Troupes [M-R]

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



O'Donnell & Ray Panto Co 1 [E 23 May 1923, 6]

(1921-ca. 1937) Comedian Bert Ray and entrepreneur Jack O’Donnell joined forces in 1921 to tour a specialist pantomime troupe around regional Australia. The company, which also played occasional city seasons, remained active until the late 1930s, presenting a panto repertoire that was mostly written by Ray, with the occasional musical comedy, including The Flirting Widow (ca. 1923). The company’s first and last confirmed engagements were both in New South Wales, beginning in Lismore in April 1921 and ending in Hay in early November 1937. Among the many artists engaged by O’Donnell and Ray were Nelle Kolle, Harry Ross [2], Will Kenny, Hazel Nutt, Olive Raymond, and Ward Lear Jnr. Bert Ray also usually played the dame roles.

See also: O’Donnell and RayBert RayJack O’Donnell

O'Donnell & Ray Panto Co 2 [E 23 May 1923, 6]1: O’Donnell and Ray also produced revues, revudeville and vaudeville in the 1930s. The 1937 company, for example, was primarily a revue troupe.
2: Hazel Nutt appears to have been associated with the O’Donnell and Ray Pantomime Company throughout its 16 years of operations.
3: The company’s known pantomimes are Mother Goose (1921), Jack and the Beanstalk (1921), Prince Charming (1921), Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1923), Humpty Dumpty (1923), Old Mother Hubbard (1924), Sinbad the Sailor (1924), and Beauty and the Beast (1928). * The years indicate first known production – see AVTA Works entries for further details.
Both images: Everyone’s (Sydney) 23 May 1923, 36.



aka Veterans of the Minstrel & Variety World/Veterans of Variety [2]

Old Time Minstrels 1929 [

(1929) The night after Jake Friedman’s highly popular Veterans of Variety closed at Sydney’s Grand Opera House (8 Nov.), the theatre’s lessee/manager George Marlow began his own retro vaudeville show. Similarly combining veterans and new artists, including some from Friedman’s show, the Marlow production differed in that it featured a minstrel first half (including the semi-circle and endmen). Some of the biggest names engaged were Peggy Pryde, Fred Bluett, Ward Lear, Will Leslie, Wal Rockley, the Gilberts, and Martin Hagan and Lucy Fraser. The season ended in mid-December to make way for Marlow’s Christmas pantomime.

Old Time Minstrels - 1929 [SCTWA 13 Dec 1929, 15]1: Other artists engaged included Louie Duggan, Harry Norris, Lester and Cottam, Victor and Edna Hagan, Therese Carmo, Marie Maxwell, Hartley Court, Peggy and Alfred, Sylvia Post Mason, Sam Harris, Elroy, St Leon’s Posing Dogs, the Lawlers, Cahill Sisters, The Diggers, Hyman Trio, Baby Lynn, Dorothy Dewar.
2: A re-organised veterans company played some select centres in the New South Wales South Coast region immediately after the Grand Opera House season closed. It is presently unclear who produced this tour (although Marlow’s theatre is mentioned in advertising). Advertisements for the South Coast tour also record that the show was coming “direct from the principal cities of Australia.” However,  only Sydney’s Grand Opera House has been identified as hosting a veterans of variety show in 1929.
3: Interestingly Jake Friedman (who has not been identified with the Marlow venture), was a headliner with the South Coast company. Others known to appear were Lily Bernand George Campbell, Arthur Slater, Mysterious Howards.
Images: Top – Evening News (Sydney) 14 Nov. 1929, 8. Bottom – South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (NSW) 13 Dec. 1929, 15.



(1926) The Fullers‘ first minstrel show revival operated between 30 January and 12 February during Jim Gerald‘s season at Fullers’ Theatre, Sydney. Although details of the shows are sketchy it was likely an abridged version of the minstrel format (1st part semi-circle and brief olio section). Gerald’s company effectively operated as an extended afterpiece (farce). The line-up boasted such blackface veterans as Jack Kearns, Ward Lear, Wal Rockley and Arthur Elliott (cornermen). Will Kenny was interlocutor. Linn Smith’s Nigger Ragtime Band was both an act and pit band. Later engagements included: Newcastle (13-26 Feb.), New Zealand (ca. Mar-Sept), and a New South Wales regional tour under Alf Coleman’s management (ca. Sept.-Nov.).

