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Saturday Night at the Music Hall!

January 27, 2015

Saturday 25th January 2015 DSC02492_001-1024x670

 Our second evening show of the week- both houses were packed, and a great atmosphere. On a freezing cold night as you approach the Music Hall in the dark coming along the North Woolwich Road, it looks like Christmas has arrived-strings of lights outside the building, the main doors open with the sound of Music Hall songs playing, and a packed car park with the audience already in and dining. DSC02690_001-685x1024

I arrive at eight o’clock for a nine o’clock show on an evening performance. The show can sometimes start a bit earlier, depending on the diners, and comes down at around 11.30pm. The Guests arrived from 6.30  onwards, eating at around 7.30pm.Tonight (Saturday) was especially cold, and before going to the dressing room I paid a call on Andrew Robley to say hello to his very beautiful dog before heading in to get ready- Rusty and Paul were already there. 004

A quick cup of tea, and straight to the make-up just incase we were to go up at 8.45pm. In fact we went up a few minutes after nine o’clock. While I was getting the face on Kate was running the singers through a warm-up next door, where there is a backstage piano. We get clearance from front of house, and then Vincent starts the proceedings, and we are off and running. DSC02575-1024x674

People in tonight from places like Orpington, Chingford, Bethnal Green, Limehouse and Sweden and Belgium! Such is the power of”Trip Advisor”- we’re up there on top London Theatres with the Brick Lane Music Hall- what an interesting experience for the Swedish and Belgium guests!

I actually worked in a British Style Music Hall in Stockholm in the ‘70’s. It was called “Engelen”- The Angel Music Hall.imagesQQN768VA untitled

I was resident pianist there. I even got the waiting staff to learn “My Old Man” and “Down At The Old Bull And Bull” to start off the evening, before it descended into a drinking session that used to last until 1am. For the customers, not me! It was certainly an experience, and the building was a pretty good replica of a Victorian Pub- “The Albert Bar” in “The Engelen”.

Trip Advisor comments are excellent, and it’s great to know that they are spreading the word far and wide- certainly a lot of the dates have now sold out, so the word is out there!

The first half of the show is pretty busy for me- and for everyone. I have my opening, then by the time I’ve changed it is time for the chaos that is “The Schoolroom” followed by the “If I were Not…” Automation scene and a very quick change into my act one finale- red beaded costume, wig, gold boa, gold boots, necklace put on in a few seconds to go on for something like a minute! That’s showing off that is!

Alan has been a hero having my Ukelele to hand in the wing and passing it to me- I still shudder when I remember setting it on the floor of the Gaiety Theatre Rhyl to do “Mr Wu” and hearing the crunch followed by a twang as someone trod on it!  It was back in 1977 but that memory lingers on!. Thanks Alan for being the guardian of the Uke,! Shame I can’t play it properly- its not easy over a padded bosom I tell you- keeps slipping! Well, that is MY excuse anyway!

Tuesday we start the week with a matinee tea, and then it will be Two Lunch shows and an evening show, which takes us up to the end of January. On Thursday I will be thinking of the Panto lot up there at the Birmingham Hippodrome, as it will be their party night- lots of my mates will be there to see the panto and join in the fun. Technically I could just make it, but I’d arrive late and harrased with the dash to get up to Birmingham, so I’ll send my best wishes to Messers Gary Wilmot and Paul Zerdin instead! Delighted to see Gary is sticking to the Dame make-up we concocted together two years ago- looking great Gary!

If you’d like to see a collection of Brick Lane Panto pictures from this show, take a look at the excellent website with pictures by Joanne Hayes- Backstage at The BLMH. Link below!

The Performance diary here on will be archived shortly, and slowly but surely information will reach Simon and myself about the 2015-16 pantomimes that will be announced. I’m pretty certain that “Babes In The Wood” and “Robin Hood” won’t be featured very much- along with “Mother Goose”, “Puss In Boots” and “Robinson Crusoe” these titles are no longer in the forefront of the Panto lists.

It will take a reissue or a new version of “Robin Hood” to fire the imagination of the larger commercial managements. John Barrowman making appearances in the “Arrow” series, on Sky and cable might help- that character, “The Green Arrow” from DC Comics is, of course based on our very own British folk story set in Sherwood Forest. I’ll be looking at the origins of “Robin Hood & The Babes In The Wood” over the next few Blogs- here’s a taster of some previous productions to whet the appetite! babes1948princes babes1948princes1

This programme from what is now The Shaftesbury Theatre had the comedienne Betty Jumel as Dame. babesbristol1950s

a young Dilys Lay was “Babe”, before her “Carry On” Days in film.


this Bristol Panto version had Max Wall as Dame! It seems hard to imagine the dour comedian and eccentric dancer in skirts,

as our image of Max Wall is usually in black tight trousers and tailcoat at the piano!


Jewel & Warriss often appeared as Good & Bad Robber in “Babes”. As a Juvenile Jan Hunt played Girl Babe in their pantomimes for a couple of years. babesdrury G.SMelvin as Dame in this Drury Lane production. He died on his way to the theatre one day in a tragic accident- he lived on the River Thames at the West of London, and in heavy floods was discovered drowned. A tragic end to a Music Hall and Pantomime career. babespic1 images4MGTQQR5


More on the origins of “Robin Hood & The Babes” in the next instalment of Dame Vera’s Blog!

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  1. Terry Powell permalink

    A lot of Kirby ballet flying high!

  2. Terry Powell permalink

    On the reread; how interesting that Ralph Reader was involved in the Drury Lane “Babes’!
    I was involved with a few Gang Shows in my youth and my youth group did a tribute to him several years ago as part of a revue I wrote called ‘Palladium’ where I found the extent of his involvement with that theatre as I trawled the archives with the wonderful Mark Fox of RUG. I also found out that the original scores of Gang Shows were stored quite close to home and was permitted to use photocopied originals for the production so we did indeed go riding along on the crest of wave at the end of Act One!

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