Troupes [A-F]

Ada Delroy to Buffalo Female Minstrels ……. p.1
California Minstrels to Th’ Drolls ……. p.2
Edward Branscombe’s Dandies to Futurists ……. p.3



aka Delroy-Bell Co

Delroy & Bell - bike [A 30 Sept 1939, 6](1895- ca.1909) James Bell (manager) and his adoptive sister Ada Delroy founded their company following the completion of their Australian engagement with Harry Rickards. The initial line-up, which comprised 12 artists, toured the Australasian region until 1897 and then spent several years travelling the international circuits. Delroy, Bell and his wife Alice returned to Australia in 1900 appearing with other firms and undertaking occasional tours with their own company through until around 1909. Over the years the troupe included artists such as James Opie, Gertie McLeod, Tom Bergin and mesmerist Dr Richard Rowe.

Image: Impression of James Bell and Ada Delroy by Walter Hobbs (Age  30 Sept. 1939, 6)



aka Ada Juneen’s Melbourne Burlesque & Comedy Co

(1897-1898) Ada Juneen first toured Australasia with Harry Rickards (1885-87) and returned to the region between 1892 and 1898. In 1897 she put together her own company for a tour of western-Tasmania (Sept-Oct.), presenting a mix of pantomime, burlesque and comediettas. A second company played select towns in western-Victoria before Juneen booked another reorganised line-up into Melbourne’s Bijou Theatre to stage an up-to-date version of Robinson Crusoe over Christmas. The venture was a box-office disappointment, however. Undeterred Juneen mounted a tour of New Zealand beginning late-July 1898 but this tour was similarly ill-fated. Her inability to cover wages resulted in industrial action on several occasions and after only two seasons (Dunedin and Christchurch) the tour was abandoned, leaving some performers stranded in the country.

1: Robinson Crusoe was specially adapted and localised by Will Watkins. Other shows staged by the company included Little Jack Sheppard (burlesque), The Silent Woman (comedy), Thrown Out (comedietta), and Aladdin (pantomime).
2:. At least two members of the Melbourne company, Martyn Hagan and his wife Lucy Fraser recovered their wages after successfully suing the Juneen’s financial backer A.J. Green in early 1898. Fraser had been induced to take on the principal boy role (Robinson Cruse) after Juneen became indisposed in the lead-up to the Boxing Day debut.
3: One of the members of the 1898 New Zealand tour was Fred Bluett. As a result of being stranded he came to the attention of the Fullers who gave him a trial. Bluett subsequently went on to become one their biggest stars in that country.
4: Among the performers engaged by Juneen who established high profiles in Australasian variety were: Martyn Hagan, Lucy Fraser, Fred Bluett, Will Stevens, Will Wynand, Albert McKisson and Amy Gourlay.



(1924) While on her way back home to England in December 1924 Ada Reeve stopped over in Perth to play a week of vaudeville for the re-opening of the Theatre Royal on 13 December. Billed as the Ada Reeve Vaudeville Company the troupe comprised such acts as the Big Four, Namba and Takeo (Japanese acrobats) and the Royalties (a costume comedy combination). The season was directed by Ed Warrington, who also supplied several tabloid comedies. Harold Partington conducted the orchestra. Other performers included: Roy Glenister, Ena Gordon, Charles Albert, Charles Perrin, Charles Lawrence, and Jean Keith.



aka Aristocrats of the Air

Airistocrats [CAPA 24 Apr (1940), 6](1940) The Airistocrats were organized in early 1940 for live community concert broadcasts by Sydney radio station 2CH. Held in the Parramatta Town Hall, the shows were presided over by compere Eric Pearce and headed by comedian Con Moroni and his wife Dolly Varney. The Airistocrats are also known to have included such artists as Keith Connolly, Will Perryman, Thelma Scott, Rene Dixon, Lurline Fleming, Benny Oddy, Elsa Hoskins, Leonora Lupp and John Warren.

Image source: Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW) 24 Apr. (1940), 6.



aka Al Bruce & Co / Al Bruce Revue Co

Al Bruce & His Rosebuds [EN 24 May 1918, 8](1918-1919) Although initially reported as being brought to Australia by American producer/comedian Al Bruce, the Rosebuds troupe comprised mostly Australian artists, a factor that helped provide local references and material in Bruce’s otherwise US-styled shows. The original line-up featuring Mabelle Morgan, Walter Cornock, Ysabelle Groves, Robert Raymond, Samuel Clark, Nellie Fallon, Sam Wallace and Muriel Dale made its debut at the FullersNational Theatre, Sydney, on 24 May 1918. Over the next two years several key changes to the personnel were made. Among the new artists names engaged were Letty Craydon, D’Arcy Kellway, Les Ship, Milton Owen and Flo Fanning. The Rosebuds last engagement prior to Bruce’s return home was in Newcastle in March 1920.

