Troupes [G-L]



(ca. 1930-32) The earliest George Sorlie’s New Vaudeville and Revue Company engagement found to date is in late 1931, although it could have been have been formed earlier that same year, or even in 1930. Among the performers linked to the company are Arthur Morley, Yvonne Banyard, Addie Lake, and Jewish comedian/ impersonator Sam Stern. Under Sorlie’s management the company served up an entertainment of first part vaudeville and second part revusicals, including several of Arthur Morley’s works. The company is also known to have staged at least one pantomime.



(1924-ca. 1930) After returning from New Zealand for the Fullers George Wallace debuted his revusical company at their Majestic Theatre, Newtown in August 1924. The troupe initially comprised several high profile vaudeville performers, notably Harry Burgess and Marshall Crosby, and later boasted such people as Sadie Gale, Ivy Moore, Lulla Fanning and Bert and Evelyn Dudley. Over the next five years, the troupe toured Australia and New Zealand constantly, presenting such shows as Harmony Row, His Royal Highness, The Oojah Bird, Lads of the Village and The Pickled Porter.



[aka Corbyn’s Original Georgia Minstrels / Moore & Lewis’s original Georgia Minstrels]

(1876-1879) An African-American troupe organised by Sheridan Corbyn for a tour of the Antipodes, the Georgia Minstrels played New Zealand before opening its Australian account in Newcastle in mid- December 1876. Shortly afterwards C. B. Hick’s brought his “Original Georgia Minstrels” to the region. Both companies sometimes appeared in the same city together which served to intensify their  public feud over the rights to use the name. After Corbyn departed the region in late 1877 his troupe was re-organised by R. B. Lewis and R. Moore. It also operated briefly as Lewis’s Original Georgia Minstrels (1878-79).



[aka C. B. Hicks’ Original Georgia Minstrels]

(Antipodean tour; 1877-1880). An African-American troupe formed in the USA by Charles Hicks in the mid-1860s, the Georgia Minstrels toured under several managements and with differing line-ups for around a decade (including tours of Great Britain and Germany).  The troupe that toured Australia disbanded in 1880 when Hicks returned to America broke. Several performers who remained (notably Sam Keenan, J. R. Matlock and Hosea Easton), went on to play key roles in the local industry’s development over the next decade or so.

For further details see: Richard Waterhouse. “Antipodean Odyssey: Charles B. Hicks and the New Georgia Minstrels in Australia 1877-1880.” Journal of the Royal Historical Society 72 (1986), 19-39.



(1922-1924) Comprising comedian/manager Dick Norton, two former Smart Set Diggers female impersonators, Charles Holt and Ralph Sawyer, singer Florence “Bobby” Broadhurst, comedienne Leila Forbes, soubrette Dorothy Drew, comedian Jack Creighton, and pianist/comedian Wallingford Tate, the Globetrotters were put together for a tour of Asia (then referred to as the East). The itinerary included Java, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand and India, Hong Kong, China and Japan. Presenting a standard variety entertainment, the repertoire included sketches, songs (both comic and popular), light classical piano instrumentals, dances (especially featuring Ralph Sawyer), comedy routines and patter.



(1916-17) Following the success of Arthur Morley’s Royal Musical Comedy Co in late 1915, Harry Clay engaged Morley to write and produce one act musical comedies for his circuit. This led to the forming of Clay’s No 1 Musical Comedy Co in early 1916. The troupe featured a number of high profile performers over the next few years, including Ted Tutty, Amy Rochelle, the Phillips Sisters, Will Rollow, Ted Stanley and Art Slavin (who took over its direction in 1917). From around 1918/19 the troupe became known as the Art Slavin Revue Company.



(aka Harry Cogill’s Federal Minstrel Co / The Bright Lights Co)

Harry Cogill's NMCC - advert [PBT 13 July 1900, 2](1898-ca.1902) Harry Cogill’s Federal Minstrel Co (1898-1900) including such artists as Sam Gale, the Bovis Brothers, Pope and Sayles and Delohery, Craydon and Holland. Cogill re-organised the company in June 1900 after returning from a brief visit to the USA. As Harry Cogill’s New Musical Comedy Co it continued touring Australian regional centres with a such works as In Town, The Gaiety Girl, An American Heiress, The Girl from Frisco, A Stranger in New York and A Trip to Chinatown.  The company left Australia in November 1901 for the East, playing seasons in India, China, Japan and the Philippines among other countries.

