was a pleasure to work alongside John, and great fun too!

So Shy is the name of our Princess, but originally it was the name of her Handmaiden- often written in as love interest for Wishee Washee in earlier pantomimes. Here are a few Princess facts:

 

THE PRINCESS:

Due to the influence of the Disney Film, many children expect the Princess to be called “Jasmine”. In fact, she had been named “Yasmin” forty years before the film was released, and has had many other  names in her pantomime career. The most traditional of these would probably be “Princess Balroubadour”-and before that “Princess Badroulbadour” she was called “Balroubadour” when the young Julie Andrews played the part for Emile Littler in 1951. A year later the Princess stole her maid’s name and was “Princess So-Shi” at Stockport, and has also been “Tai-Hee” – overall her traditional name has always been “Balroubadour”.

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Shelby as Princess So-Shy.

SO-SHY:

Prince Pekoe (Often in early pantomimes a suitor of The Princess) played opposite his love interest- a comedy soubrette, who was often Widow Twankey’s Maid, or sometimes the handmaiden to the Princess. Again the authors could have fun with Chinese puns. The part was created by Blanchard in his Drury Lane “Aladdin” of 1885as “Che-Kee– Twankay’s Maid of All Work”,(played by Miss Nelly Leamar) and had an opposite number “Saw-Cee– Her Maid of No Work!”

Since then she has had many names including “Kissi-Wissi”, “Tcha-Ming”, “Petti-Sing” (taken from “The Mikado Operetta”), Itti-Sing and “So-Shy”.

Again, the part of Twankey’s maid, and Prince Pekoe’s love interest has now vanished from pantomime, but her character lives on, in part whenever there is a companion to the Princess, and then she is often named “So-Shy”.

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So, a couple of emperors down, packed houses and coming to our first twice daily shows tomorrow (Saturday), it has been a full week at Brick Lane. Andrew Robley and I joined Andrew Ryan for a night out at the newly recreated Joe Allans to spend the evening with our mates Sherrie (Hewson) and Amanda (Barrie) before everyone heads off for tours and engagements. A jolly night- now, it’s back to work!

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Many thanks to Sam Sadler for keeping this blog up to date with the backstage photos!0fb5b258-bb2b-4a4f-95cd-015d9c1c0a3e

Nathan & Sam

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Wednesday 21st: Visitors

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Shelby & Lucy- Princess So-Shy & Aladdin meet

A six show week this week, as we’ll be doing two shows on Saturday! Lots of visitors from The Brick Lane Family through the doors over the past couple of days. From Phantom Of The Opera, Hetty Hobbs- a BLMH veteran, joined by BLMH’s Charlotte Farge and Robert Oliver. Robert was recently in “Rapunzel” at The Hertford Pantomime.

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Hetty & Charlotte with Robert and the BLMH photo opportunity! 

In on Tuesday was Annie Galbraith. Annie has been visiting Brick Lane Music Hall both here and in Curtain Row over the years costuming and looking after the legendary Danny La Rue on his appearances here. Annie and I were able to have a quick chat about the current Victoria & Albert Museum display- Dan’s gorgeous Pink Aladdin Costume is displayed next to the ballgowns donated by me to the Theatre & Performance department.

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It was during “Aladdin” at Brick Lane Music Hall five years ago that Vincent Hayes was made MBE for services to Music Hall and the community. Here’s a reminder- The picture on the right is the award he received upon returning from the Palace and going straight onstage in the pantomime!

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Our other performer visitors this week so far have included Catherine Hamilton Hall (I saw Catherine in “Me & My Girl” in The West End alongside Les Dennis) and Singer Performer Chris Till.  Sam Sadler had his family in to watch the show, including his Mum Marion and Grandad and Aunt- and at the same time Ben’s magic lamp conjoured up the cast of his recent Cheltenham Panto, in to see the show!

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Ben’s “Dick Whittington” Shipmates- Ruth Betteridge, Molly Maguire, Andy Westfield and Grant Koper.

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Andrew, Nigel & Sam in Dressing Room Two.

The shows have gone extremely well, and are completely sold out- they have been since we opened. I spent my day off (Monday) in a photography studio in London helping to create a brand new celebrity Dame- that first make-up applied, a magical moment in Panto photo shoots! Sorry I can’t say who or where, but when we get the green light we will publish the Qdos List of Who Is Where as soon as the details are released!. It was a lot of fun, I can say that!

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Shelby’s FIRST Wagamamas! 