The Rosebuds’ repertoire included The Elixir of LoveThe Back to Nature Club, The New M.P., Lulu, The Candy Shop (1918); Two Peas in a Pod, Hello Papa, The King of Patagonia (1919), and The New Adam (aka The Second Adam).
Evening News (Sydney) 24 May 1918, 8.



(1896-1897) Two years after Alf Lawton and the Leslie Brothers ended their All Nations partnership, Lawton revived the concept for a season in Brisbane. With managerial assistance from Harry Williams, the well-known comedian opened at the Gaiety Theatre on 23 December 1896 with a line-up featuring Emil Lazern, Florrie Ranger, Loyola Thompson, and Frank Hyman. The company was bolstered in mid-January with the arrival of American dancer Dan Tracey. Because the Gaiety’s lease had been pre-booked by another firm from 6 February, Lawton was forced to move to the Theatre Royal for the final two weeks of the Brisbane season. The troupe then played short seasons in Gympie, Maryborough and Bundaberg. The final All Nations shows were held in Ipswich on 11 and 12 March.

1. Dan Tracey remained with the company until 29 January. Other high profile artists to appear with the All Nations troupe were Horace St George and Harry Barton.
2. Essentially a minstrel entertainment, comprising a first part semi-circle, second part olio and afterpiece (farce), last two weeks of the All Nations Brisbane season saw the farce give way to moving picture exhibitions courtesy of Edison’s Cinematographe. Sacred Concerts were also given each Sunday night.



aka Alma’s Comedy Costume Co

(1909-1910, 1912) Oswald Bishop, known professionally in Australia as Alma (“the Court Magician,” “the Great,” “the Mysterious,” and “the Black Art Magician” etc) put together his first touring company, Alma’s All-Star Co, in 1909. He toured Alma’s Comedy Costume Company (aka the Pharos Company) from January 1912. The entertainment for both operations comprised a mix of variety acts (sometimes including other illusionists). The “latest animated pictures” were included in 1909. When not touring his company Bishop/Alma/Pharos worked for various vaudeville firms around the country. In late-1912 Bishop left Australia for Fiji and American Samoa before settling in the USA. He died in Hawaii in 1956.



(1913-14) The American Burlesque Company came to Australia in 1913 under the management of the Oriental Amusement Company. Following the success of its debut Melbourne season its management was taken over by William Anderson. While the tour only lasted 18 months the company and its entertainment package became a major influence on the development of both the Australian variety industry and locally written revusicals. Several members remained in the country following the disbanding of the troupe – these being Bert Le Blanc, Paul Stanhope, Harry Burgess, Carlton Chase and Harry Ross [1].



aka American Vaudeville Stars / Kelly & Ashby’s World’s Entertainers

(1902) American acrobat J.D. (John) Ashby, the “bounding billiardist”, came to Australasia in 1901 touring with Williamson, Lee and Rial‘s World’s Entertainers in the act Kelly and Ashby. A few weeks after the venture folded in July 1902 he put together his own troupe for a tour of New Zealand, beginning in early August. Comprising several former World’s Entertainers (notably Dorothy Roberts), additional touring acts (Cunning the magician), and up and coming locals like comedy acrobats Morris and Wilson, the tour started in the North island at Waihi and Paeroa, then played towns between New Plymouth, Gisborne and Wellington. A tour of the north and north-west region of the South Island followed before Ashy and Kelly returned to the USA in late-October. The tour may have been produced in association with P.R. Dix.

1: Ashby’s long-time partner W.B. Kelly did not tour with the World’s Entertainers and was replaced by Victor Leclerc (the act was still known as Kelly and Ashby, however, and featured the famous billiard table act). The original Kelly and Ashby partnership reunited for the American Vaudeville Company tour.
2. In Wellington the company was billed as the “American Vaudeville Stars headed by the World’s Entertainers.” For the South Island tour it was mostly known as the World’s Entertainers. These changes were possibly forced on Ashby in order to distinguish his venture from the American Vaudeville Company that toured the region earlier in the year under the auspices of the Valdares.
3. Artists to appear with the company included: Irene Duval (American impersonations), Cunning (magician/mindreader – assisted by Warwick the Mormon Wizard), Beryl Gilman (balladist/illus singer), Percy James (society sketch artist/illus singer), Kelly and Ashby, Morris and Wilson, Dorothy Roberts and her pocket piccaninnies, Millie Bertoto (singer), Ivy Fulton (dashing serio), Anna Heldman, Nita Lloyd, and Arthur Nelstone and Elsie Forrest.
4. The itinerary identified to date comprised (in chronological order): North Island – Waihi, Paeroa, Taranaki, Hawera, Wanganui, Feilding, Manawatu, Gisborne, Napier, Hastings, Dannevirke, Masterton, Wellington; South Island – Blenheim, Nelson, Reefton, Greymouth and Hokitika.