Image source: Petersburg Times (South Australia) 13 July 1900, 2.



(1883-1889, 1892, 1894) The most influential Australian minstrel troupe of the late 19th century, the Federal Minstrels featured a core group of performers comprising W. Horace Bent, Beaumont Read, Sam Keenan and Alf Moynham. The classic line-up also included Lou Braham, Edward Amery, George Turner, and J. S. Porter. Hiscocks disbanded the troupe in 1889 in order to concentrate on his London Pavilion Company. When it failed to match the Federal’s success, he put together two re-organised Federal Minstrels troupes (1892 and 1894). Neither attempt was able to capture the success of the original, however.



Hudsons Surprise Party [BW 26 Apr 1879, 3](1879-ca. 1903) Featuring Amy Rowe and E. A. Glover the original Surprise Party was put together by Tommy Hudson for tour of Victoria and South Australia. It became a full-time proposition the following year when Hudson took the troupe to the East for an 18 months tour. The troupe’s varying line-ups toured constantly through Australasia, India and the Far East, making more than 26 visits to India alone. In Australia its popularity was greatest in Adelaide. Key artists included McKisson and Kearns, Amy Horton, Owen Conduit, Georgie Devoe, Fred Davys, Priscilla Verne, Charles Hugo and Wal Cottier.

Image: Border Watch (South Australia) 26 Apr. (1879), 3.



(1883-92) Brothers Charles, William and James Hugo founded the Buffalo Serenaders in 1883. The following year it was being billed as the Buffalo Minstrels and Circle of Accomplished Ladies. Managed by Charles Hugo, the troupe toured throughout the Antipodes almost continuously for ten years. After his divorce from Priscilla Verne in 1892, Hugo alternated occasional tours with the Hugo Minstrels and other variety companies up until 1898. Among the artists engaged were Alf Santley (one of the longest-serving), Dave Gardner, Millie Herberte, James Craydon, Ted Holland, Alf Moynham, and the Anderson Sisters.



(aka Hugo American Minstrels)

Hugos - USA [NS 19 Apr 1913, 2] (1912-ca.1914) An all African-American minstrel troupe, the Hugo Minstrels was put together by Victor Hugo in Iowa in 1912. The troupe played a season in San Francisco after which Hugo departed, leaving its management in the hands of Harry Snyder – the only white man associated with the troupe from them on. Five months later the 35-member company departed for New Zealand via Hawaii. The Hugos’ Australian tour, which began in September, included Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and regional tours of Victoria, NSW and Queensland.  One if the company’s original specialty acts was the Era Comedy Four.

NB: This company had no association with Hugo’s Buffalo Minstrels.



aka Christy & American Minstrels

(1869) After arriving in the New South Wales Colony in late January, the Hussey, Kelly and Holly troupe made its debut at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Opera House for a limited season beginning 8 February. They transferred to the School of Arts on the 22nd before heading to Newcastle and then regional Victoria where they joined forces with La Feuillade, Peel and Weston’s Christy Minstrels. Advertising initially saw both troupes either retain their individual identities or bill the combined company as the Christy and American Minstrels. When they opened in Melbourne on 31 May the season was billed simply as Weston and Hussey’s Minstrels.

Personnel incl. Frank Hussey, Harry Kelly, Charles Holly, H. Phillips, Miss Wiseman, J. Ryall, W. G. Turner.



Huxham's Serenaders - all [TT Oct 1915](1911-1926) A box-office record breaking company that featured refined comedy sketches, musical scenas, burlesques, dancing and a high proportion of singing, Hugh Huxham’s Serenaders was one of the leading purveyors of costume entertainment in the Antipodes during the 1910s and 1920s. Especially well known for its intricate harmony arrangements, the troupe specialised in lavish Oriental musical scenas from 1918 onwards. Several well-known performers were associated with the Serenaders at various times, notably Dan Weldon, Syd Hollister, Hugh Steyne and Syd Burchill.



(1925 – ca. 1930s) Charles “Ike” Delavale put together his own company while working for Harry Clay’s company. Within a short time the troupe became a major attraction on the circuit, and played a major part in the 1926 Christmas pantomime The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe. Delavale continued leading his own company after moving to the Fullers circuit in 1928, and is known to have still been working in this line of entertainment around Australia and New Zealand in the early 1930s. By this time the troupe was known as Ike Delavale’s Metropolitan Star Company.



