Troupes [M-R]

McAdoos Georgia Minstrels to 1925 Minstrels ……. p.1
O’Donnell & Ray Pantomime Co to Royal Strollers ……. p.2



McAdoo's Georgia Minstrels - 1899 [SLNSW]

(1899-1900) After bringing his Jubilee Singers (aka Fisk Jubilee Singers) to Australia in mid-1898, Orpheus McAdoo returned to the USA early the following year to put together the Georgia Minstrels and Alabama Cakewalkers. The 30 member company opened its Australian tour in June 1899, presenting a high quality three part minstrel show (the shows ended, however, with an exhibition of cakewalking instead of the usual farce). Another feature act was contortionist Ferry the Human Frog. The company folded in early July 1900, shortly after McAdoo was hospitalised with Pernicious anaemia. He died on 17 July.

Image: McAdoo’s Georgia Minstrels and Alabama Cakewalkers, Jan. 1900. Source: State Library of New South Wales.



aka Graham Mitchell’s Serenaders

(1938-1939) Madge Cloherty took over Brisbane’s Theatre Royal from Graham Mitchell on New Year’s Eve 1937. The Celebrities (which initially retained the name Graham Mitchell’s Serenaders) remained there until September 1939. Cloherty then began presenting drama at the Royal. Staged under the direction of comedian Len Rich, the company presented a combination of vaudeville and revue. Among the artists engaged by Cloherty were Syd Beck, Buster Fiddes, George Wallace, Roy Rene, Sadie Gale, Elton Black Nat Hanley, Nellie Kolle, Stud Foley, Stella Lamond and Stanley McKay’s Gaieties.



aka Hiscocks & Hayman’s Mammoth Minstrels

(1879-1881) In March 1879 F.E. Hiscocks and Alf Hayman took control of Cheevers, Kennedy and Bent’s Minstrels, renaming the troupe the Mammoth Minstrels. In addition to Cheevers, Kennedy and Horace Bent, the line-up included Lou Braham, Edwin Amery, Vernon Reed and T. Campbell. After making its debut in Adelaide on 1 March, the company played Melbourne, Bendigo, Hobart, New Zealand (June-Aug.), Sydney, and Melbourne before returning to New Zealand. The company at time was strengthened by the inclusion of Beaumont Read, T. Campbell and J.S. Fredericks. 1880 saw Hiscocks and Hayman take the company back through New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania before heading overseas after a season in Adelaide in August.

Details of the company’s overseas activity remain sketchy. The first season identified to date was in Manchester, England beginning 11 October 1880. A report in the Lorgnette indicates that the company was working in Britain up until early 1881 (“Figaro.” Mar. 1881, 2.). The performers involved in both the Australian and British tours appear to have been Ben Brown, J. Newlands, Charley Wallace and Richmond Thatcher. By 1881, however, all had departed the company. Although Hiscocks and Hayman indicated they would take the Mammoth Minstrels to America no engagements have yet been located.



Following the end of the Melbourne revival of Matsa -Queen of Fire in May 1897, Williamson and Musgrove engaged a number of cast members to form the Matsa Vaudeville Company, which toured New Zealand between June and early August. Among those engaged were John Coleman, Alice Leamar, Frank Lawton, Little Gulliver, Ernest Fitts and Mr Leoni Clarke (the “Cat King”).



aka Merry Mascottes Musical Comedy Company / Merry Manly Mascottes / George Whitehead’s Merry Mascottes

(1910-1911) Put together by A.L. Baird and headed by English entertainer George Whitehead, the Merry Mascottes made its debut at the Sydney seaside suburb of Manly in late-November 1910 with a line-up that also comprised Will Raynor, G. Edwards, Courtney Ford, Ivy Davis, Albert and Maud Bletsoe, and music director George Tubbs. After more than 160 performances in Sydney the costume comedy ensemble toured regional Queensland and played a season at the King’s Theatre, Adelaide. The line-up by then had expanded with the addition of Harry Graham, Vera Savage, and Grace Quine. After returning to Sydney in early October the company came under the management of J.D. Pilcher who re-organised it as the Punchinellos Costume Comedy Company.