Arthur Hemlsey's Dandies [KM 28 Aug 1923, 2](1923) A costume comedy company put together specially for a tour of Western Australia around August/September 1923, Arthur Hemsley’s Dandies comprised his wife Elsa Brull (soubrette/character impersonations), singers Belle Pollard, Spencer Reynolds and Walter Whyte (aka Walter Jackson), Lennox Gordon (comedian/caricaturist), Ray Scott (ventriloquist), Yvonne and Stanley Breton (dancers), Eileen McCarthy (violin) and Ruby Cowan (pianist).



A one-off variety company put together by producer Reg Wykeham for a season of revusicals (one-act musical comedies) at the Sydney Hippodrome in 1922.



(1918-ca. mid-1920s) Billed as Harry Clay‘s Musical Revue and Vaudeville Company in 1916, the troupe was by 1918 being referred to simply as the Art Slavin Revue Company (and the name by which it continued to be called up until the early 1920s). Over the years the troupe boasted some of the most well-known locals stars of the Australian variety industry of the early twentieth century, including George Sorlie and Amy Rochelle.



(1910) The Australian Bushranging Bio and Specialty Co appears to have been re-organised out of Harry Salmon‘s Dramatic, Comedy and Specialty Co following its 1910 regional New South Wales tour (ending in June). The new troupe’s line-up comprised Roland Reis (comedian/dancer), Chapo (ventriloquist), Paul Carini (lightening sketch artist), Ralph Nattrass (lecturer/operatror), Vita Vernon (refined serio), Pearl Mavis (balladist). The only engagement currently identified was in Nambour, Queensland, in mid-July (the company may have been billed under different names). By August Roland Reis was in Rockhampton, Queensland, advertising for a male or lady pianist to travel with a bio company. The “Bushranging” reference alluded to the films being exhibited.

1: Nattrass, Chappo, Reis and Paul Carini were all member of the Harry Salmon troupe. Nattrass had doubled as tour manager.
2: A feature of the Australian Bushranging shows was an illustrated recitation of A.B. “Banjo” Paterson‘s poem “How Gilbert Died.” Reportedly copyrighted by the company, the act was said to have been worth the price of admission alone.



(1896-99) Formed by Harry Clay in 1896, The Australian Eleven operated intermittently over the next four years, alternating tours through the Sydney suburbs while making occasional short forays into regional New South Wales. Among the more prominent members of the company were Clay’s wife Kate, daughter Essie, long-time friend Wally Edwards, Carlton and Sutton, Edwin Shipp and Gus Franks. By 1901 Clay was able to establish a more permanent organisation, leading to the formation of Clay’s Waxworks and Comedy Co [below], and eventually a permanent Sydney circuit.



aka Edwards & Howard’s Australian Concert Company / Bert Howard’s Australian Entertainers / Howard and Gates’ Australian Entertainers

(1902-1906) Various forms of popular and “classical” entertainment were presented at Sydney’s Gaiety Athletic Club between 1900 and 1906, either as stand-alone engagements or as part of sporting programmes. Between September 1902 and December 1906 emerging vaudeville entrepreneur Bert Howard presented twice weekly shows there. Initially known as Edwards and Howards’ Australian Concert Company, it was soon after run by Howard alone. Among the best known performers engaged by Howard were: Ted Tutty, Scott and Wallace, Claude Sullivan, Horace Lingard, Bert Rasche, Lyla Thompson, Wal Rockley, and Arthur Alberts. Many other performers, including local amateurs were also engaged. Howard introduced joint film screenings in 1905. The Howardscope was the primary entertainment in 1906.

1. Situated in Castlereagh Street, adjacent to St George’s Church (between Bathurst and Park streets), the Gaiety Athletic Club building had been formerly known as the Guild Hall, Academy of Music, Gaiety Theatre and Olympic Club.
2. Singer Wally Edwards was prominent during the early days as producer of concerts, having established himself there after returning from his first tour of Queensland under Harry Clay‘s management. Edwards, who left the Club in late-1902 to take up performance work elsewhere, made a number of return appearances in later years.
3. A benefit concert staged at the Athletic Club in late-April 1903 reportedly involved performers from Howard and Gates’ Australian Entertainers along with the Mascotte Variety Company. No other mention of someone named Gates has yet been located in connection with Howard’s company prior to or after that benefit. It is possible that the name may have a reference to the performers who were then appearing at the nearby Golden Gate Athletic Hall (later Golden Gate Gardens).



