Troupes [G-L]

Gaiety Vaudeville Co to Ike Delavale Revue Co ……. p.1
Jasper’s Pantomime Co to Luxor Smilers ……. p.2



[Melbourne, 1906-1907]

Joe Solomons acted as representative and later as manager for F.M. Clark‘s 1905/1906 New Folly’s venture at the Gaiety Theatre, Melbourne. When the entrepreneur folded his operations there in early August-1906 Solomons took over the company’s reigns, renaming it the Gaiety Vaudeville Co. While most of the initial performers had been engaged by Clark – notably Frank York, Morris and Wilson, Hagan and Fraser, Harry Leggett, Essie Jennings, Ern Delavale, and Alma Lyndon – Solomons soon afterwards began introducing fresh acts for his clientele. Among the performers to appear at the Gaiety under his management were Tom Hedley (“the Musical Moke”), Arthur Morley, George A. Jones, Dave Warne, Clara Keating, and Lyla Thompson. The musical director was Fred Ireland. The Gaiety Vaudeville Company played its final show on 12 October 1907.

1. The last time Frank Clark’s name is mentioned in connection with the Gaiety Theatre, Melbourne was in advertising published in newspapers on 4 August 1906. The company appears to have operated under Solomons from 8 Aug and became known as the Gaiety Vaudeville Co on 11 August. Clark also folded his Sydney venture at the Queen’s Theatre around the same time and soon afterwards returned to the USA
2. Although billed as a vaudeville company the Gaiety shows were nevertheless staged along minstrel lines with a first part semicircle, second part olio and a concluding farce or burlesque.
3. Other prominent artists to appear with the Gaiety Vaudeville Co included Todd Calloway, Blutch Jones, Charles Moody, Ettie Williams, Claude Sullivan, Claude Golding, Jack Hagan, Sisters Phillips, Maud Perman, and Bella Perman.



Gay Crusaders [ENR 22 June 1925, 2](1925-1927) Sydney-based theatrical agents Bambury and White formed the Gay Crusaders in April 1925 for a tour of North Queensland (May-Sept.). The initial line-up featured Eloise Taylor, the Phillips Sisters, Nancy Hall, Ada Johnson, James Caldwell, Wal Rockley, Will Leslie, and Norman Bambury (as performer/tour manager/director). Bambury put together his own Gay Crusaders troupe in April 1926, touring it through regional Queensland and New South Wales until late November 1927. Some artists from 1925 returned at various times, including Eloise Taylor, Wal Rockley and the Phillips Sisters. New high-profile performers included the Cracknells, George Pagden. The Crusaders shows typically comprised vaudeville acts, burlesques, farces and musical sketches.

1: Artists who later joined the 1925 tour included Hats McKay, Maud Coxon, Pinkie Wayne, Mona Lear, Thelma Stewart, Beattie and Val.
2: Performers engaged during the 1926-1927 period included: Alfred Yonas, The Havana Trio, Tenisto, Eddie Pickering, Musical Raintons, Frankie Stott, Daisy Paske, Ron Easey, Baffling Bryants, and Charlton Aird. Norman Bambury also performed with the company.
3: Gaps in the company’s recorded activity suggest that it was not a fulltime operation. It does not appear to have been active over the summer months, for example.
Evening News (Rockhampton, Qld) 22 June 1925, 2.



(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 The Pickled Porter (1922), Harmony RowThe Oojah BirdLads of the Village (1924), and His Royal Highness (1926).



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. Hicks‘ 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

(Australasian 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.
Images – Above: ca. 1870s, courtesy of Picture History. Right: 1877, courtesy of Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.



(ca. 1894-95) Gibbons’ Minstrels was associated exclusively with Sydney’s Alhambra Music Hall between 19 May and late-July 1894, the venue having been leased and managed by George Clarke Gibbons. Under his direction the company presented a typical minstrel programme, with particular emphasis being placed on “scenic” first parts. The opening show, for example, featured “Our Seaside Picnic.” Among the artists engaged were: J.S. Whitworth, Carlton and Sutton, the Fanning Sisters, Solomon Sisters, a young Charles Ridgway (later known as Charlie Vaude), Dan Tracey, Hosea Easton, Harry Cowan, Katie Towers, Horace Copeland, George Shaw, Will Johnson, Dan Cusack, and the Marveines (aerial unicycle act).

Although Gibbons’ Nightingale Serenaders [2] (1895-96) was often referred to as Gibbons’ Minstrels there was no relationship between the two companies (apart from Gibbons as manager/proprietor).



