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Oldbury Brough, American-born English entertainer

April 4, 2015

Oldbury Brough (1875-1919), American-born English entertainer
(photo: unknown, probably UK, circa 1907; postcard without printer’s or publisher’s credit, probably privately printed for Brough by the Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd. of London, bears a British postmark dated 2 August 1908, the message, addressed to Miss Kitty Francis, Highfields, Gt. Baddow, Chelmsford, reads: ‘Dear Kitty. This is a splendid comedian which [sic] I heard this afternoon. He is very good at musical sketches also. I am having a good time. With best love Dots.’)

William Oldbury Brough was the younger son of the Rev. Samuel Martin Brough (1842-1893), a Wesleyan, later Congregational minister, and his first wife, Martha (née Oldbury, 1844-1885). Although both his parents were British, Brough was born in Kansas City in 1875 during the family’s brief sojourn in the United States. They were back in England by 1881. Brough, who appears to have launched his career as an entertainer in 1896, was married in 1900 to Frances Nellie Whitby and by her had three children, Sidney Martin Brough (1901-), Cyril Edwin Brough (1905-1982) and Millie Brough (later Mrs Harold Ewart Percivall, 1910-2006). He died in Carlisle, Cumberland, on 10 February 1919 aged 44.

* * * * *

‘THE ANGLO-AMERICAN ENTERTAINER,
‘OLDBURY BROUGH,
‘Gives a refined and amusing programme (10 minutes to 2 hours) consisting of
‘HUMOROUS AND MUSICAL SKETCHES, SONGS, RECITALS, STORYETTES, ECCENTRICITIES, &c.
‘The Primrose League Gazette, January 1, 1903, says: ”A charming and most entertaining programme was carried out by Mr. Oldbury Brough, who had hot only a keen sense of humour, but is an accomplished and talented musician.”
Circular with full particulars, post free. Address –
‘48, FULHAM PARK GARDENS, LONDON, S.W.’
(The Primrose League Gazette, London, February 1903, p. 2a, advertisement)

Town Hall, Edmonton, north London, Thursday, 27 October 1904
‘A musical entertainment was given before a large audience at the Town Hall, Edmonton, on Thursay, the 27th ult, by the Edmonton Musical Association, under the patronage of the Rev E.A.B. Sanders, M.A., the president of the association.
‘The following programme was well rendered and much appreciated. Duet, ”Over the Heather,” by Miss Annie Bartle and Mr Alexander Tucker. Violin solo, ”Les Filenses” and ”Polonaise,” Miss Dorothy Bull. Musical sketch, ”A Suburban Soirie by Mr Oldbury Brough who also gave an amazing and musical absurdity aptly and artfully announced as ”A Musical Lesson.” Songs, ”Still is the night”, and ”The Old Trombone,” by Mr Alexander Tucker. Recitals, ”Boy Billie” [and] ”The Man who apologised” were rendered by Miss Elmie Kemp as was [sic] the songs, ”When the heart is young” and ”The waking of Spring,” by Miss Annie Bartle. Mr Alexander Tucker again obliged in the songs, ”Three for Jack,” and ”Big Ben,” in good style. A humorous song ”Play ze game” by Mr Oldbury Brough and ”Concerning the Telephone” was well received. Miss Dorothy Bull’s third appearance was admired in a violin solo, ”Hejie Katie.” The accompanist was Mr W. Emerson, to whom much praise is due.’
(The Edmonton & Tottenham Weekly Guardian, Edmonton, north London, Friday, 4 November 1904, p. 3a)

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Blanche Owen, English music hall and concert singer

March 31, 2015

Blanche Owen (active 1870-1875), English music hall and concert singer
(lithograph flyer, 1872)

‘Mr. Alexander McDonald.
‘A successful and very interesting entertainment was given on Monday evening by Mr. Alexander McDonald, at the Spread Eagle Assembly Rooms, Wandsworth [south west London]. Mr. McDonald is one of the many who have recently adopted the profession of a public reader, and at the same time he is one of the very few who can approach Mr. Charles Dickens or Mr. Bellew either in voice or in the rendering of the works of great authors. His longest as well as his shortest ”reading” is committed to memory, and is delivered without nots or reference, word for word, as it is found in the book; with action suited to the word, and word to the action. His voice is powerful, flexible, and of very pleasing quality. Every word is distinctly heard, the softest utterance or the fullest exhibition of passion and energy being equally seized by the most distant among the audience. We have hear Mr. McDonald declaim the selection from Nicholas Nickleby with remarkable intelligence and force; but on Monday evening his selections were of the humorous type, including the ”Election for Beadle” (by Dickens), ”Pyramus and Thisbe,””Blind-man’s Buff,” and ”A Norrible Tale” (by E.L. Blanchard). The audience was kept in full laughter throughout. The entertainment is very agreeably varied by the introduction of some ballads by Professional singers. Miss Blanche Owen, a very pretty lady with a ringing soprano voice, and a marvellous set of teeth, made an impression upon the audience generally, and upon the writer particularly. This was not the case with a young gentleman who sung Kucken’s ”O’er vale and mountain,” and who was specially described in the programme as a ”tenor.” The gentleman who presided at the piano played very cleverly, and, besides, contributed to the merriment of the evening by a quaint manner of walking on and off the stage.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 6 March 1870, p. 5c)