aka The Australian Vocal and Minstrel Co / Premiere Vocal Minstrels Co

(1889) Presented under the management of Messrs. Bergin, Lindsay and Jones, the Australian Minstrels (initially billed as the Australian Vocal and Minstrel Company) made its debut at Victoria Hall, Melbourne on 14 September 1889 (the lessee was J. Billin). Headed by Will Whitburn, Johnny Gilmore, Rogers and [Steve] Adson, George A. Jones, Alice Davenport, and Ted Holland, the company’s entertainment is described as being a typical Christy Minstrels programme. Its final night, Saturday 12 October, was given over to a benefit tended to Messrs Jones and Lindsay.

Original line-up incl. Silvo the Innovator, the Tindall Bros, J. Lindsay, T. Bergin, and Misses Jennings, Desmas, M. Holly, Newton, M. Leslie, Massey, Barrett, A. Leslie, and Dixon (2). Later engagements included: A. Manvers, A. Forrest, Master Zitter, Miss De Vere, Daisy Cohen, Miss Latimar, Miss Warren, Miss McDonald, and Miss Grey.



(ca. 1927) A troupe of indigenous performers from Kempsey on the New South Wales mid-North coast, the Australian Natives Vaudeville Company featured songs, aboriginal dances, and a corroboree, all presented within a bush setting. Managed and directed by George Davis, it is known to have played a show at Southport (Queensland) and was reportedly invited to perform before the Duke of York at the official opening of Parliament House in Canberra. Another feature of the troupe’s shows was the Gum Leaf Band.

Aboriginal Vaudeville Show [BC 25 July 1927, 21]



(1882-1884) Following the departure of Horace Bent from Bent and Bachelder’s Anglo-American Minstrels sometime in mid-1882, R.G. Bachelder continued to tour the company under his own management. The troupe itself also remained largely intact – with the principle performers including African American comedians Sam Keenan and Alf Moynham, along with Beaumont Read, William A. Ball, C.S. Fredericks, and Tom Bergin. Bachelder is believed to have disbanded the company early the following year. He soon afterwards turned to theatre management in Adelaide.

  • See also: Bent and Bachelder’s Anglo-American Christy Minstrels [below]



(1898-1899) Australian comedian J.C. Bain briefly joined forces with high profile American endman Alf Lawton in December 1898 to tour a company around select regional Victorian centres. First recorded as playing a three night season at Geelong’s Exhibition Theatre (26-28 Dec.), the line-up included Aggie Gray, Lorrie St George, Ida Clarkson, the Hudson Sisters, Ward Lear, Pearl Akarman, Jack Swift, Pete Miller, Jack Fanning, Ted Herberte, the Testro Bros, and J.P. Knowles (piano/accompanist). The advance rep was Sidney Gavin. Although the only other season identified to date was a longer engagement at Bendigo’s Royal Princess Theatre (14-20 Jan. 1899), the company likely played some other smaller towns between Geelong and Bendigo, and possibly after.



(ca. 1888-1892) Professor S.S. Baldwin’s 1888 tour of Australasia was his fourth to the region, and the first without Clara Baldwin. Replacing her was Kitty Russell (later his second wife). The Butterfly Company travelled extensively throughout the Antipodes for two years before undertaking a world tour. Prior to leaving Australia in 1890 Baldwin engaged Ada Delroy and James Bell and Marion Constance (aka Madame Bell). Over the next two years the troupe travelled more than 45,000 miles across America, the East, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Great Britain.



aka Baltimore Amateur Minstrels

(1860-1864) Based in Sydney, and likely comprising all local performers (none of whom have been identified), most of the Baltimore Minstrels’ known performances were conducted as part of fund-raising events and benefits (including St Vincent’s Hospital, St Patrick’s church and St Augustine’s Church. Although first identified with a postponed concert in mid-December 1860, no further performances have been located until June 1861 (School of Arts). The troupe may have occasionally travelled further afield on occasions – possibly to Victoria (ca. 1863) and regional New South Wales, however. In 1864 it performed with Burton’s National Circus, Campbell’s Minstrels [below] and Billy Barlow.

This troupe is not believed to have had any connection with another Baltimore Minstrels [2] which appeared briefly in Victoria in late 1863. See Cosmopolitan Opera Troupe [below] for details relating to that company.



