Posts Tagged ‘Alhambra (Leicester Square London)’


Alexandra Dagmar and Edmond DeCelle, duettists, United States and United Kingdom, 1890s

December 24, 2014

Dagmar and DeCelle (active 1890s), Anglo-American duettists: Alexandra Dagmar (1868-1940), English music hall vocalist and pantomime principal boy, and Edmond DeCelle (1854?-1920), American tenor
(cabinet photo: Robinson & Roe, 54 West 14th Street, New York, and 77 & 79 Clark Street, Chicago, circa 1890)

‘(By Our Special Commissioner.)
‘Few of the critics, lay and professional, who waxed so enthusiastic over Miss Dagmar’s performance in the pantomime [Cinderella, produced on 24 December 1894] at [the Metropole Theatre] Camberwell had any idea that the lady then made her first appearance in the capacity of a principal boy. But such was the case. Previously Miss Dagmar had appeared on our variety stage, and, as she is an important from America, the impression prevailed that she is a product of the United States. But that is not the case. Miss Dagmar is a London girl, of Danish parents, which may account for her Junoesque proportions and wondrously fair hair. Her association with the stage began some ten years ago, when a friend of the family, remarking her beautiful voice, suggested a professional career. Miss Dagmar was delighted by the very thought. Her father, however, was reluctant, and it was some time ere he could be prevailed upon to let his daughter avail herself of an introduction to Miss Sarah Thorne. But at length all obstacles were overcome, and Miss Alexandra Dagmar became a very humble member of the theatrical profession, playing a fairy, ”of something of that kind,” she vaguely recalls, in a travelling pantomime, on the old subject of ”Peter Wilkins.” She has a vivid recollection of papa escorting her to Maidstone and committing her to the sober and respectable care of a temperance hotel.
‘But good luck was in store for her – good luck that grew, as it sometimes will, out of another’s misfortune. The second girl fell ill – Miss Dagmar was, after no more than a week’s experience, promoted to the part thus vacated, and continued to play it during the fifteen weeks ensuing. Her great effort was a ballad entitled ”Waiting.” Miss Dagmar recalls that one of her companions during a delightful engagement was none other than Miss Janet Achurch, who played the Fairy Queen. After an experience on the stage as free from temptation and knowledge of the great world as a sojourn in a seminary might be, Miss Dagmar returned to the bosom of her family, and her further devotion to the stage was regarded with much disfavour. But the circumstances of her friends underwent a sudden change, and Miss Dagmar was, in fact, quite grateful for the necessity to make the most of her talent. The most lucrative engagement that offered was to visit America, and there join the Boston Redpath Lyceum Bureau.
‘This is a curious and interesting organisation. It forms concert parties and other entertaining bodies, and sends them the round of high-class social institutions – literary society, young men’s Christian associations, and the like. The performances were given in evening dress, and were as proper as proper could be. The company that Miss Dagmar first joined had especially a German character, and she became a notable singer of Volkslieder. For several years Miss Dagmar travelled with the Redpath Lyceum companies; and here one Mr De Celle appears on the scene. Mr De Celle comes from Chicago, and has all his life been devoted to music – as a singer and as a manager for eminent performers. In his time has has, for instance, engineered Remenyi and Ovide Musin, the violinists. Mr De Celle was the manager of the Lyceum company to which Miss Dagmar belonged, and took a special interest in the development of her voice. Some four years ago [sic] they were married.
‘When Miss Dagmar left the Redpath Lyceum she soon found herself in great request with the managers of high-class variety entertainments. At Koster and Bial’s, for instance, she is a great favourite. Alone, or as eventually she appeared, in association with Mr De Celle, Miss Dagmar has appeared at Koster and Bial’s for two years in the aggregate, and she rejoices in a general invitation from Mr Albert Bial to make the famous variety theatre her home. At first Miss Dagmar used to sing on the variety stage in evening dress. Then she had the happy thought of giving in costume excerpts from popular operas, her husband also taking part. The managers of the American theatres, so Miss Dagmar tells you, look upon the variety performer with friendly toleration. ”Sing your exceprt,” they say, ”and welcome. So far from your injuring us, you give us a valuable advertisement.” So Mr De Celle and his wife acquired a vast repertory of operatic fragments. An except from La Cigale was a notable favourite with American audiences. But when the duettists reached England a stern copyright law assailed their repertory on every side, and decimated it. They are left with nothing much to sing besides their always popular jödel. And the worst of it is, pay what money they will for original compositions, they get nothing to suit them.