1: The Fullers’ Theatre (Sydney) season opened shortly before the J.C. Williamson’s revival transferred to the Sydney Tivoli from Melbourne. The Newcastle shows were followed by a second part all-vaudeville entertainment.
2: Other performers to appear with this company were: Frank Foster, Robert Needham, Harry Linden, and William Innes.


Please note:  The name Arthur Elliott appears in advertisements and reviews for the Newcastle (Olde Time Nigger Minstrels [1]) and Melbourne (Olde Time Nigger Minstrels [2]) seasons even though both were held concurrently. There is currently no explanation for this.



(1926) The second of the Fullers‘ minstrel show revival companies made its debut in Melbourne at the Bijou Theatre on 12 February during F. Gayle Wyer’s Band Box Revue Company season. Several members of the company doubled up in both parts – notably Walter Cornock, Billy Bovis and the Charleston Jazz Symphonists. The Melbourne shows also featured Mr C. [aka Finlay Currie] as interlocutor/director and Arthur Elliott. Following engagements were held during the Gayle Wyer company’s 1926 Australian tour. The known revival dates are Brisbane (3-30 Apr.) and Perth (3-17 Dec.). The show does not appear to have been presented during Gayle Wyer’s season at the Fullers’ Majestic Theatre in Newtown, Sydney (ca. July-Sept.).

Other performers to appear in the second company’s shows were: Melbourne – Blondi Robinson, Olive McLennan, Tom Downie (baritone), Charles Davis (basso), Premier Quartet. Brisbane – Mr C., Billy Bovis, Stan Tilton, Eddie West, Arthur Elliott, Blondi Robinson, Eddie West, Charles Davis, Tom Downey, Jack Bannon, Vic Haines, Premier Quartet. Perth – Charles Norman, Billy Bovis, Gayle Wyer, Ward Lear, Sam Ward, Ethel Hartley, Vera Benson, Heather Jones.



(1928-1929) Formed by J.L. Herbert, lessee/manager of Adelaide’s newly remodeled Palais Royal, and presented under the direction of comedian Elton Black, the cabaret and vaudeville season opened on 8 December 1928 with E. Samuels’ revue, The Music Box. Comprising 31 artists (both local and interstate performers), the production is of some historical interest in that it featured local dancer Bobby Helpman (later Sir Robert Helpmann). The troupe’s stars were Elton Black, Keith Connolly, Ivy Baker, Alice Bennetto and Sam Ward. Poor audience numbers saw the line-up reduced to 20 by year’s-end, and on 4 January 1929 the show closed when Herbert announced that he could not pay the salaries due. Fourteen interstate artists were subsequently left stranded. A benefit concert held nine days later raised £75 to help send them home.

1: Other performers/acts identified were: Cyril Bradley, Arthur Clarke, Stella Collier, The Harmony Four, Haidie Millar, Alec Regan, and Netta Rodney. The Palais Orchestra (otherwise known as Jeacle’s Merrymakers) was led by music director Marjory Murray, with choreography by Jean Cahill. The ballet/chorus was billed as the Radiant Eight.
2. Reports of the show’s demise were published widely, with many highlighting the plight of the young ballet girls who had been abandoned by management. One girl was aged only sixteen. Concerns regarding their safely led to support from the Adelaide police who arranged for them to stay free-of-charge at their accommodation.
3. A fortnight after the season closed Elton Black and his wife Alice Bennetto began a tour of Adelaide’s Star Theatres cinema chain.



aka The Lelliott Family Paragon Bellringers

(1893-1894 ) Founded by A. and H. Lelliott (possibly in late 1893), the Paragon Bellringers troupe comprised multi-instrumentalists, singers and at least one comedian. It’s first known engagement was at the Coogee Aquarium (Sydney) on 23 October 1893 and its last was at a benefit held at Sydney’s Theatre Royal on 1 June the following year. Performers identified with the troupe were: Fred Dark (comedian), Jules Simonsen (tenor), Florrie Ranger (serio-comic), Lily Swift (singer), Minnie Phillips, T.A. Ricketts (accompanist), and the Paragon Trio (William Busch and the Lelliott brothers). The Bellringers troupe disbanded in order to allow the Lelliotts and Frederick Busch to tour as a trio.