(1863) Not to be confused with the amateur Sydney-based troupe of the same name (ca. 1861-1864), this Baltimore Minstrels troupe was headed by P.J. Luntley and Charles Reeves. Both men had toured the Australasian region in 1862 with the Cosmopolitan Band and Coloured Opera Troupe [below]. Its only known engagement, however, was an aborted season in Ballarat in October 1863. According to reports published in the Star newspaper, the troupe sued hotelier William Brown for non-payment, which Brown defended by claiming the members had “neglected their duty” and called into question the performer’s “American extraction.”

Members of the troupe were: P.J. Luntley, Charles Reeves, Joe Ritchie, Charles Upson, A. Stanley, R. Green, C.H. Greville, W.H. Stannard (ctd. Star 1 Oct. 1863, 3).



aka Barlow, Buckley, Holly & Jeffrey

Barlow, BB&H advert [NZP 18 July 1871, 1](1871-72) Billy Barlow, Tom Buckley, Charles Holly, George Bromley and a Mr Christy travelled to New Zealand in late May 1871, expanding the line-up shortly afterwards to include W. Horace Bent (also tour secretary), Nicholas La Feuillade (violin/music director), and Master Luscombe Searelle (piano). Although Barlow severed his connection with the troupe on 11 August he got back together with Buckley and Holly, along with his music director C. Jeffrey, in April the following year. The troupe toured Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia before disbanding in late July.

1: After Barlow left the troupe on 11 August 1871 Charles Holly joined the American Excelsior Minstrels in Auckland while the others went to Nelson (South Island) as the Star Minstrel and Polygraph Co. Barlow opened in Otago on the 12th alone.
2 : In his role as manager Billy Barlow is usually credited as Robert Barlow. As a performer he is almost always referred to only by his surname.
Image source: Press (Christchurch, NZ) 18 July 1871, 1.



1881-1882) W. Horace Bent had previously toured with R.G. Bachelder Colossean Pantoscope Mammoth Combination (1873). By the early 1880s, however, his reputation as Australia’s leading comic demanded that his name be included either in a company’s name or as the headline act. The Bent and Bachelder troupe was formed for a tour of New Zealand beginning September 1881 and featured W. Horace Bent, C. S. Fredericks, William Ball, Beaumont Read, Charles and William Hugo, E. Rowley, and Amy Rowe. The Australian debut in Sydney in February 1882 included Sam Keenan and Alf Moynham. Seasons in Melbourne and Adelaide followed. After Bent departed mid-year, Bachelder toured the company under his own name until late 1883.



(1915-1920, 1928) Headed by Bert Le Blanc and Jake Mack, the Travesty Stars was troupe broke box office records for the Fullers, opened two of the company’s theatres, and went on to rival Nat PhillipsStiffy and Mo company as Australia’s most popular wartime revusical ensemble. Among the best known performers to appear with the Travesty Stars were Jim Gerald, Essie Jennings, Lance Vane, and Mike Connors and Queenie Paul. Le Blanc and Mack later led the Who’s Who Costume Revue Entertainers. Le Blanc also briefly re-organised the Travesty Stars in 1928.



aka Billy Cass Revue Co / Skeeta Cass Revue Co / Cass and Cass Co / Purple Jesters Musical Comedy Co

Cass Co [TDB 11 Apr 1928, 3]

(1922-ca. 1940) Billy Cass operated his own troupes around Australia fairly consistently between the early 1920s and the late 1930s/early 1940s. These tours were generally undertaken between solo engagements with other entrepreneurs (notably Stanley McKay, Harry Clay and Alf Coleman). His earliest known troupe, the Purple Jesters was established in October 1922. Cass initially presented vaudeville entertainment and revusicals, later moving into musical comedies, revues and the occasional pantomime. Among the artists he engaged were his wife Ivy (aka Ivy Bowman), Vince and Eva Courtney, Ivy Davis, Courtney Ford, Violet Elliott [2], and Will Miller and the Six Ramblers (chorus).

Image source: Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld) 11 Apr. (1928), 3.



Billy Maloney's New Ideas [News 27 Nov 1926, 2](1926-1927) Put together for a season at Adelaide’s Exhibition Gardens and produced by J.C. Williamson’s the 25 member New Ideas variety and revue company debuted on 27 November 1926. The feature artists were Maloney, G.W. Desmond (English tenor), Cyril Northcote (character actor), Colin Crane (character vocalist), Harry Ross (lyric tenor/comedian), Ira Vanda (operatic soprano/actress), Gus Dawson, (dancer), the Stattler Twins (Leona and Lee, comedians/dancer), Will Hastings (eccentric comedian), and the New Ideas ballet. The orchestra was conducted by W.R. Cade with Cyril Connelly leader. The record-breaking season, which saw new editions presented each Friday, ran through until 4 April the following year.