(ca. 1913-1916) Edward Jasper Doherty (known professionally as Edward Jasper) appears to have been operating as a Sydney-based  theatrical manager during the early to  mid-1910s. His name is currently connected with Jasper’s Pantomime Company,  which toured Harry Taylor’s pantomimes Bluebeard and Humpty Dumpty and the musical comedy The Jam of Cathay under canvas (and occasionally in halls or theatres) throughout New South Wales and Victoria.  Among the artistes engaged were Ted Stanley, Charles Howard, Con Moreni, Ernest Lashbrooke, Ida Ingersole and Olive Robinson.



Jim Gerald RC - with Chorus [FVS, 100](1922-ca.1935) One of the most successful revusical companies to operate in the Antipodes during the 1920s and early 1930s, Jim Gerald’s company was best known for its original one act musical comedies – some the most popular being A Millionaire for a Night; 1914-1918, The Tennis Club, Barebacks and Whips and Quips. From the late 1920s onwards he mostly staged revues. The troupe’s core membership remained remarkably consistent over the years, and included Essie Jennings (wife), Lance Vane (brother), Reg Hawthorne, Howard Hall, Ernest Crawford, Mona Thomas, and choreographer Polly McLaren.



Jones HS Party [R 30 Oct 1907, 12]

(ca. 1907-1908) Put together by George H. Jones especially for a tour of the New South Wales Northern Rivers region, and managed by Robert Duvall, Jones’s Huge Surprise Party comprised Jones, Dolly McKay, Billy Cass, Ida Jarvis, James Finch, Flo Partridge, Ivy Bowman, May Moore Morris, Jack Sloan and Stella Allen (acrobats), The Tybella Aerial Trapeze Artists, Sisters Lee (engaged direct from India in December 1907). The Edison Bioscope was also used to screen a small selection of films.

Image source: Referee 30 Oct. (1907), 12.



aka Jones’s Moving King Theatre

Jones's MM Theatre [KWT 21 Dec 1910, 3](1908-1911) One of the first showmen to tour a tent show around regional Australia, and possibly the first to tour vaudeville, George H. Jones began his moving theatre operations in early 1908. His first established season to date was in Maitland, New South Wales, where he set up his 2,000 seat tent behind Callaghan’s Tattersall’s Hotel in May. IN addition to vaudeville Jones also included films and illustrated songs (screened via a biograph projector). The troupe typically comprised more than 20 performers and is known to played centres in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

NB 1: Known performers were: Grace Rooney, Kelso Bros, Prof. Stevenson (Ju-jitsu exponent), The Brackens (Carl, Will and Lottie), S. Kaufman (the rubber man), Will Silvain, the St Leonards Troupe, Fred Garnett, Marsden Bros, Captain Winters (& His Performing Dogs), Tom Sinclair, Flossie Jeffries, Lottie Mackey, Ada May Rowley, Little Star and Wild Rose (sharpshooting act), The Denos (comedians).
NB 2: Three other showmen to pioneer tent theatres in Australia were E. I. Cole (1903-), Phillip Lytton (1907-) and Bob Greenwood (1907-).
Image source: Kadina and Wallaroo Times (SA) 21 Dec. (1910), 3.



Kelly & Leon 1 [HTC](Aust: 1878-1880) Considered one of America’s greatest variety troupes, Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels formed in Chicago in 1863. The company came to Australia in 1878 for Hiscocks and Hayman, playing Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide with a program of vocal music, comic sketches and burlesques. Prior to ending their partnership in 1880 Kelly and Leon opened their own Opera House in Sydney, produced Australia’s first-ever Gilbert and Sullivan production (HMS Pinafore) and staged Marcus Clarke’s political satire Happy Land. The Australian line-up included Kelly’s son Edwin Lester, Beaumont Read, W. A. Ball, Lucy Fraser, Alice Lingard, Lance Lenton and Charles Holly.

Image source: Houghton Library, Harvard University.



Kenna's Empire MInstrels [WHB 23 May 1900, 3](1900-1902) Richard Kenna’s Empire Minstrels undertook three tours through regional New South Wales, each lasting approximately four months (April-July). In some instances its presence in a town coincided with the annual Show Week. Kenna’s circuit encompassed the south-west, western and north-western regions (including Tumut, Cootamundra, Goulburn, Gundagai, Wellington, Parkes, Nyngan, Mudgee and Bourke). The shows were presented in a minstrel show format. Although not a big time showman, and indeed Kenna’s name has never been mentioned in any histories of Australian theatre he was nevertheless able to engage such high profile performers as Priscilla Verne, Steve Adson, Ted Holland, James Craydon, Fred Davys, Emil Lazern, Amy Blackie, Wal Cottier and Albert McKisson.