(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.



aka The Jesters

(1936-1937) Solely associated with the Rex Theatre in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, the Jesters opened the venue on 9 May for lessee/producer Graham Mitchell and under the direction of comedian Nat Hanley. The musical was provided by Tiny Douglas and his band. Altogether the Jester’s played a 14 months season at the Rex, finishing up on 25 June 1937. Among the leading artists to be engaged during that time were Syd Beck, Fred Bluett, Kitty Bluett, Stan “Stud” Foley, Sadie Gale, Roy Rene, Grace Savieri, Phyllis Steadman, Maurice Barling, Peter Brooks, Keith Connolly, Winnie Edgerton, and Cusko’s Miniature Circus. The Jesters was briefly followed at the Rex by The Revellers.




(1934-1940) Graham Mitchell’s Serenaders made its debut at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal on 1 September 1934. The inaugural line-up included Nellie Kolle, Nat Hanley, the Lewola Bros and Reg Quarterly. The company entertained Brisbane audiences at the Royal until January 1937, and was revived for a season that lasted from New Years Eve 1937 to August 1938. Mitchell then formed a new Serenaders company to play the Ritz Theatre, Fortitude Valley (from September). He re-introduced the Serenaders for a final, month-long engagement at the Royal beginning late-December 1939. Among the biggest stars engaged between 1935 and 1940 were Roy Rene, Syd Beck, Charles Delavale, Les Coney, Keith Connolly, Bobby Le Brun, Al Mack, Stella Lamond, Joe Lawman, and Buster Fiddes.

Brisbane entrepreneur Madge Cloherty took over the running of the company at the Theatre Royal from 4 August 1938. It subsequently became known as Madge Cloherty’s Celebrities.
Image source: Courier Mail (Brisbane) 1 Sept. 1934, 2.


See Clay’s Waxworks and Vaudeville Co



aka Who’s Who Costume Comedy Co / Harry Borradale’s Costume Comedy Co / Harry Borradale Presents Walter Johnston’s Costume Comedy Co – The Sparklers / Harry Borradale’s Musical Comedy Co

(1919-1921) Former Dandies star Harry Borradale founded the Who’s Who Costume Comedy Company in Adelaide in late 1919 and early the following year toured it through the southern states. During a tour of the New South Wales Hunter Valley in mid-1920 he renamed the ensemble Harry Borradale’s Sparklers. Its reception in Brisbane was such that the company remained in that city for a season of 50 weeks. Among the biggest names to feature with the Sparklers were George Edwards, Con Moreni, Joe Rox, George Sharratt, and Courtney Ford and Ivy Davis. The Sparklers entertainment comprised an array of songs, monologues, comedy sketches, novelty surprises, rollicking ragtime, artistic specialties, and occasional revusicals like The Sultan of Soolemon (1920)and The Toowong Cup (1921)

1: The Who’s Who Costume Comedy Company should not be confused a similarly-named company established in Melbourne in 1921 by William Anderson and led by Bert Le Blanc. This troupe was known as the Who’s Who Costume Revue Entertainers.
2: The newly-named Sparklers played its debut season at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle (NSW) on 24 July 1920. Interestingly the season was advertised as “Harry Borradale Presents Walter Johnston‘s Costume Comedy Company – The Sparklers.” The name was eventually simplified as Harry Borradale’s Sparklers during a subsequent Hunter Valley, Northern New South Wales and South-East Queensland tour.
3. Harry Borradale’s Sparklers opened in Brisbane at the Palace Gardens on 13 October 1920. The company later transferred to the Elite Theatre in George Street, where in 1921 it was briefly known as Harry Borradale’s Musical Comedy Co. The final Sparklers show was presented at the Elite Theatre on 23 September 1921.



aka Art Slavin Revue Company

(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

(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 (SA) 13 July 1900, 2.



aka Manly Pierrots / Harry Primrose’s Pierrots

(Australasia: 1904-1909)

Banjoist/comedian Harry Primrose and pianist Bert Roultson travelled from England to Australia in late-1904 and within a few weeks of arriving in Sydney debuted the London Pierrots at Manly’s Ocean Beach. The first line-up, a quartet, also included local singers Fred Henry and Horace Jardine. After the engagement concluded in April 1905 Primrose took an expanded troupe through regional New South Wales and Queensland (twice each). Brisbane was also played twice. During this period the line-up changed several times but generally comprised five or six performers (both male and female). Guest performers also featured on a regular basis. The London Pierrots toured New Zealand between December 1907 and April 1909, with the first season being held at Sumner Beach (near Christchurch). The Dominion tour also included a brief engagement in Wellington with John Fuller (Snr).

