Florrie Forde

April 27, 2013

an early appearance in Brisbane, Australia, of Florrie Forde (1875-1940), Australian-born British music hall singer and pantomime principal boy
(photo: unknown, probably UK, late 1890s)

‘A complete change of programme was effected by the All National Minstrel and Novelty Company at the Theatre Royal on Saturday evening. The attendance was extremely encouraging, the house being packed in every part, many downstairs having to be content with standing room. The reception of the company was as enthusiastic as the audience was large; indeed, the demands for encores was at times monotonous, and certainly unfair to the performers. The members of the company, for the first part, which was of a miscellaneous character, were pleasingly grouped, and a liberal display of electric light and bunting aided in no small measure the management in its efforts to compose a brilliant stage picture. Mr. Edward Holland was the only new end man, his associates being Messrs. Alf. Lawton, Sam. Keenan, and Will. Leslie. These four knights of the burnt cork with their quips and cranks kept the fun going merrily, and eschewed as far as possible the recital of ”chestnuts.” Their efforts were well seconded by Mr. James Crayden, the interlocutor. The songs forming the first portion of the performance were, on the whole, well selected, and generally equally well sung. In ”The Fisherman and his Child” Mr. A. Farley’s fine basso voice was heard to advantage, and the undeniable demand for an encore was well merited. Miss Ella M’Donald was scarcely at home in her selection of ”Old Madrid,” but the popularity of the song has not waned – a fact testified to by the audience. Miss Lillie Rowley chose ”The night bird’s cooing” – a difficult number – and on the whole acquitted herself with credit. Perhaps the finest effort of the evening was Mr. Henry Clay’s interpretation of the fine old song ”The Anchor’s Weighed.” Mr. Clay did justice to Braham’s able work, and had to respond to a vociferously demanded repeat. The light and comic element was furnished by Miss Florrie Forde, Miss Clara Spencer, Edward Holland, Sam. Keenan, Will. Leslie, Alf. Lawton, and last as well as least – in point of size – Master Freddie Leslie. Honours in this department were shared by Miss Forde – who infused much life in recording the desires of a stage-struck maiden and was so far successful as to cause the ”gods” to cry, ”Good on you, Mary Ann” – and the juvenile Leslie. The second part opened with a vocal ballet based on a song which has many references to Monte Carlo, and danced by eight young ladies arrayed in somewhat gorgeous, if sparse drapery, who did a fair amount of high kicking. This was followed by an equally gay terpsichorean display by four ladies, described as a ”pas de quatre.” This had to be repeated. Master Freddie Leslie sang the now well-known comic song ”Close,” and gave a good account of himself. An Irish speciality by Craydon and Holland kept the audience well amused for nearly half-an-hour. These comedians are not unknown to Brisbane playgoers, whose anticipations on Saturday of something good were realised to the full. As a recall they sang a parody on the done-to-death American song ”After the Ball,” in which some really funny business was introduced. Miss Florrie Forde contributed ”As the church bells chime” with such effect as to secure an encore, and Sam. Keenan so disturbed the risible faculties of his auditors as to threaten serious consequences for some of them. It would be difficult to decide which was most grotesque – his facial expressions or his make up. The Leslie Brothers appeared in a sketch entitled, ”Music Mad.” This item was the gem of the second part. Not only were the audience amused by the witticisms of Fred. – who as burnt-cork artist has few rivals – but they were entertained with selections on most out-of-the-way instruments, but out of which excellent music was drawn. The entertainment concluded with a farce called ”Slatery’s Home,” in which six members of the company let their auditors into the secrets of an Irishman’s home, and furnished some scope for Alf. Lawton and Clare Spencer’s representation of the larrikin and his ”donah.” The same programme will be repeated until further notice.’
(The Brisbane Courier, Brisbane, Australia, Monday, 5 March 1894, p. 6d)


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