Other artists engaged included: Audrey Lewis (character comedian), Peggy Adair (soubrette), Rosina Palmerston (pianist), Margo Ramage (comedienne), Alison Dale (soubrette), Nancy Storey (danseuse), Belle Porter (danseuse), Edee Sinotte (comedienne), Anna Danno, Gwen Weston (danseuse), Doreen Hopkinson, Patsy O’Neil (monologuist), Coleen Hope (coloratura soprano).
Image source: News (Adelaide) 27 Nov 1926, 2.



Billy Maloney's Scandals [RA 27 Dec 1924, 2](1924-1925) After Billy Maloney and Elton Black ended their Town Topics season in Adelaide in mid-May 1924, Maloney formed the Scandals. The troupe debuted at Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre on 23 June with feature artists Claire Lloyd, Arthur Aldridge, Biddy Raye, Norma Talmadge, and Maloney. Brisbane was followed by a tour through North and Far North Queensland, then Ipswich, Sydney, Newcastle and eventually Adelaide (26 Dec.-). The following year saw the troupe play returns seasons in Brisbane (11 Apr.), Ipswich (6 May-), Sydney (30 May-), and Newcastle (27 June-). Maloney then disbanded the troupe and returned to working a solo act.

  • See also: Billy MaloneyBilly Maloney’s Scandals [2] [below]
Other artists associated with the Scandals included: Hazel Fuller, Bert Barton, Conrad Charlton, Tilton and West, Rosie Bowie, and Fred Bluett.
Image source: Register (Adelaide) 27 Dec. (1924), 2.



aka Scandals of 1927

(1927-1928) Billy Maloney’s second Scandals company formed in Melbourne for a tour of the New South Wales “smalls” (regional towns). The promoter was 26-year old Otto Hunter. Comprising 25 performers, including a teenage ballet, the company opened in Williamstown, Victoria, on 29 October. It then crossed the border playing towns from Albury to Cootamundra before running into insurmountable financial difficulties. According to the Truth newspaper the tour struggled financially under Hunter’s mismanagement from the start, with matters coming to a head in Coolamon when he was arrested and charged with uttering false checks. Maloney took over its management for a few more weeks then reorganised a new party in Sydney. Featuring high profile pianist/raconteur Nat Hanley it opened in Newcastle on Christmas Eve, but poor takings forced the season’s closure just two weeks later.

1. The Truth reports that the 6-member ballet comprised four girls aged from 12-16, with the other two being aged “over sixteen”). The same article reveals that few or the performers were ever paid their full salary; that the company’s plight was so “pathetic” during the first leg that Coolomon organised a benefit; and that prior to the close of the Newcastle season most of the company were denied entry to their accommodation. Several were subsequently forced to sleep rough. Fullers’ Theatres (who had no link to the company) helped send several girls without access to financial help back to Melbourne.
2. The other towns identified (to date as being part of the New South Wales itinerary were Wagga Wagga, Coolamon, Narrandera, Wyalong, and Cootamundra.
3. The other known performers were Audrey Anderson (contralto), Leah Bell (Tivoli Baby), Clive Carroll (baritone), Patsy Clinton (soprano), Eileen Cusack, Rod Evans (tenor), Fred Ford (singer), Elsie Harris, Mavis Lasky (singer), Dulcie Maloney (soubrette), Arthur Mayes (basso), Leila Sash (soubrette), Rose Sinclair (dancer), Barron Solomon, Frank Toone, Eric Vale and Rosie St Clair (songs and witticisms), Valentine (ventriloquist), Bonnie Wicker (child performer), Mrs Wicker; and the Scandals Ballet (Eileen Talmadge, Peggy Gregory, Mavis Lasky, Mavis Low, and Leilah Sach).
4. The shows typically comprised a selection of solo and ensemble acts, sketches, farces, musical scenas. Eight of the male performers also joined together as the Scandals Octette.



(1908) Often billed as the “non-vibrating Biograph and Trans-Atlantic Entertainers,” this film and vaudeville package accompanied Jack O’Donnell (manager) and American aeronautical engineer/navigator Vincent Beebe during the regional leg of their Australian ballooning and parachuting tour (ca. May-July). The entertainment was presented at local halls during the evenings with the hot air ballooning venture being undertaken in suitable fields or sports grounds during the day. The performers, Jarvis and Campbell (comic jugglers), Charles Naylor (singer), Herbert Anderson (boy soprano) and Charles Hanks (comedian) presented illustrated songs, refined comicalities, and specialties between the various short films (reportedly 40,000 ft in all).