Several reviews published in New Zealand in 1896 mistakenly refer to the Paragon Trio as the Paragon Bellringers (although bellringing had become part of the trio’s act from mid-1894 onwards).



(aka Paul Stanhope’s Merry Musical Burlesque Co / Paul Stanhope’s American Burlesque Co / Paul Stanhope’s Musical Comedy Co)

Stanhope Co Cover [TT Apr 1915](1914-1921) After the American Burlesque Company disbanded Paul Stanhope toured his own, and effectively helped pioneer the Australian revusical. Initially featuring Les Bates (as Stanhope’s off-sider) and four members of the American Burlesque Co (Harry Ross [1], George McCall, Teddy Long and Arthur Renshaw), later performers included Helen Le Cain, Val and Lottie Newman, Will Rayner, Phyllis Faye, Polly McLaren, Peter Brooks, Mabel Morgan, Mark Erickson, Ernest Pitcher and Pearl Livingstone. The troupe toured Australasia until 1921, albeit with two breaks (1916-17 and 1918), during which time Stanhope briefly returned to the US.



aka Beebe’s Polite Vaudeville and Minstrel Co / Beebe’s Polite Vaudeville and Mastodonian Minstrels

(1911) Put together by American ballooning engineer/showman Vincent Beebe around March/April 1911, the 20 member Polite Vaudeville troupe initially toured South Australia and south-west New South Wales headed by the Rockley Brothers, Lily Rockley, the Musical Blanchards and Waldrens. The musical director was Jack O’Kane. By August a re-organised troupe (with “Masterdonian” added to the name) included newcomers like Hedley and Bartlett, the Harvard Sisters, and Vera Clarke. By that stage the troupe was also touring Victoria. Although the tour had reportedly been booked for up to 18 months in advance no record of either Beebe or his company have been located after October 1911.

During the day Beebe often operated his ballooning activities.



(1893) Featuring Horace Bent, Sylvo, and Carlton and Sutton, who had all just come off contract with Dan Tracey (Gaiety Theatre, Sydney), Priddy’s Electric Marvels only established engagements were in Hobart (15-28 Sept) and Launceston (2-9 Oct.). Although company’s publicity announced a New Zealand tour, no trans-Tasman have been located. Furthermore, at least one proposed season in regional Tasmania (Lefroy) in late October also reportedly failed to eventuate. Despite the all-star line-up, and such specialties as Priddy’s “Slide for Life” and crystal lights, the tour appears to have been undertaken with mixed results – possibly a response to economic depression which had by then taken hold of Australia.

1: Other members of the company included: Will Watts, Ada Juneen, Lily Octavia, Minna Nimmo, Nellie Walton, J.R. Wadley, Madeline Carina, and H. Roberts. The music director was George Wilson, with advance publicity organsied by Walter Carle (who had previously been Dan Tracey’s interlocutor). Sam Keenan is mentioned in pre-tour publicity but his name has not been located in any subsequent reviews nor advertisements.
2: The Slide for Life involved a descent to the stage along an “invisible” wire attached to the rear of the theatre, the performer being suspended by the head to a small pulley-wheel. The electric” aspect of the show comprised several “dazzling crystal lights” (actually incandescent gas) which were set up on the stage during the minstrel first part. The lamps were reportedly so bright that the audiences demanded they be turned down. No information regarding Priddy (including his full name) has yet been located.



aka Punchinellos Costume Comedy Company

(1911-1913) Organised by J.D. Pilcher from members of the Merry Mascottes, the Punchinellos made its debut at Manly (Sydney) on 7 October 1911. In March 1912 the ensemble opened in Brisbane with a line-up comprising Albert and Maud Bletsoe, Will Raynor, Percy McKay, Olive Sinclair, Adele Kelly, George Tubb, and Ernest Gollmick. Thereafter it undertook two tours through the nearby Darling Downs  region and played three further Brisbane engagements – the Empire Theatre (twice) and the Palace Gardens. Comedian Reg Harrison joined the company during the first Empire season, while Albert and Maude Bletsoes departed prior to the Palace Gardens debut. They were replaced by Cherry Braham and Cecil Douglas. The Punchinellos  later travelled to New Zealand, and with a re-organised line-up toured regional Queensland. Another re-organised and expanded ensemble  played two final seasons in Sydney.

