Florrie Forde

July 4, 2013

Florrie Forde (1876-1940), Australian-born British music hall singer and pantomime principal boy, takes her benefit during the run of the pantomime Red Riding Hood, Prince’s Theatre, Bradford, Tuesday, 2 March 1909
(photo: J.P. Bamber Galleries, Blackpool, England, circa 1912)

‘The popularity of Miss Florrie Forde was never so manifest as it was last night, when, on the occasion of her benefit performance, a crowd that thronged every part of the Prince’s Theatre cheered her every song and greeted her every appearance with boisterous applause. At the end of almost every act there were bouquets to hand up from the orchestra. There were large bouquets, small bouquets, spray bouquets, and shower bouquets of every description, but all showing the admiration in which she is held. Nor was she alone favoured, for there were also gifts for many of the other artists.
‘The performance itself was specially attractive. James Elivo was given a well-deserved rest, his place being taken for the occasion by Mr. Nathaniel Hepworth, the genial acting-manager, who is shortly leaving to take up the managership of the Leeds Royal Theatre. In addition, a large number of artists had come from the music halls in Bradford, Leeds, and Halifax to add to the evening’s enjoyment.
‘The more serious and, from some aspects, the most pleasing, portion of the entertainment was during the seventh scene, when a number of interesting presentations were made. Mr. Francis Laidler, the proprietor-manager, stepped on to the stage and delivered a happy little speech. He commenced by saying that, as was well known, the pantomime had been a record so far as the Prince’s Theatre was concerned. They had still to run one week, making eleven and a half weeks in all, which, so far as he was able to gather, was the longest run of any pantomime in the kingdom, with the exception of Drury Lane. Every member of the company would agree with him when he said that much of the success was due to his principal boy, Miss Florrie Forde. Not only was she an able artist, but her personal charm had endeared her to all. She was held in the highest esteem by every member of the company, and was simply worshipped by the children. ”It is artists of the character and disposition of Miss Florrie Forde,” he concluded, ”who have raised the tone of the theatre and the music halls to such a high level as it is to-day.”
‘With a few appropriate words, Mr. James Elvio, on behalf of the company, then presented Miss Forde with a handsome silver eclectic centre lamp, suitably inscribed; and Mr. Bert Byrne was chosen to give her a fine picture of herself by a local artist from an anonymous donor. Many other gifts were then presented from private friends.
‘Miss Forde was loudly cheered on coming forward to respond. She thanks the company and the public generally for the kind way they had treated her. As regarded any work she might have been able to do for the charities, she was glad to say that next year she was to be in pantomime not far from Bradford, and she would no doubt be able to continue the work which had made her so happy.
‘At the request of Mr. Laidler, the audience sang ”For she’s a jolly good fellow,” which he said was quite in keeping, as she was principal boy.
‘Mr. H.T. Butler, the stage-manager, and Mr. Henry Rushworth, the musical-director, were the recipients of a gold pencil-case and a box of silver-backed brushes respectively, the gifts of Miss Forde.
‘Both replied happily, Mr. Rushworth mentioning the interesting fact that he would also be connected with Miss Forde during the next pantomime season as musical-director. This was afterwards explained by Mr. Laidler. Miss Forde is to be his principal boy in The Babes in the Wood at the Leeds Royal, which he has lately acquired, and where Mr. H. Rushworth is to go as musical-director in a week or so.
‘After the performance the presents and bouquets were shown on the stage. They completely covered the tops of two large tables.’
(Daily Telegraph, Bradford, Yorkshire, Wednesday, 3 March 1909)


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