Working the ballooning side of the venture were Beebe (reportedly with 22 years experience), Zahn Rinaldi (Austrian aeronaut), Alphonse Stewart, and Christopher Sebphe (Spanish aeronaut). The balloon they toured with was named King Edward. O’Donnell and Beebe are known to have toured their balloon business around Australia and New Zealand between 1908 and 1910. O’Donnell later toured the East with his own ballooning show (ca. 1911 and/or 1912).



(1915-16) Albert and Maud Bletsoes’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Company toured for Fullers’ Theatres between 1915 and 1916. Although short-lived, it nevertheless holds a significant place in Australian variety history, being the troupe which later became better known as Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Company. The troupe’s repertoire comprised at least five revusicals, with the lead characters being played by Albert and Maude. The ensemble also included Roy Rene, Rosie Bowie, James Caldwell, Eileen Barnsley, Ernest Lauri, and Charles Melvin.



aka The Blondenettes

Blondenettes [RH 12 Nov 1878, 3](1878-1879) The ten-member Blondenettes minstrel company made its public debut in Bendigo on 11 October 1878, having been trained in Melbourne by Joseph Simmons (Snr). Annie Allison was “directress” and Charles Browne tour manager. The first part initially did not incorporate the improvised endman/Mr Interlocuter banter, this being replaced with a half hour of structured repartee. Mrs Interlocuter and two end-women were introduced in November as the company became more confident. After Bendigo the Blondenettes toured regional Victoria followed by a season at Melbourne’s St George’s Hall. The company was acquired by George Gibbons in February 1879 and taken to Sydney where it performed up until at least May.

The performers identified to date were: Annie and Lillie Alliston, Sara Simmons, Maria Whynne, Maggie Walsh, Lena Whitehead, and Misses Santley, Potter and Leslie.
Image source: Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic) 12 Nov. (1878), 3.



(1861-1862) Dan Boley, who had toured Australia with the Backus Minstrels (1855-56) and San Francisco Minstrels (1857-ca.1860), settled in Tasmania after ending his association with the latter troupe. In 1861 he put together a company for a tour of Mauritus (including the Port Louis Theatre). After completing their engagement the 14 members of the party, including Boley’s wife and children, sailed for the Cape of Good Hope but were shipwrecked off the coast of Madagascar. All drowned apart from two of the minstrels (W. Robson and W. White Lee), two passengers and three sailors. Lee and the two passengers later died of fever, however, while stranded for three months on Cape St Mary.



(1913) Fred Bosley’s Vaudeville Company made its debut at Port Adelaide’s Dale Street Vaudeville Hall (aka Bosley’s Vaudeville Hall) on 24 March 1913, playing a three months season of Saturday and Monday nights. The first line-up comprised. Messrs. D. Wallace, B. Hopkins, N. Vincent, A. Dorling, A. Green, S. Hammond, A. Hammond, Verona Sisters, Misses E. Audley, N. Rowe, Ethel, Gladys and Stella Gaul, and Little Connie Wilkins. New artists were reportedly introduced on a regular basis, however. In addition to individual acts the company also typically presented an afterpiece (farce).

After Bosley’s lease expired in late-June 1913 the hall’s management was taken over by Fred World and his vaudeville company.



(1893-1894) The Brooklyn Entertainers was an amateur minstrel and vaudeville ensemble organised by Dan Scullien for several shows in Melbourne during the years 1893 and 1894. Some of the members of the troupe were also called upon to take part in local community events, smoke nights and benefits as well. The first known performance by the BE’s, as they were sometimes referred to, occurred on 22 May in the Alfred Hall, St Kilda Junction. Some two months later the company appeared at Centennial Hall, South Yarra, with a line-up that included a young Fred Bluett. Its final show appears to have been held at the Alfred Hall in July the following year.

  • See also The Diamond Minstrel & Variety Co [below]
1. Other prominent members of the company were George Levrick, Richard (Dick) Mann, Monty Bilton, Robert (Bob) Boyd, Percy Wallace, Fred Cochran,Will Hulme, Dave White, the Elliot Bros, and G.C. Macintosh (music director).
2. In 1895 Scullien organised another group of performers as the Diamond Minstrel and Variety Company. A number of the members of that company had also been involved with the Brooklyn Entertainers (notably Fred Bluett, Bob Boyd, Fred Cochran, Will Hulme).



aka Drysdale’s Entertainers / Drysdale’s Follies

(1907) Emerging comedian Bruce Drysdale established his Citizens’ Concerts in Melbourne at the Prahran Town Hall from 19 March, and by April was also conducting concerts at St Kilda. In early-June he presented a one-off concert in Colac, and soon afterwards established once-a-week shows in Geelong (Mechanics’ Institute). These continued with regular changes of personnel until the end of October. The final week, a three-night season (29th to 31st), saw the company billed as both Drysdale’s Entertainers or Drysdale’s Follies. Among the many artists engaged were Hagan and Fraser, Vaude and Verne, George Pagden and Lily Vockler, the Rockleys (Wal, Alf, and Lily), Joe Lashwood, Lesso and Rexo, Lyla Thompson, Tom Edwards, Will Dyson, Sam La Mert, Horace Lingard and Jarvis & Campbell.