  • See also: The Punchinellos [1] [below]
1. The Queensland tour was undertaken in association with Birch and Carroll. G. Edwards did not accompany the Mascottes.
2. The Adelaide season (26 Aug. – 29 Sept.) was produced under the sole direction of A.R. Shepard. The ensemble was supported by the King’s Orchestra, led by Jessie Gray. George Tubbs remained the music director.
3. The Punchinellos also made its debut at Manly. Opening night was 7 October 1911.
Image source: Sun (Sydney) 7 Jan. 1911, 16.



(1928) A costume comedy revue troupe put together and directed by Vic Roberts for a season at the Cremorne Theatre (Brisbane), the Mirthquakers made its debut in mid-February, following on from Elton Black‘s New Follies. Among the artists engaged by Roberts were Bert Le Blanc, Moon and Morris, Linda Foy, George Moon Jnr and the Great Levante. While the entertainment largely comprised vaudeville turns and revue-style sketches, the troupe staged at least one full length musical comedy, Great Scott, before the season closed in mid-June.



Mo's Merrymakers [STS 30 Dec 1928, 18]

(1928-1929) Put together by Roy Rene during the final days of the Stiffy and Mo partnership, Mo’s Merrymakers made its debut on 8 December 1928 at Fullers’ Theatre, Sydney. The troupe remained there until 23 February the following year, by which time its leader’s contract with the Fullers had expired. In April Rene accepted an engagement from Clay’s Bridge Theatre Company to tour its Sydney circuit. Four months later he and Sadie Gale (his wife of barely a month) took a re-formed Merrymakers troupe through Northern New South Wales and regional Queensland for Clay’s. Among the artists to appear with Merrymakers at some stage were Billy Bovis, Peter Brooks, Lulla Fanning, Keith Connolly, Dan Weldon, Verna Bain, Tiki Carpenter, and Irene Vando.



(1926-ca. 1929) Formed in mid-1926 by English-born dancers and comedians George Moon and Daniel Morris, the Moon and Morris Revue Company presented a combination of revue sketches and vaudeville. The troupe included several well-established and high-profile performers such as former Famous Diggers comedian, Ed Warrington (who wrote much of the material) and Alec Kellaway. The troupe is known to have still been performing around Australia and New Zealand in 1929.



(1904) In 1904 William Hollinworth, general manager of the Australasian Mutoscope Company, Sydney, organised what was to be a vaudeville, Mutuscope and Biotint tour of the Australasian region. Beginning in Cairns in mid-June the company travelled south over the next few months, making it to Northern New South Wales before backtracking to Brisbane in September. Led by tour manager Jack Campbell and headlined by magician Percy Verto, the company’s popularity with Brisbane audiences saw it move from Centennial Hall to the Theatre Royal in early October. No further reports of the company’s movements have been located either in Australian or New Zealand newspapers after the Brisbane season, however.

1: The initial line-up comprised Percy Verto (illusionist/escapologist), Harry Elliott (comedian/eccentric dancer), Helosie Austa (singer), and La Petite Verto (singer). Later inclusions were Iris the Beautiful (transformation act), Nellie Murphy (singer), and Little Willie (“vest-pocket” comedian).
2: The Mutoscope machines (which operated on the flick-book principle) were for individual, coin-operated viewing. It is unclear how many machines were taken on tour. The Biotint was an early moving picture projector (the feature film exhibited was A Trip to the Moon).



Myra Carden's Magnet Co [CRE 2 Mar 1889, 5](1887-1891) Myra Carden’s name has first been identified with Fred Loyola and his Magnet Variety Troupe in March 1886, when a wanted notice for lady vocalists and song and dance artists was placed in her name in the South Australian Register. Between 1887 and 1891 the company traversed through northern New South Wales and southern Queensland each year as Myra Carden’s Magnet Company, with Loyala still involved as performer and general/business manager. Among the performers identified to date were Nellie Hodson, Riley Brothers, James White, Tom Edwards, Ernest Hunter, Jennie Leigh Grant, Myra St Clair, and Alf McDermott. The troupe’s last known whereabouts were in Penrith (NSW) in September 1891.



