Troupes [S-Z]

Sam Dearin’s Minstrels to Southern Cross Comedy Co ……. p.1
Stanley McKay’s Mammoth Pantomime Co to Tubby Stevens’ Tit-bits Revue Co ……. p.2
U.S. Minstrels to Ye Olde Nigger Minstrels (Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville) ……. p.3



aka Dearin and Gardner’s Musical Comiques

(1883) Briefly known at the start as Dearin and Gardner’s Comiques, Sam Dearin is thought to have established his second Australian troupe in Tasmania immediately after he and Dave Gardner left Clark and Ryman’s Comedy Company. Their earliest known engagement was in Launceston, Tasmania, on 27 July. By October the troupe was being identified as Dearin’s alone. Among the artists engaged were: George Gardner, Norah Martin, Amy Rowe, Johnny Gilmore. The troupe’s advance agent was Sydney Hall. After playing engagements in regional South Australia and Victoria, Dearin disbanded the troupe prior to rejoining Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels in Melbourne on 8 December.



aka San Francisco Minstrels and Sable Opera Troupe / Burbank and Demerest’s Celebrated San Francisco Minstrels

San Francisco Minstrels ad [EMP 25 Nov 1857, 1]

(1857-1862) One of several US minstrel troupes with San Francisco in its name, this company originated in that city in 1854 from former members of the E.P. Christy party. It was reorganized for a tour of Australia in 1857 with a line-up included two performers who had previously toured the country – Dan Boley and Otto Burban (Backus Minstrels). The troupe’s Australian debut on 25 November at Sydney’s Royal Hotel was followed by extensively tours through New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Occasional line-up changes occurred with the new members mostly comprising American performers already in the country.

1: Original line-up: Tom Brown, O. N. (Otto) Burbank, W.A. Porter, G.W. Demerest, Dan F. Boley, J.O. Pierce and Dave Carson. Later members included. J.M. Foans, Charles Walsh, T.P. Brower, B. Florence, George Chittendon. Charlie Backus also appeared with the company briefly in 1859. Dave Carson likely joined the troupe for its Sydney season (or shortly afterwards).
2: For further information on Dan Boley – see Boley’s Minstrels.



(1861-1862) The second San Francisco Minstrel party to be associated with the Australasian region, this troupe is believed to formed in Australia in early to mid-1861. It does not appear to have performed in the country, however, but rather toured New Zealand from around June 1861 up until at least December the following year. Of its six performers only one, George Chittendon (violin/alto), was associated with the other San Francisco Minstrels. The other members were: Walter Howson (banjo/baritone), O.P. Ritchie (tenor), J. J. Burgess (dancer/tambo), Harry Leslie (bones) and J. Taylor (singer). The troupe’s agent was M. L. Lay.



(1936) Elton Black put together the Serenaders for season at the Luxor Theatre, Perth, beginning 1 January 1936.  The troupe played through until late June, presenting both live variety entertainment and talkies. While Black oversaw the stage direction, the musical aspects handled by well-known Perth music director/pianist Winnie Walker. Among the artists to be engaged were George Moon Snr (see Moon and Morris), George Moon Jnr, Joe Lawman, Stella Lamond, Keith Connolly, Ron “Whacko” Shand, and Letty Craydon. The theatre was then under the management of Don Nicol and J. Wilson.



aka Shaw’s Royal Entertainers, Shaw’s Merrymakers and The English Pierrots

Shaw Family-English Pierrots [Connolly]

(ca. 1903-1914) Gerald Shaw (aka Harry Morewood Thomson) and Mary Connolly (aka Madam Marie Shaw/Clair Delmar) began touring as a family troupe a few years after returning to Australia from New Zealand. Featuring children Gladys and Keith, the Shaws largely entertained regional around Australia audiences before settling in Western Australia in the early 1910s. Although Gerald Shaw became involved in the mining industry from 1912 onwards, the family continued to perform. By this stage Gladys (serio and dancer) and Keith (comedian) had established strong reputations as juvenile performers. Billed variously as Shaw’s Royal Entertainers, Shaw’s Merrymakers and The English Pierrots, the family also occasionally toured with other companies.

1: Around 1902-1903 the Shaws were living in the Penrith/Nepean area of New South Wales. After returning to Western Australia in 1911 the family remained there for several years.
2: After their parents separated Gladys turned solo, while Keith soon afterwards enlisted in the A.I.F.’s mining corps. Mary resumed Connolly as her stage name. The youngest child, Gerry (Connolly),  is believed to have had only limited involvement with the troupe.
Image source: Sharon Connolly.



Shipp Specialty Co [CRA 31 Mar 1899, 5]

aka Shipp’s Tourists / Shipp’s Chicago Minstrels / Shipp’s Anglo-American Minstrels / Shipp’s Picture & Vaudeville Entertainers / Shipp & Hazlewood’s Empire Co

(1888-1901, 1908-1909) Edwin Shipp toured a number of his own troupes around Australia during the latter stages of the nineteenth century, typically alternating these ventures with engagements for other variety and dramatic firms and touring concerns. Known by various monikers, the Shipp-led troupes were also co-managed by his wife, Minnie, and from 1899 onwards involved their young children, Les, Rosie and Maudie. The tours were undertaken primarily in regional areas, especially New South Wales and Queensland, where Edwin Shipp’s reputation was strongest.