‘Beaumont Institution, Mile-End [London].
‘The annual entertainment in aid of the funds of the Horn of Plenty Philanthropic Society took place at the above Institution on Tuesday evening last [21 February 1871]. The objects of the Society are in every respect praiseworthy, and by means of these entertainments some thirty or forty pounds are annually raised and expended in bread, coals, &c., among the poor of the district. The proceedings, which were of a miscellaneous character, commenced with a pianoforte selection by Mr. C. Solomon, after which the Pickwick Histrionic Club appeared in [J. Maddison] Morton’s comic drama, produced last spring [21 April 1870] at the Royalty Theatre [London], entitled Little Mother… . The chief feature of the performance was the Kitty Clark, or Little Mother, of Miss Alice Vincent. The acting of this talented young lady was in every respect praiseworthy, and the style in which she ”lectured” the old dentist, spurned his gift, and thrust him from her door, elicited loud laughter and well-deserved applause. Miss Blanche Owen as Fanny, whose amatory relations with Christopher form the basis of the plot, acted with pleasing intelligence; and on the fall of the curtain the whole of the performers were enthusiastically cheered. Miss Blanche Owen afterwards appeared and sang ”The Watch on the Rhine” and ”The Marseillaise.” In the latter she carried the tri-colour and wore a crape scarf. Her singing was much admired, but why two verses of ”The Marseillaise” were given in English and one in French we were unable to learn …’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 26 February 1871, p. 12a)

‘ROYAL SURREY GARDENS [London]. – Mr. F. Strange has engaged Mr. Howard Paul and a talented concert and entertainment party to appear next week in a series of amusing impersonations, all of which will be given in costume. Mr. Howard Paul ranks among the best of those who ”sing a song and tell a story” on the stage, and the artistes who assist him, Miss Laura Joyce, Miss Blanche Owen, and Miss Nelly Ford, come well endorsed as young and talented aspirants to public favour.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 2 June 1872, p. 12a)

‘MUSIC HALL SURREY STREET. [Sheffield, Yorkshire]
‘THIS EVENING, AND DURING THE WEEK.
‘PEOPLE’S CONCERTS,
‘In Magnificent Costumes.
‘MISS LAURA JOYCE,
‘In Six Songs and Impersonations, including a Lecture on Woman’s Rights.
‘MISS BLANCHE OWEN,
‘In Six Songs and Impersonations, including ”TONY TOPPER, THE NEWS BOY.”
‘MISS NELLY FORD,
‘The Most Accomplished Little Pianist in the World.
‘MR. HOWARD PAUL,
‘In his latest and greatest hit, ”I am so Volatile.”
‘Doors Open at Half-past Seven; commence at Eight. Carriages at Ten.
‘Front Seats (Reserved), 2s.; Second Seats, 1s.; Gallery and Back of Room, 6d.
‘Tickets may be had and places secured at Mr. FREEMANILL’S Music Warehouse, High street.’
(The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Sheffield, Yorkshire, Monday, 7 October 1872, p. 1a, advertisement)

The Marylebone music hall, London
‘… Miss Blanche Owen, who is here, is new to us. She has a pleasing, winsome manner, and sings with ease and distinctness. The strains which she rendered in our hearing were ”While the sun is shining always make your hay,” ”Good-bye, Charley,” and another.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 2 November 1872, p. 4c)

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Bromley Booth, English violin virtuoso

March 29, 2015

Bromley Booth (1869-1944), English violin virtuoso
(photo: unknown; postcard no. 2638A in the Rotary Photographic Series published by the Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd., London, circa 1908)

William Bromley Booth, who was born in Doncaster, was a member of a noted musical family from Yorkshire. His parents were George Booth (1831-1917, one of the sons of Edward Booth, a professor of music of Leeds), an organist and professor of music, and Mary Elizabeth (née Bromley, 1838-1903). His brothers were the pianist and concert promoter, George Edward Booth (1868-1954) and Edward Charles Booth (1872-1954), who played both ‘cello and piano and who later became a novelist.

