Archive for West End

On the Tiller Girls: Pioneers in Precision Dance

Posted in British Music Hall, Broadway, Dance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2017 by travsd

British music theatre director John Tiller (1854-1925) was born on June 13. While skilled and trained in music and theatre arts since childhood, Tiller initially made his fortune in the family cotton business in Manchester until circumstances permitted him to pursue his theatrical interests more seriously around 1890. At that point, Tiller began presenting pantomimes and training young girls to perform in them at the professional level. He maintained a school for young performers much akin to the one Ned Wayburn would later start in America. As an outgrowth, he appears to have been a crucial innovator in the development of precision dance.

Now, it is often claimed that Tiller was the “inventor” of precision dance, but I doubt that, since images (photos, sketches paintings) of women in dance choruses arrayed in neat lines are readily available dating from many decades earlier than this. Another influence had to have been drill teams — believe it on not, male military drill teams were also popular on variety stages in the late 19th century. At any rate, Tiller seemed to have honed and refined the practice, demanding absolute uniformity in appearance and movement, becoming an early adapter of the kick-line and the feathered headdress, and apparently inventing the useful techniques of the dancers linking arms or holding each other’s waists in order to help coordinate and steady movement. He was also a pioneer in branding and promoting. His “Tiller Girls” were booked all over the world: Paris, London and the States, were booked for Broadway revues like the Ziegfeld Follies and George White’s Scandals, and were the inspiration for the Radio City Rockettes as well as the film routines of Busby Berkley. 

Tiller himself died in 1925 but various incarnations of The Tiller Girls have persisted and thrived with great popularity down to the present day.

For more on the history of show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever vitally informative books are sold

Stanley Lupino

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, British Music Hall, Comedy, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Movies, Music, Singers with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Stanley Lupino (1893-1942). One of the famous Lupino family of acrobats, today we remember him chiefly as the father of Ida Lupino, and the cousin of Lupino Lane and Wallace Lupino. 

Born in London, he began performing as a child in the family’s acrobatic troupe, worked for a pugilist as a while and then toured music hall with a succession of other acts, including the Albert and Edmunds troupe. This led to roles in pantomimes, which led to parts in musicals and legit shows (some of which he wrote) in the West End and Broadway starting in the 1920s. Throughout the 30s he starred in numerous British films, many of them adapted from his popular stage shows. He was also a popular fixture on BBC radio. The mult-talented Lupino also sang, dance, wrote songs and wrote and published works of fiction.

Here’s a clip from his 1936 vehicle Cheer Up!, recently released on DVD.

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.safe_image

 

And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Laddie Cliff

Posted in British Music Hall, Comedy, Dance, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Movies, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Laddie Cliff (Clifford Perry, 1891-1937). A native of Bristol, England, he began performing at the age of six. dancing in a minstrel show**, and subsequently became known as a comedian, singer and dancer in music hall. In 1907 he crossed the pond to play American vaudeville and remained on the U.S. circuits for 9 years, playing at such venues as New York’s Colonial theatre, the Folies Bergere and the Palace.

In 1916 he returned to England to serve in World War I. After the Armistice, he performed in, choreographed, and eventually produced numerous West End musicals, often in collaboration with Stanley Lupino (father of Ida and cousin of Wallace Lupino and Lupino Lane).  When he died at age 46 in a Swiss sanitarium he was called “one of the most popular comedians of the London stage”.

He also appeared in numerous British films during the 30s. This bit, featuring Cliff, Lupino and John Wood, is from Over She Goes, released posthumously in 1938.

To learn more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc.

**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad. 

 

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