aka Nat Phillips’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Co

(1916-1925, 1927-28) Nat Phillips Tabloid Musical Comedy Co (later Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Company, or just Stiffy and Mo) was one of the most popular and influential revusical companies operating in Australia between 1915 and the late 1920s. After forming from the remnants of Albert and Maud Bletsoes’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Company, the line-up remained almost unchanged during its first five years. Over the years the troupe’s high profile line-up included Connors and Paul, Amy Rochelle, Nellie Kolle, Alec and Jack Kellaway, Walter Whyte, Mann and Franks, Peter Brooks, Vince Courtney, Keith Connolly, Gladys Shaw, and choreographer Rosie Bowie.



(1925-1927, 1928-1932)  Founded by Nat Phillips following 1925 break-up of Stiffy and Mo company, the Whirligigs initially featured Phillips as Oscar the Aussie and Harry Huley as Percy the Pom. Phillips later teamed up with Jack Kellaway as Stiffy and ‘Erb. Phillips revived the Whirligigs immediately after he and Roy Rene split for the final time, but renamed it the Nat Phillips Revue Company in 1930. The troupe disbanded in 1932 following the unexpected death of its leader. Other key artists included Stan “Stud” Foley, Joe Lawman, Stella Lamond and Syd Beck.



New Ideas [ARG 7 Oct 1922, 34](1922-1923) A year after selling his Vogues and Vanities company, Cedric Johnson put together a new combination which he named after a promotional slogan used in billing for the previous troupe. The New Ideas opened at Johnson’s Lyric Theatre, St Kilda (Melbourne) in October 1922 with a line-up featuring Will Charteris, Gladys Wilton, Cliff O’Keefe, Edmund Warrington, Tom Preston, and with lavish setting designed by John Little and Sons. Johnson took a re-organised company to Tasmania between March and late-May 1923, with Bert Gilbert as headline performer. Plans to return later in the year never eventuated.

Image source: Argus (Melbourne) 7 Oct. 1922, 34.



New York Serenaders [CT 7 Nov 1851. 3](Aust: 1851, 1853) Comprising Bill White, J.P. Nash, James E. Kitts, J. Lee, C. Cushing, and J.O. Pierce, the New York Serenaders made its Australian debut in Launceston on 4 March 1851. Over the next nine months the troupe played Hobart (three times), Launceston and Sydney (twice each), as well as Campbell Town (Tasmania), Parramatta and Maitland (New South Wales), and Perth (prior to departing for an 18 months tour of the East in early December). The Serenaders returned to Australia in May 1853, opening in Sydney at the Royal Hotel on 6 June. Before disbanding in late-December the troupe also played select engagements in regional New South Wales, including Bathurst, Maitland, and the Turon goldfields.

1: The New York Serenaders formed in New York in 1849 and played the major north-eastern cities, San Francisco and Honolulu before coming to the Australian colonies. The 1851 tour saw the troupe occasionally include additional artists on the bill. One of these performers, J. W. Reading joined the company full-time in mid-October 1851, replacing C. Cushing who returned to the USA. Several members also operated side-businesses while in Australia, notably as music and performance teachers.
2: Matthew Wittmann claims that the Serenaders left Sydney in July 1851 for Melbourne in response to the discovery of gold in Victoria and remained there for some months (55). He provides no evidence for these claims, and is possibly citing Col. T. Allson Brown (Early History of Negro Minstrelsy). A search using the Australian National Library’s digitised newspapers service (Trove) has found no evidence that the company ever played Melbourne – either in 1851 or in 1853.
3: James E. Kitts and J. Lee formed another New York Serenaders troupe in Australia in late-1854 with the view to undertaking another tour of the East and Mauritius. It’s only known engagements were in Perth in late December while waiting for their ship to undertake repairs in Fremantle. The company’s first overseas engagement was in Port Louis (Mauritius).
Image source: Colonial Times (Hobart) 7 Nov. 1851, 3:



(1853) A company calling itself the New York Serenaders is recorded as appearing at Adelaide’s Royal Victoria Theatre on at least three occasions during September 1853. The performers were C. Lyons (banjo), S. Nash (flutina), J.O. Pierce (banjo), F. Lee (flute), Master Christie (triangles), E. Buckingham (Bones) and C. Ellis (Tambo). The first show was a grand concert on 12 September. The following night they were included in a farewell benefit to local identity Troy Knight. The troupe’s last known concert was held on 27 September. That programme included a farce presented (presumably) by local actors.