‘One has run ahead a little. From time to time, ere yet they left America, Miss Dagmar and Mr de Celle appeared with ”combinations,” and notably with Mr William A. Brady‘s companies. They appeared in the variety scene when he produced After Dark, and when eventually he set out with Gentleman Jack, they ”supported” Mr Jim Corbett during a tour of the phenomenal success. Miss Dagmar, in making up her mind to visit England some nine months ago, had two objects in view. She wanted to ”go in for” a severe course of study; and she wanted to distinguish herself as a burlesque boy. Alas! burlesque boys were not in strong demand, and Miss Dagmar determined on a pilgrimage to Italy. But Mr. Brady, then about to exploit Corbett over here, begged his old friends to join him; and so they did, although there were not able to take part in the first week’s performances of Gentleman Jack at Drury-lane [21 April-5 May 1894]. This, by the way, was a memorable period of Miss Dagmar’s life. She wore tights for the first time! One’s demand for a full and particular account of the sensations that a young lady experiences in such circumstances is doomed to disappointment, for Miss Dagmar says, ”Well, you may call it the first time; for I had just had them on previously. That that began my career as a stage boy.”
‘London music hall managers were quick to appreciate the worth of the new turn. Since Miss Dagmar and Mr De Celle arrived in London they have never been out of an engagement, their notable successes having been achieved at the Palace Theatre, the Alhambra, and the Royal. Their services have been secured for well nigh six months to come, and during the spring and early summer they will visit a series of the great continental music halls. Meanwhile, neither of the objects that Miss Dagmar had in view when she determined to come to London has been lost sight of. She meant to study, and she is studying very diligently, with Mr [Albert] Visetti, at the Guildhall School of Music. As to the principal boy? Well, here is the progress of the principal boy. The tantalising delays attendant upon the completion of his theatre at Camberwell left Mr [John Brennan] Mulholland in grave doubt as to whether he should be able to do a pantomime this year or not. When at length he could make arrangements there was probably the shortest space of time at his disposal that ever a manager dared to contemplate for the preparation of a Christmas annual. But he had many potent influences at command, and with wondrous tact and energy he manipulated them to the point of success. Who should be principal boy? That was, indeed, a momentous question. Would Miss Dagmar like the engagement, said her agent? Was not Miss Dagmar, indeed, dying to show London what she could do in this capacity[?] She set to work, and for the first time in her life found herself an important figure in the development of a story on the stage. Miss Dagmar is perfectly delighted with her success. And, indeed, her ambition has received a particular incentive that is not yet the time to disclose. But the variety stage may, at any rate, take a hint to make the most of her while it can. Camberwell is not so very far from the Strand – nor too far for the excursions of observant managers, with eyes wide open when new ”talent” is airing itself, and words of honey on their lips when the discussion of future arrangements begins. Of one thing Miss Dagmar is quite certain. She never had a happier thought than when she determined, after so long an interval, to resume her theatrical career in circumstances curiously similar to those wherein she left it. The years ago she played in a pantomime with conspicuous success, and by the way of a pantomime she has stepped into a position of gratifying distinction on the London stage.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 January 1895, p. 11e)


Maud Rochez, animal trainer and proprietor of a music hall and vaudeville monkey act

October 27, 2014

Maud Rochez (1885?-1930), animal trainer and proprietor of a celebrated monkey act
(postcard photo: unknown, circa 1906)

Maud Rochez (née Birtwhistle) was the wife of Harry Rochez (Henry James Percy Dutfield Rochez, 1869-1955), whom she married at Cardiff in 1903. She appears to have retired from performing about 1920 after which her husband continued with their act.