Our Theatrical visitors today (Wednesday) were Brian and Audrey Miller. Regulars to Brick Lane and formerly neighbours of mine, they presented a mystifying and colourful magic act for many years both here and abroad, with doves appearing from thin air!. No doves today I think- not that I noticed. A delight to catch up as always!

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Sat 17th Feb. Showtime!

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The end of another five show week here at Brick Lane Music Hall. If we arrive for a tea show the coaches are waiting outside the gates, ready for admission at One O’clock, and if we arrive for a lunch the car park is already full, as the audience arrived early and are already enjoying the three course lunch prepared by Saleem.

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This week we were packed out as usual, and among our visitors was another member of the Grand Order Of Water Rats- John Styles. He met newly honoured Water Rat, Ben Goffe backstage . Ben’s brother Jack also visited us this week, as did Danielle and Victoria, friends of Nathan and Jordan.

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Nathan, Danielle Irvine and Victoria Finan with Jordan backstage

Ben Goffe has had a busy Saturday night. As well as the 9pm to 11.30pm show at Brick Lane Music Hall, he is also appearing at a nightclub called “The Box” in London’s Soho, interacting with the revellers until 2am. That is like a throwback to the Good Old Days of London’s Nightclubs in the 1960’s, when artistes like Batbara Windsor, Amanda Barrie and Jan Hunt played several clubs a night- like Danny La Rues, Winstons, Churchills and The L’Hirrondelle – Good luck Ben. Lots of Red Bull needed I suspect!

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Stage Manager Rhys took this artistic shot from the wings during the finale!

Vincent plays Aladdin’s Brother Wishee Washee in our “Aladdin”. His character, like Widow Twankey has undergone some changes during the early days of pantomime, settling down when the Music Hall era gave the character a boost by employing some of the favourite comedians for the part.

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Here’s a few Tit-Bits from this website’s “Storybook” about the role:

Wishee Washee was a late arrival to the pantomime of “Aladdin”. He emerged at the time when the East End of London and other areas began to see Chinese laundries starting up business. By the time “Wishee” came along- around 1889, and again at Drury Lane in 1896, Twankey was established as a laundress, and his character was there to help, or more likely hinder her. He is the Chinese version of Idle Jack, or Simple Simon.

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Some Wishee Washees- Matt Slack with Andrew Ryan as Twankey, Justin Fletcher as Wishee

In 1896 the role was played by Dan Leno. The character’s name seemed to sum up his position, and it has not changed- except when “He” becomes “Them!” Double act comedians have sometimes played the part calling themselves “Wishee” and “Washee”. Lauri Lupino Lane and George Truzzi often teamed up to play these roles in the 1950’s.

More often these days Wishee Washee is Aladdin’s brother.

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Stuart Wade at York Opera House

As Wishee Washee grew in strength, the part of Abanazar’s Slave “Kasrac” fell out of favour.

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David Phipps-Davis

ABANAZAR

Until the release of the Disney film “Aladdin” in 1992, the villain of the piece had retained his name since at least 1813. Along came the film, and suddenly millions of children believe that he is really called Jaffar!

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John Thompson as Abanazar with Sherrie Hewson as Slave – Manchester 2016-2017

The name Abanazar was used by Farley at Covent Garden when he produced his “Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp” in April 1813. In the original story he was known only as “The African Magician”. He has had other names, briefly- Abel el Nisir at the Amphitheatre (1830) and Kiradamac at the Charing Cross Theatre (1874) At the Crystal Palace he was Abenazac (1889) and even Hocus Pocus at the Moreton Theatre in 1891. Generally, his name has remained Abanazar, very occasionally “Abanaza”, and, in pantomime his homeland is usually Egypt.

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Sherrie’s Benidorm Hubby, John Challis as The Villain. James Barron in Hull.

ABANAZAR’S SLAVE:

In his book “ Some Pantomime Pedigrees” Clinton-Baddeley points out that Abanazar originally had a slave called “Kasrac”. This part was played by Joseph Grimaldi in 1813, and again in 1826. The part remained in “Aladdin” on and off, and given the name “Kassarak”  was to be found in Drury Lane in 1909. However, this part soon vanished into the ether as the more powerful Slaves of the Lamp and the Ring took over. He lived on in Emile Littler’s productions of “Aladdin”, but as “Kazim– Slave of the Lamp”.

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Nigel Ellacott as Slave at Brick Lane, Debbie McGee as Slave and Julian Clary as Slave with Lee Mead and Matt Slack. (Birmingham).

Next week gets even busier at Brick Lane- we play Tuesday to Saturday with an additional show on The Saturday- so we will play 2pm and 9pm on that Saturday! I might be sneaking home in make-up between shows for that one- not on public transport I hasten to add!