Bromley Booth made his first public appearances when quite young but it was not until 29 October 1897 that he made his London debut at St. James’s Hall, Piccadilly. He appears to have retired in 1933, before, on 29 June that year, his violin was sold by auction at Puttick & Simpson, London. During the First World War he served with the Royal Army Service Corps. He died on 28 June 1944 at Peniston Cottage, Scalby, Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

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Topsy Sinden and Lily Elsie on tour in See-See, early 1907

March 6, 2015

Topsy Sinden (1877-1950) and Lily Elsie (1886-1962), as they appeared respectively as So-Hie and See-See, with ladies of the chorus, on tour in the United Kingdom during the first few months of 1907 with George Edwardes’s Company‘ in the ‘New Chinese Comic Opera,’ See-See. So-Hie and See-See were originally played by Gabrielle Ray and Denise Orme when See-See was first produced at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, on 20 June 1906.
(photo: Foulsham & Banfield, London, late 1906/early1907; postcard no 3283F in the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd’s Rotary Photographic Series, published London, early 1907)

”’SEE SEE” AT HAMMERSMITH.
‘Miss Lily Elsie, who played the title rôle in ”The New Aladdin” at the Gaiety, gave a charming performance of ”See See” at the King’s, Hammersmith, last night. Miss Elsie has an engaging presence and a charming voice, and altogether gives promise of a brilliant future. Mr. George Edwardes has staged the popular Chinese comic opera very handsomely, both as regards scenery and company. Mr. Frank Danby and Mr. W.H. Rawlins keep the fun going, and the singing, acting, and dancing of Miss Amy Augarde, Mr. Leonard Mackay, and Miss Topsy Sinden are delightful. The production was enthusiastically received by a full house.’
(The Standard, London, Tuesday, 30 April 1907, p. 4f)

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Lily Elsie as Princess Soo Soo in A Chinese Honeymoon, April 1903

March 5, 2015

Lily Elsie (1886-1962), English musical comedy star, as she appeared as Princess Soo Soo in the musical comedy A Chinese Honeymoon. a part initially played by Violet Dene on tour when the piece was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Hanley, on 16 October 1899, and by Beatrice Edwards when the production opened in London at the Strand Theatre on 5 October 1901. Miss Edwards was succeeded (circa March 1902) by Kate Cutler and then (October 1902) by Mabel Nelson who in turn was succeeded by Lily Elsie when the latter took up the part of Soo Soo on Monday, 20 April 1903.
(photo: R.W. Thomas, Cheapside, London, 1903; colour halftone postcard no. 114 in C. Modena & Co’s ‘Ducal’ series, published London, 1903)

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Lisa Weber’s death and burial, Buffalo, New York, October 1887

March 3, 2015

Lisa Weber (1844?-1887), English burlesque actress, one of Lydia Thompson’s original ‘British Blondes.’ She died in reduced circumstances while on tour in the burlesque Little Jack Sheppard at Buffalo, New York, on 23 October 1887. She was buried at New Forest Lawn Cemetery two days later.

(carte de visite photo: Howell, New York, circa 1868)

‘Lisa Weber Buried.

‘Buffalo, Oct. 25 [1887]. – The curtain has fallen upon the last act of Lisa Weber’s life, and the actress has stepped out upon the boards of an unknown stage. It was an indescribably pathetic little funeral that took place from the Eagle House this morning. Lisa Weber was once a successful and popular actress on the burlesque stage. Reverses came with age, and this year she took out a variety company on the road. Last Monday night she played the rôle of ”Little Jack Sheppard” at the Adelphi Theatre, but on Tuesday she fell sick. Her illness continued during the week and she was ”left behind” by her company. Sunday morning she died. She was in destitute circumstances, and members of the profession playing in Buffalo did what could be done to provide for her temporal wants. To secure a final resting place a lot in Forest Lawn was bought. The Rev. John E. Bold, of St. James’s Episcopal Church, conducted the funeral service. The pall bearers were chosen from members of the dramatic company now in Buffalo. A large number of the dramatic profession was present.’

(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 26 October 1887, p. 5c)

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First edition of Footlight Notes, November 1994

March 1, 2015

Footlight Notes, cover proof of the first edition, published November 1994, featuring a photograph of Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973), English musical comedy actress and dancer, as Polly Polino in Peggy, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 March 1911
(photo: Bassano, London, 1 June 1911, negative no. 40747, 2nd of 15 poses).

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