  • More details (research notes)
  • See also: Merry Mascottes [above]
1. The 1913 Sydney season were conducted at the Repertory Theatre (Grosvenor Street) and the Little Theatre (Castlereagh Street). The much expanded line-up for these engagements included Percy McKay, Reg Harrison, Nellie Murphy, Belle Steele, Geraldine Morton, Frank Hawthorne, Ida Newton, Miss Ray D’Arcy, Bert Barton, Andrew Betts, Basil Bates, Alexander Black, Ernest Leathley, and Bennet C. McKenzie (accompanist).
2. Unrelated to the Punchinellos company headed by Charles Hardy (see below).



aka Punchinellos Costume Comedy & Concert Company / The Punchos

(1914-1916) Although known by the same name as J.D. Pilcher’s Punchinellos [above], no connection between the two operations has been identified. Charles Hardy, who established this second company, was likely unconcerned given that he constrained its touring to Victoria and Tasmania – two states Pilcher’s Punchinellos never visited. The Hardy-led ensemble’s first known engagement was at the Port Melbourne Town Hall on 11 August 1914. Its last occurred in Donald (Victoria) on 4 April 1917. Often billed as the “famous’ or brilliant.” the troupe’s rigorous touring schedule eventually saw it become affectionately known as the Punchos. As an entertainment package the troupe could vary the length and content of its performances as required, whether it be part of a vaudeville program or its own two hour show.

Among the best known performers to appear with the company at some stage between 1914 and 1917 were Bert and Evelyn Dudley, Masie Posner and James Caldwell. The troupe’s owner/manager Charles Hardy was a well-known tenor. He also performed with the troupe throughout its lifetime. Vera Hardy was its accompanist. The Punchinellos entertainment package included films.



(1873-1874) A touring company of alternating artists formed in June 1873 by M. Hegarty, lessee of Sydney’s Theatre Royal, the Queen’s Variety Troupe made its debut in Brisbane. This was followed by tours to Newcastle, regional Queensland and New Zealand (Dec. 1873. – ca. Apr. 1984). The troupe played seasons in Sydney (twice) and in Melbourne during August and September 1874. During non-tour periods any artists still under contract to Hegarty fulfilled their obligations with him in Sydney. Among the best-known performers associated with the troupe were Harry Brahm, Lance Lenton, the Empsons, Harry Sefton and Tom Gall.

Sydney’s Theatre Royal (York St) was formerly known as the Lyceum (among other names) and operated under the Theatre Royal name only briefly (1872-73). Not long after the formation of the Queen’s Variety Troupe it was renamed the Queen’s Theatre.



aka Bohemia Radios / Fred Bluett’s Bohemia Radios

(1924-1925) Organised and headed by eminent comedian Fred Bluett for a short season in Bohemia Marquee Theatre in Telford Street, East Newcastle (New South Wales), the Radios featured several other leading variety performers of the era – notably Alf J. Lawrance and Nell Crane, and Harry Graham and Dorothy Manning. The season opened on Boxing Night 1924 and continued through until 9 January. For the final performance the line-up was bolstered by comedians Ward Lear and Arthur Alberts. Other performers engaged included Charles Aston (basso), Violet Lester (singer), Charles Aston (basso cantante), Roseate Duo (violinists), Gus Dawson (singer/dancer), Corelli (singer), and Eily Dagliesh. Alf Lawrence also doubled as music director/conductor.

A publicity blurb published in the Newcastle Morning Herald indicates that the Radios had “just finished a record season in Brisbane” (“Bohemia Radios,” 23 Dec. 1924, 6). No season by a troupe known as the Radios has been identified in Brisbane or elsewhere during 1924. None of the key performers were in the Queensland capital during the second half of the year either.