1. The debut concert comprised an as yet unknown line-up of “well-known artists” (as well as the entrepreneur himself). His shows also featured biograph screenings, initially courtesy of Johnson and Gibson. The American Bioscope was later featured.
2. Drysdale continued to operate his shoe repair business in Prahran throughout the entire period.
3. For the Colac show (4 June), the company was billed as Bruce Drysdale’s High Class Vaudeville Concert Company.
4. Drysdale’s final show at the Mechanic’s Institute, Geelong, on 11 November was a screening of the historic film, The Kelly Gang. Illustrated songs from Percy Foster were included in the programme.



(1902) Charles Bryant presented a series of Sunday night “Rational Concerts” at Perth’s Mechanics’ Institute between 27 September and mid-November 1902. Although the venture was short-lived, it nevertheless provided additional income opportunities for quite a few local and visiting performers – among them Harry Shine. Bryant also included a biograph component in his shows. Feature performers to appear with the All-Stars Novelty Co during the season were C.R. Jones, Hilda Harmen, George Spilker, Alf Pagden, Mina Abraham, Marie Masters, and Joe Charles. Coverage in the Perth newspapers indicates that the concerts were well-attended, so it is unclear why Bryant closed them down after only six weeks or so.



aka Buckley and Gardner Garden Party / Buckley’s Hibernicon and Comedy Company

Buckley & Gardner's Mins [ARG 22 Oct 1881, 16]

(ca. 1881-1886) Tom Buckley and the Gardner brothers appear to have operated this troupe on an occasional basis during the 1880s. It’s tours/engagements identified to date are 1881, 1884 and 1885/86 and 1885/1886. The 1881 Apollo Hall [2] (Melbourne) and regional Victoria tour included T. Rainor, J. Pope, E. Edwards and F. Newton. A season at Hobart’s Exhibition Building in 1884 featured Colonel Ike Austin (trick shooter), London comedian George Dean, and Percy Brown, Gracie Oscar and the Vivian sisters. During the years 1885 and 1886 the company appeared in Tasmania and Victoria billed variously as Buckley and Gardner’s Minstrels, Buckley and Gardner’s Garden Party, and Buckley’s Hibernicon and Comedy Company.

Feature artists engaged in 1885/86 included Billy Barlow, W. Arlington, E. Booth, Shaw Cross, Mr Adams, May and Virginia Vivian and Sarah Cameron. Johnny Gardner does not appear to have been associated with the company at that time. However, the brothers did tour Gilmore and Garners’ United Minstrels in 1885 (with Johnny Gilmore).
Image source: Argus (Melbourne) 22 Oct (1881), 16.



aka Buckley & Holly’s Surprise Party / Buckley & Holly’s Entertainers

(ca. 1882, 1885, 1889) After making their first foray in management in 1871/72 (with Billy Barlow), Tom Buckley and Charles Holly’ spent the next five years touring Australasia with other companies. While their names disappear from Australian newspaper reports on several (sometimes lengthy) occasions between 1877 and 1888, it is possible that they were touring overseas, and sometimes with their own troupes at various times. The first established Buckley and Holly troupe (their Pleasure Party) undertook a tour of Tasmania beginning January 1882. In 1885 Buckley toured a Great Hibernicon company with others (and at one stage in conjunction with Holly). The two also established Buckley and Holly’s Entertainers in 1889.

Tom Buckley indicates in a 1914 interview that he and Holly took a company through the East at some stage but provides no dates (see Table Talk 26 Mar. 1914, 35).



aka Buffalo Female Minstrels & Sable Opera Troupe

Buffalo Female Minstrels [SBAL 10 Dec 1860, 3](1860-61) Little is currently known about this troupe. Comprising seven women, including Miss Rosa Lee, its first known engagement was a three night season at the Charlie Napier Theatre, Ballarat, in early December 1860. The billing for that show included the Sable Opera Troupe, a combination made up of both men and women. There appears to have been two Sable [burlesque] companies operating around the same period (the other linked to the San Francisco Minstrels). The Buffalo Female Minstrels appeared in Melbourne in late December/early January. Its last known shows were in Fiery Creek (Victoria) in February 1861.

Image source: The Star (Ballarat) 10 Dec. (1860), 3.


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Published on February 13, 2011 at 7:30 am  Comments Off on Troupes [A-F]