Keith’s Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts, week beginning Monday, 2 August 1909
‘The regular vaudeville section of the bill will be even stronger than that of last week, and will have as a leading feature a summer sensation on Hammerstein’s Roof. It is called ”An Amateur Night in a Monkey Music Hall,” and act brought over from England by Maud Rochez, in which there is a large company of monkeys giving an entire performance on a stage built on the stage.
‘They are even provided with a monkey orchestra, the leader of which is an artist in that way. The monkeys themselves manage the stage, drawing the curtain, hanging the cards, setting the stage, and introducing the money actors.’
(The Boston Sunday Post, Boston, Massachusetts, Sunday, 1 August 1909, dramatic page)

London Coliseum, June 1911
‘Maud Rochez’s monkys are always welcome, and their return to the Coliseum bill is a feature worth recording. A miniature music-hall performance is provided entirely by a troupe of well-trained monkeys, who do everything on their own unimpeded by the usual officious parading of a conceited trainer. It is a unique show, and withal an incomparably good one.’
(‘Between the Turns,’ Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 10 June 1911, p. 770a)

The Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, January 1927
‘London, Jan. 18 [1927] … The Alhambra holiday program was a magnet for the huge crowds filling the Leicester Square building. Daisy Taylor, Scotch singing comedienne, with pianist also attired in Highland costume, opened. This was a tough spot for this kind of an act. Went over very well, however. Clay Keyes, the dancing club juggler, was on second, and what a hit! Harry Rochez’ Monkey Music Hall was a scream, with the simians as orchestra and other monks [sic] as variety performers. The part that tickled me was where the monk [sic] doing the ”strong act” always heaved his props into the orchestra when he had finished with them. What a wow that would be in real life! Debroy Somer’s [sic] Band, very good outfit, played their stuff with brilliance. Hilda Glyder in snappy songs was a big hit, especially in her dance bit after singing ”Am I Wasting My Time?” The society entertainer in hob-nailed boots then rolled on – and what did not Bill Bennett do to ‘em! Layton & Johnstone were their usual popular triumph, with The Hassans, novelty wire and cycling act, closing.’
(Frank O’Connell, The Vaudeville News and New York Star, New York, 22 January 1927, p. 6a/b)


Clyde Cook, Australian comic actor and acrobatic dancer and comedian in London, 1915, and California, 1924

August 9, 2014

Clyde Cook (1891-1984), Australian comic actor and acrobatic comedian and dancer, at about the time of his appearance in 5064 Gerrard!, an André Charlot revue which ran at the Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, from 19 March until the end of August 1915.
(photo: unknown, circa 1915)

Clyde Cook in The Misfit, USA, released 23 March 1924 (courtesy of Undercranck Productions


four members of the corps de ballet in one of the Indian Dances from The Dance Dream, a ballet in seven tableaux, invented and produced by the Bolshoi Theatre’s ballet-master, Alexander A. Gorsky, at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, on 29 May 1911

May 22, 2014

four members of the corps de ballet in one of the Indian Dances from
The Dance Dream
, a ballet in seven tableaux, invented and produced by the Bolshoi Theatre’s ballet-master, Alexander A. Gorsky, at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, on 29 May 1911, with music selected and arranged by George W. Byng. The principals were the Russian dancers, Ekaterina Geltser and Vasili Tikhomirov, with Marjorie Skelley (recruited from the Empire, Leicester Square, where she had understudied Adeline Genée), Gina Cormani and Agnes Healy of the Alhambra’s permanent company.
(photo: Foulsham & Banfield, London, 1911)

For further information, see Ivor Guest, Ballet in Leicester Square, London, 1992, pp. 78-80.