(1937) The Revellers variety company succeeded Graham Mitchell’s Jesters at the Rex Theatre, Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) on 25 June 1937 (the Jesters having opened the theatre 14 months previously). Although under new management the troupe largely comprised the same line-up that had be appearing over the previous weeks – notably Gene Le Roy (magician), Maurice Barling, Winnie Edgerton, Peter Brooks, May and Marie (daredevil skaters), and Cusko’s Miniature Circus. New acts engaged during the troupe’s short-lived season included Amy Rochelle, Sam Stern, Grace Savieri, Les Statuesques, Roberto (equilibrist), and the Laronnes (continental dancers). After the Revellers last show on 15 July the Rex became a continuous picture theatre.



aka Richards’ London Bioscope & Variety Co / Richards’ Variety Co

Richards Entertainers [BENS 3 Mar. 1905, 2](1903-1910) After severing his connection with R.G. Oyston and the London Biograph Company ca. October 1902, A.T. Richards put together his own touring film and vaudeville company, debuting it sometime the following year. The earliest known season was in Rockhampton, Queensland, in late-July. The new company included more variety performances than the earlier company, and over the next seven years employed numerous local and international acts. In similar fashion to the London company, though, Richards spent much of the time on the road crisscrossing the continent and playing largely regional centres. He ended his touring in late-1910 to become co-owner of the Fiveways Picture Gardens, Woolloongabba (Brisbane) with Sidney Cook.

1: Among the acts engaged were comedians Will Wynand, Joe Lashwood and Les Coney, juggler Paul Kinko, singers Frank Peachy, A.A. Marks, Brander Balfour, and Jessie Thornton, and American skater Fred Norris. Richards operated the projectors and directed the entertainment. Bert Love was his long-time tour manager. The singers typically accompanied moving pictures.
2: The company became known as Richards’ Entertainers in late-1904. In 1906 Richards upgraded the Bioscope with a Polyscope. In 1906 Richards upgraded the Bioscope with a Polyscope.
3: Several of the artists engaged remained with Richards for years at a time..
Image source: Image source: Benalla Standard (Vic) 3 Mar. 1905, 2.



(1933) After disbanding the London Revels troupe in mid-1933, Elton Black, his wife Alice Bennetto, and comedian Will Miller travelled to Perth to play the Luxor Theatre under Richard Shafto. Billed as Richard Shafto’s Revels, the 22-member company’s feature artists also included Keith Connolly, Stud Foley, Elsie Hoskins, Stan Iveson, Maurice Jaffey, Bill Miller, Eileen Moran and Stanelli and Grace. Continuing through until late October, the season also saw the company augmented by specialty acts such as tumblers Kinrose and Cliftie and comedy juggler Frank Melbourne.



(1912-1913) Comprising around 15 performers who had previously appeared under J.C. Bain at Sydney’s Princess Theatre, and headed by Joseph L. Lanphier (formerly with John F. Sheridan) and Iris Webster (ex-Julius Knight company), the Royal Pantomime Company was formed by Philip Lytton in early 1912. The troupe toured extensively throughout New South Wales and Queensland with a repertoire that comprised Sinbad the Sailor, Sheridan’s Cinderella (1902),  Puss in Boots and Jack and the Beanstalk. Harry Clay took over the tour at some stage during 1913, while a number of new supporting cast members were also engaged that year.

This company is not believed to have been related to Stephenson and Linley‘s Royal Pantomime Company (1913-14) or Stanley McKay’s Royal Pantomime Company (ca. 1914).



(1884) Established for a tour of regional Victoria in late-1884, the Royal Magnet Combination featured Cyril Kingsley (“world champion” trick cyclist), Willie Deverene (“champion acrobat and contortionist of the world”), Hercules Parlatti (“the man with the iron jaws and celebrated horse-tamer), Young America (equilibrist and rope-tricks), and Micky and Patsy (“celebrated Dublin clowns”). Managed by J. Curthew and organised by Kiel Leslie (agent) the tour is currently known to have visited Sale, Maffra and Bairnsdale. After concluding in late-October or early-November several of the performers travelled to Sydney. Kingsley worked briefly for Frank Smith while Parlatti formed his own Royal Magnet Mammoth Show, which also featured Deverne.