While Nash, Lee and Pierce were also the surnames of three of the New York Serenaders [1], the given name initials are different in each case, suggesting that the similarities were a coincidence. At the time the of the Adelaide shows, the New York Serenaders [1] were playing engagements around the Bathurst region of New South Wales. Although only two names have been identified as being members of that touring party, one of them was J.O. Pierce.



aka Buckley, Gardner, Holly & Gibbons’ Nightingale Serenaders • Gardner, Gibbons & La Feuillade’s Nightingale Serenaders

Nightingales 2 [WWA 7 Mar 1882, 3]

(1881-1882) The Nightingale Serenaders was formed in November 1881 by Tom Buckley, Charles Holly, Dave Gardner and George Gibbons (business manager) for a few engagements in regional Victoria – notably Sandhurst (later Bendigo) and Ballarat. The troupe played Melbourne’s People’s Concerts in early January before undertaking a more extensive regional tour. Initially renamed Gardner, Gibbons and La Feuillade’s Nightingale Serenaders, by March the company was simply known as the Nightingale Serenaders. The tour went through parts of regional Victoria and southern New South Wales until late March (and possibly into April). Dave Gardner and his brother Johnny briefly toured a similarly-named company around Melbourne later the same year.

The original line-up also included Tom Buckley, Charles Holly, Nicholas La Feuillade (music director/violin), Eva Mortimer, Lilian Potter, Lottie Laverne, Mary Vivian and Little Vergie. Later members included George Arlington, Helen Gordon, Lillie Hill, and George Gibbons (as performer).
Image source: Wagga Wagga Advertiser (NSW) 7 Mar. 1882, 3.



aka Gibbon’s Minstrels

(1895-1896) George Gibbons revived the Nightingale Serenader’s name for a brief season of minstrelsy at Sydney’s Temperance Hall (Pitt St) over Christmas 1895. None of the earlier company’s members were involved. Described in the Sydney Morning Herald as “a very cheap and enjoyable class of entertainment” (26 Dec. 1895, 5), the line-up included George H. Jones (comic singer), Herbert Sherwin (tenor), Little Harry Bysack (wire-walker), Wallie Clair (coster impersonator), Eva Leete (serio-comic), C. Ross, J. Edmonds, Tessie Cleveland, and Misses R. Belmont, Clifford, and Auria. The music director was R. Stynes. Also referred to as Gibbon’s Minstrels, the company started its season on 21 December and finished in the New Year.

The name Gibbon’s Minstrels is used in reviews only. All newspaper advertisements refer to the company as the Nightingale Serenaders.


1925 MINSTRELS (Perth)

aka 1925 Nigger Minstrels / 1925 Revels

(1925) Put together by Joe Gardiner, and comprising a mix of artists from Perth and the Eastern States, the 1925 Minstrels debuted at the open-air Olympia Theatre on 21 February. Much of the publicity leading up to the event was focused on long absence of the minstrel show from the Australian stage and promised to stir old memories. The initial line-up included Jack Owens (interlocutor), Jack May, Jimmy Hale, Will Gilbert, and Hugh de Raine (cornermen). The music director was Will Butland. New artists were engaged and amateur trials held over the course of the season, which lasted through until at least mid-March with weekly changes of programme.

1: Other performers engaged were Dora Gilbert, Nellie Lewiston, Allan Royce, the Two Royals, Signor Mitchelli, Alice Springs, Mae Leslie, Thelma Mack, Nellie Lewison, Kitty Montgomery, Binns and Almar, Ethel Crisp, the Royal Hawaiians, and the Misto Company. For information relating to Will and Dora Gilbert see The Gilberts.
2: Among the farces staged were “The Lunatic Asylum” and “Listening In.”


Pages: 1 2

Published on April 9, 2011 at 12:17 am  Comments Off on Troupes [M-R]