Professor Duncan’s Marvellous Collie Dogs as the London Canine Fire Brigade, mid 1890s

March 15, 2014

Professor Duncan’s Marvellous Collie Dogs (active late 19th-mid 20th Century), latterly billed as Duncan’s Royal Scotch Collies
(photo: unknown, circa 1895)

The Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, autumn 1895
‘Of all the numerous so-called dog shows which have been brought before the music-hall public lately, none have impressed us so favourably as that given by Professor Duncan and his collie dogs. The Alhambra audiences have for weeks past literally screamed with delight at the really wonderful deeds of these canine prodigies. There is one feature in particular which recommends the performance to every lover of dogs, and lies in the fact that Professor Duncan take the dogs through the whole of their performance without the use of a whip or stick of any kind, but (and there’s his secret) there is always a morsel of dog mean and a caress for the dog who has successfully accomplished his task. The photographs given here were especially taken for The Picture Magazine… [In one] we have a representation of the ”London Canine Fire Brigade.” The story is this: An outbreak of fire is announced, and the brigade start with their engine. They arrive on the scene of the disaster and a ladder is put up to one of the windows. A child is known to be asleep in the upper room. For one of the dogs to climb the latter, fetch the baby and lay it down in safety, is the work of a minute, but, alas! The exertion has been too great, the dog is exhausted and drops dead by the side of the saved child. A stretcher is brought and the dog is placed on it, when, lo! there comes his poor widow … There is a pretty story told by Mr. Duncan regarding this part of the performance, and which actually suggested it. It appears that Mr. and Mrs. Duncan were in their sitting-room one evening, when suddenly an unusual noise was heard, and before inquiries could be made, in came Duke …, carrying the three-month-old baby, whose clothes had caught fire at a stove in the room above… .’
(The Picture Magazine, London, November 1895, pp. 291-293)

* * * * *

‘Mr Tom Prichard, who introduced Professor Duncan’s collies to the West-end variety establishments, intends astonishing the world shortly with a horse that turns a somersault. The animal walks in an upright position both on his front and hind legs.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 20 January 1894, p. 17d)

Kennel Gossip.
‘Canine Firemen. – what a strange fascination the fire brigade has for some dogs. Of course we have all heard stories of the ”The Fireman’s Dog,” [sic] yet no one has yet explained wherein the charm lies. We shall never forget how on one occasion we were passing a large fire brigade station when the bell rang to summon the firemen to their work. No call to play was ever more eagerly responded to than was the bell by the yard-dog, who, in an incredibly short time, was careering after the engine, ready to play his part in the dangerous work before his masters. The Glasgow brigade is the latest to add a new member to their staff. The dog, a collie, is a volunteer, as he attached himself to the brigade, and steadfastly refused to leave it. Wallace now invariably accompanies the men, and is always the first to enter a burning building, no matter now fiercely the flames rage. If all Professor Duncan’s collies, which are now amusing the people at the London Palace, were as eager to undertake this work as the dogs we have mentioned, the competition for the famous fire scene in which one collie mounts a fire escape and rescue a baby from the flames must have been keen.’
(The Nottinghamshire Guardian, London, Saturday, 14 July 1894, p. 7f)

South London Palace, week beginning Monday, 7 January 1895
‘The marvellous intelligence shown by Mr Duncan’s collies excites wonder and admiration, and their appearance is one of the most attractive features of the current programme.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 January 1895, p. 16b)

Collins’s music hall, Islington, week beginning ‘The Dog Show at the Agricultural Hall has brought a good many people to Islington this week, and no inconsiderable number of them have availed themselves of the opportunity of paying a visit to Mr Herbert Sprake’s music hall just across the road. For these dog fanciers the most attractive item in the programme would doubtless be Professor Duncan’s collies, which have been trained to do the most wonderful performances. The most startling proof of canine sagacity is afforded by the fire scene, where one of the collies acts as a fireman, and accomplishes a gallant rescue from a burning house, winning the unstinted applause of the delighted audience.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 15 February 1896, p. 18b)

* * * * *

Vic Duncan, Professor Duncan’s son, continued Duncan’s collies act from the late 1920s until 1958. He became chairman of the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund and died at the age of 91 on 12 September 1988