Little is yet known about the origins and Australian and/or international careers of the above artists. Hercules Parlatti appears to have been associated with Australia between at least 1882 and 1890. He was often billed as the “Modern Sampson. Cyril Kingsley was active here for only a few years (1884-1886), while Willie Deverene’s movements have been identified only between September 1884 and January 1885.



Royal Magnet Variety Co ad [AUSN 27 July 1871, 4](1871-1873) Brought to Australia from London by Victorian horse-racing identity E.C. Moore, the Royal Magnet troupe initially comprised acrobats Frank, Victor and Lottie Angell, singers Minnie Stanley and Fanny Sara, comedian Fred Clifton and a diorama depicting the siege of Paris. After debuting in Ballarat on 27 July Nicholas La Feuillade (violin) and Ethiopian delineators Buckley and Holly were engaged. Moore took the troupe to New Zealand in early January 1873 but soon afterwards went bankrupt. The tour continued under new management through until July at which time it returned to Australia. Re-organised as the Lottie Magnet Troupe (still based around the Angells) the company continued touring through until early 1874.

Not to be confused with the Great Magnet Variety Troupe (1875), Royal Magnet Combination Troupe (1884), Dwarf and Magnetic Lady Troupe (1885), or Royal Magnet Variety Troupe [2] (below).
Image source: Australasian (Melbourne) 27 July 1872, 4.



(1885) Almost nothing is currently known about this company apart from performers Charles Holly and J. Collins and two recorded engagements in Cootamundra and Gundagai, New South Wales during May and June 1885. Even then an accident prevented all but Collins from appearing in the latter town on 2 June. The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser records that Collins deserved “great credit for the manner in which he succeeded in entertaining his audience single-handed for a couple of hours” (5 June 1885, 3). The troupe was reportedly on its way to Melbourne.

Not to be confused with the Royal Magnet Variety Troupe [1] (above), Lottie’s Royal Magnet Troupe (1874-1875), Great Magnet Variety Troupe (1875), Royal Magnet Combination Troupe (1884), Dwarf and Magnetic Lady Troupe (1885), or Royal Magnet Troupe [2] (1885).



aka Sydney James’ Pierrot Pie Co

(1900-1919)  Founded by Sydney James in London in 1900 as a trio (James, G.W. Desmond and Madeline Rossiter) an expanded line-up later toured its costumed music hall act through the British Isles, South Africa (4 times) and the USA before coming to Australia in 1914 (as the Royal Strollers). James changed the name of the troupe to the Pierrot Pie Company in 1918 and shortly afterwards took it to New Zealand followed by India. The tour ended in July 1919, however, when James died from peritonitis en route to Karachi. In addition to James, Desmond and Rossiter, the Australian Strollers line-up included Cyril Northcote, Josie Jackson, Les Coney, Connie Milne and Charles Weston. Roy Redgrave also appeared briefly with the troupe.



aka Charles Weston’s Royal Strollers

royal-strollers-armc-30-july-1919-5(1919-1920) When Sydney James departed Australia for the East in mid-1919 his general manager Charles Weston remained behind having acquired the rights to tour a similarly-named company within Australia. The newly organised troupe, which made its debut in Newcastle, New South Wales, on 12 July, featured Gladys Shaw, Carlton Max, Les Coney, and Weston himself – as a character actor and instrumentalist. The company later played towns along the Northern New South Wales (NSW) rail line, and a lengthy Brisbane season (Palace Gardens and Lyceum Theatre) before heading south to play select towns in the NSW central-west and then St Kilda, Melbourne. Weston kept the company going, albeit with major line-up changes until at least May 1920.

1: The second Royal Strollers season were typically billed as being presented in association with Sydney James, and from late July 1919 as in association with the late-Sydney James. One of the later high-profile signings was Gladys Shaw’s brother, Keith Connolly.
2: The final Royal Strollers engagements appear to have been played in the Adelaide suburbs (possibly Magill) in May 1920. It is unclear if Chas Weston was still associated with the company by then, however. His name has not been identified in any advertisements or reviews following the conclusion of the St Kilda season (ca. Jan. 1920).
Image source: Armidale Chronicle (NSW) 30 July 1919, 5


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