Image source: Western Herald (Bourke, NSW) 23 May (1900), 3.



K-Nuts ad [SCAD 30 May 1919, 56](1919-1924) Likely formed as a means of earning income during the Spanish Flu period, when many city theatres were forced to close, the K-Nuts was an independently-organised company that spent the first six months of 1919 touring regional New South Wales. The initial line-up comprised comedians Harry Little, Ern Crawford, Nat Hanley, Les Shipp, Reg “Kangaroosta” Thornton and violinist Huntley Brown. By September the troupe was contracted to the Fullers circuit, with Reg Thornton acting as manager. Over the next four years the K-Nuts membership underwent a number of changes and also toured for other firms, including Harry Clay. Thornton also expanded the line-up on several occasions in order to produce revues.

Other artists to appear with the K-Nuts included: Olga Pennington, Ernest Pitcher, George Drew, Jimmy Romaine, Frank Moran, Molly Ambrose, Doris Foster, Nita McAvoy, Eddie Martin, Valma Reine, Thora Johnson, Mona Williams, Imperial Four. The last known K-Nuts season was in September 1924.
Image source: Scone Advocate 30 May (1919),v5.



aka Christy & American Minstrels

(1869) Formed in Melbourne in late March under the direction of Frank Weston, La Feuillade, Peel and Weston’s Christy Minstrels announced a series of “out-of-town” try-outs beginning early April in order to “get into thorough working order” prior to its Melbourne debut. Although he announced his intention to “coalesce with Messrs Hussey, Kelly and Holly” for that season, the two companies in fact merged within a week. However, advertising saw them either retain their individual identities or bill the company as the Christy and American Minstrels. When the combined troupe opened in Melbourne on 31 May it was billed simply as Weston and Hussey’s Minstrels.

Personnel incl. Nicholas La Feuillade, T. J. (Tommy) Peel, Frank Weston, T. Bent, Mr Romer (pianist).



(aka All Nations Co / Leslie Bros’ Minstrel, Musical, Comedy & Specialty Co)

Lawton & Leslies All Nations [BC 16 Feb 1894, 2](1894)  Comedian Alf Lawton and specialty entertainers Fred and Will Leslie formed the All Nations Company for a season at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal. The company which debuted on 17 February included Lawton’s partner Clara Spencer, Master Fred Leslie, Florrie Forde, Harry Clay, Arthur Farley and Lillie Rowley. When Lawton departed after the 21 April show, the company became known simply as the All Nations Co. After ending the Brisbane season on 26 May the Leslies took the troupe, billed as the Minstrel, Musical, Comedy & Specialty Co, to Toowoomba and Warwick (Qld).



aka Black and Northcote’s London Revels / Elton Black’s London Revels

London Revels [TDB 12 June 1929, 3](1929/1933) Formed by Elton Black and Cyril Northcote, the London Revels debuted in Sydney before undertaking a seven months tour of North Queensland. In addition to its principals the company’s initial line-up included Alice Bennetto, George Correlli, Will Miller, Ira Vanda, Stan Iveson and Dinks and Trixie. After a break of several years Black and Bennetto re-organised the troupe in 1933 for a Queensland tour, re-hiring Will Miller and adding new faces like the Paulasto Bros and Phyllis Baker. The troupe became the nucleus for Richard Shafto’s Revels (Perth) later that year.



aka Magnet Variety Troupe

(1873-1874) Following the bankruptcy of manager/producer E. C. Moore in early 1873 the Royal Magnet Variety Troupe continued its tour of New Zealand under the management of pianist Frank Richardson and a new name – the Lottie Magnet Troupe. The principle artists from the former line-up included Lottie, Frank and Victor Angell, and Holly and Buckley. After returning to Australia in August the troupe was re-organised while management was undertaken by Frank and Victor Angell (with Richardson acting as agent). The company disbanded in late-March 1874 following the drowning of Victor Angell in Benalla, Victoria.

NB 1: The line-up from August 1873 included gymnast Master George Angell, singers Lydia Howarde and J. R. Howell, comedian/singer J. Small, and violinist J. Munyard.
NB 2: Not to be confused with the Great Magnet Variety Troupe which formed in 1875 under the leadership of comedian Johnny Cowan.
Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on March 13, 2011 at 5:43 am  Comments Off  

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