Mdlle. Sara with Emily Soldene’s Company, Cincinnati, 1877

February 10, 2014

Mdlle. Sara (Sarah Wright, active late 1860s-early 1880s), English dancer, who caused a sensation as part of the Colonna Troupe of Can-Can dancers at the Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, in 1871, and who subsequently joined Emily Soldene, appearing in London, Australia and the United States.
(carte de visite photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1871 or early 1872)

Mdlle. Sara with Emily Soldene’s Company, Cincinnati, 1877
‘Soldene’s New Kicker… .
‘They produced the Grand Duchesse last night, and displayed the great danseuse and champion kicker, ”Sara.” The second scene ushered in the dancers, so anxiously looked for by this masculine audience, viz: M’lle Sara, Miss Slater, Miss Barber and Miss Norton.
‘The premier of this quartette, ”Sara,” said to have been formerly known in New Orleans as ”Wiry Sal,” is a phenomenal dancer and kicker. She is a small woman, with a childish face, rather tawny skin, to judge by her face, and small arms, yellow hair, that is either very wild naturally or cultivated to be, bright, flashing eyes, a small bust and body, rather thin and wiry then other wise, and such legs! They are large, muscular members, that throw out the strong lines of muscle with every motion. Her dancing is wild, and decidedly weird; it is of the fantastic and eminently muscular school. She flashes about the stage like lightning, leasing the fastest music. She whirls like a dervish, until, with the momentum that she acquires as she comes down the stage, it seems impossible that she should keep from dashing down into the orchestra.
‘At times she throws her legs up until her toes are far above her head. She can stand on one leg and shoulder the other as a soldier does his musket. Her assistants in the dance, which is of the can-can order, are all well trained and fine-limbed women, Their dancing last night was greatly applauded, and Sara’s exertions, which threw the audience into a sympathetic perspiration, were cheered wildly to the encore.’
(The Cincinnati Commercial quoted by Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, 17 May 1877, p. 3f)


Lil Hawthorne as she appeared in 1898 and 1899 singing ‘Take it Home and Give it to the Baby’

February 3, 2014

Lil Hawthorne (1877-1926), American-born British music hall star and pantomime principal boy, as she appeared in 1898 and 1899 singing ‘Take it Home and Give it to the Baby,’ a song by William Furst with words by C.M.S. McLellan which was sung by Pauline Hall of the Pauline Hall Opera Company in the comic opera, The Honeymooners, which was first produced in the United States in 1893.
(photo: unknown, UK, probably 1898)

The Oxford music hall, London, week beginning Monday, 12 July 1898
‘A highly popular favourite at the Oxford is Miss Lil Hawthorne, a beautiful American girl, one of the Three Sisters Hawthorne, who made such a hit in ”The Willow Pattern Plate” last year. ”Lil,” while singing her first song, creates a diversion by distributing a number of dolls among the audience. In her second item, ”Sweet Rosie O’Grady,” she is assisted in the chorus by a young standing in the circle, and is vociferously encored and recalled after an emphatic success.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 16 July 1898, p. 16a)

The Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, week beginning Monday, 22 August 1899
‘Since our last notice of the variety entertainment at the Alhambra, the company has been reinforced by the enlistment of Miss Lil Hawthorne, who, attired as a doll-seller, songs ”Take it home and give it to the baby,” flinging some of her poupéesto the eager and delighted audience, who warmly applaud her. She Has a handsome appearance and a good voice, and sings with expressive earnestness.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 26 August 1899, p. 18a)

The Granville music hall, Waltham Green, London, week beginning Monday, 30 October 1899
‘Miss Lil Hawthorne (formerly of the Three Sisters Hawthorne) is very popular with the Waltham-green folk, and her capital voice and charming appearance are largely responsible for her undoubted success. She gets at the hearts of the women-folk in her first song, ”Take it home and give it to the baby,” by a distribution of toy dolls, but takes admiration by storm in her second item, ”I’ll be your sweetheart,” the chorus of which is chanted from the balcony by a sweet-voiced youth.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 4 November 1899, p. 19b)