Image: The London Pierrots at Manly (Sydney), 1905. Source: John Morcombe Collection, Manly Library.



aka The Joybringers

(1926-1927) Harry Ross formed his own troupe in association with Clara Keating upon securing a long-term contract with Clay’s Theatres in March 1926. Its debut revusical, Count Ivanitch was staged at the Gaiety Theatre, Sydney, on 13 March. Produced under direction of Ross, the show featured comedian Will Gilbert and Keating as “Billo and his little bit of Fluff.” Their popularity saw the characters retained for most of the Ross shows. After Gilbert left the troupe, “Fluffy” was paired opposite two other characters – “Rusty” (Joe Rox) and later “Tibby” (Ted Stanley). When Keating and Ross left the Clay circuit in April 1927 they organised a season in Rockhampton (Queensland), renaming the troupe The Joybringers.

1: Among the artists associated with Harry Ross Revue Company were: the Two Gilberts, Maurice Jaffey, Deal and Maynard, Doris Tindall, Don Merle, Ron Shand, and Joe Rox. The chorus was known as the Six Dorsetts.
2: The 1927 Joybringers line-up included: Ted Stanley, Mabelle Morgan, Julian Rose (cartoonist/scenic artist), Les and Marjorie Austin, Carmena and Carlos, and the Six Dorsetts.
3: The death of Ross in August 1927, barely a month after the Rockhampton season, brought about the end of the company.
Image source: Propeller (Hurstville, NSW) 1 Apr. 1927, 3.



Hills World Entertainers(1903-1904) Likely organised by Arthur Hill (Hill and Sylvany) following the completion of their contract with Harry Rickards, Hill’s World’s Entertainers’ only known engagements were in the East. Established destinations were Manilla, Shangai, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. Although Hill and Sylvainy were not Australian some of the company were, including Emil Lazern, Leonard Nelson, May McCrystal, and Leslie Norman. Others engaged included Victor Kelly (late of Kelly and Ashby), Maude Aynas, Maud Christie and C.H. Ware. In a letter from Singapore to Sydney’s Referee newspaper (17 Feb. 1904, 10), Emil Lazern indicates that the company planned play Western Australia after India. No details of this tour have yet been located.

1: Trick cyclists Arthur Hill and Madame Sylvainy made their Australian debut at the Sydney Tivoli on 21 March 1903 billed as “Parisian Artists.” Their last known Australian performances were in late September that year.
2: In reporting Emil Lazern’s return to Australia in November 1904, Adelaide’s Register records that after finishing up his duties as Harry Rickards’ stage manager, the magician had organised a company of his own for a tour through India (3 Nov. 1904, 4). This is at odds with his letter from Singapore in which he states that had been touring the East with Hill’s World’s Entertainers, and was then on his way to India with the company (10).
Image source: Straits Times (Singapore)13 Jan. 1904, 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. Fred 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 (Mount Gambier, SA) 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 Australasian region almost continuously for ten years. After his divorce from Priscilla Verne in 1892, Hugo alternated occasional tours with his Buffalo 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 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 onward. Several well-known performers were associated with the Serenaders at various times, notably Dan Weldon, Syd Hollister, Hugh Steyne and Syd Burchill.



aka Ike Delavale’s Whizz-Bangs /  Ike Delavale & Co / Ike Delavale’s Metropolitan Star Co

(1925 – ca. 1930s) Charles “Ike” Delavale (aka Ern Vockler) 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 (it was renamed the Whizz-Bangs in 1929), and is known to have still been working in this line of entertainment around Australia and New Zealand in the early 1930s. For its 1931/32 Brisbane engagement the company was billed as Ike Delavale and Co. The comedian briefly  put together another troupe in 1934, this time calling it the Metropolitan Star Company.

1: Among the performers who appeared with the company were Elvie Stagpoole, Billy Cass, Bert Desmond, Reg Thornton, Lulla Fanning, Reg Herberte, Mona Thomas, Marie La Varre, Check Hayes, Harry Ross [2], Les Shipp and Mabelle Morgan.
2: In the 1940s Delavale also occasionally toured a company called Ike Delavale’s Nut-Crackers.
Image: Telegraph (Brisbane) 17 Nov. 1931, 11.


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Published on March 13, 2011 at 5:43 am  Comments Off on Troupes [G-L]