1: The approximate time periods for each these troupes are: Shipp’s Anglo-American Minstrels / Shipp’s Popular Concerts (1888), Shipp’s Chicago Minstrels (1889), Shipp & Hazlewood’s Empire Co (1895), Shipp Family / Shipp’s Specialty Co (1899), Shipp’s Tourist Co (1900).
2: Edwin Shipp is also believed to have managed and/or operated one or two of his own companies prior to securing permanent employment with Frank Smith in 1885 (as business and stage manager at the Alhambra Music Hall, Sydney). These troupes did not, however, tour under his name.
Image source: Clarence River Advocate (Maclean, NSW) 31 Mar. 1899, 5.



 aka Slade Murray’s English Specialty Co

(1890-1891) Slade Murray’s company only played the Melbourne Gaiety and Brisbane Gaiety theatres during its brief time together. Both engagements were played as double combinations. The first (as Murray’s English Specialty Co) was with the Melbourne theatre’s own combination – the Gaiety and Burlesque Co. Murray renamed his troupe the Gaiety Burlesque Co for Brisbane, with the season also including C.B. Hicks‘ American Coloured Minstrels. Murray disbanded the troupe in March 1891 in order to join Frank Clark‘s show in Melbourne. Key members of his troupe were Percy St John, James Wilkinson and Amy Johns.



aka Smart Set Entertainers / Walter George Smart Set

(1892-1914, 1917-19) Previously known as the Light Opera Singers and The Follies, Walter George brought the Smart Set Entertainers to Australia via South Africa and America in 1912. The 10-member troupe disbanded in 1915 when he and partner Georgie Martin joined Edward Branscombe’s Dandies.  They reformed the Smart Set in 1917, touring Australia and New Zealand through until 1920, at which time George and Martin established the Sunshine Players. The original line-up included Emily Kroll, Edward Elliot, Sunshine James, Mona Thomas, Tristram Greene and Edgar Holland (piano).

This troupe should not be confused with a similarly named digger company operating between 1917 and ca. 1930.



aka George Ward Revue Co / Whirl of Mirth Co

Snapshot Revue Co [NMH 22 Jan 1925, 12](1925-1928) Following Charles L Sherman‘s departure from the Ward-Sherman Revue Company in late 1924, George Ward established his own troupe, bringing in Bert Le Blanc as his off-sider. Initially called the Snapshot Revue Company, and later known as the George Ward Revue and the Whirl of Mirth companies, it toured up until late 1928/early 1929 with a repertoire comprising old Ward-Sherman revusicals and new shows written by Ward (often in collaboration with others in the company). Among the performers engaged by Ward were Carlton Chase, Ern Delavale, Kathleen Ward, Curly Sherwood, Lily Vockler, Winnie Edgerton, and Grace Savieri.

For details relating to the Ward-Sherman Revue Company see Fullers’ American Revue Company.
Image source: Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW) 22 Jan. 1925, 12.



(1900- ca. 1902) Based in the Rockhampton region, the Snowdrop Minstrels at the turn of the century, the Snowdrop Minstrels performed mostly for local charities, presenting a typical minstrel entertainment built around songs, comedy routines and specialty acts. One feature act was a trick cycle routine performed by Robert Nimmo and Harry Boldeman. Several of original members reformed the troupe during World War I under the name the Flying Squadron Concert Party.


THE SO & SO’S [1]

aka J.C. Williamson’s So and So’s / So and So’s Costume Comedy Co

(Adelaide: 1920-1921) Put together by Herbert Meyers, producer for J.C. Williamson’s Ltd, the So and So’s Costume Comedy Company played Adelaide’s al fresco Garden Theatre from 20 November 1920 through until 26 February the following year (after which time the grounds were required for the city’s Agricultural Show. Among the performers identified with the company were: Alf J. Lawrence, Eleanor Crane, Gracie Lavers, Lucy Sullivan, Harry Graham, Dorothy Manning, Kitty Elliot, Tom Preston and Eddie Perin, Glanmore Jones, Percy Mackay, George Welch, William Everard, Jack Neale, Elford Mack, Phil Kennedy, Pauline Bindley, Arthur Denton, Meta Breakwell, Maie Baird, Nellie Mackay.

There appears to be no connection between this company and the one that played in Perth/Western Australia under the management of T.A. Shafto during the years 1922-1923 [see below].



aka George Sharratt’s So and So’s / So and So’s Musical Comedy Players / So and So’s Costume Comedy Company

(New South Wales: 1921) Formed under the direction of pianologuist/comedian George Sharratt, the So and So’s costume comedy company played several tryout shows at the Crown Theatre, Wollongong, in early February with Fred Bluett as the feature attraction. In early March the company undertook a tour of the New South Wales Northern Rivers, playing centres like Murwillumbah, Lismore and Ballina before gradually making its way to the mid-north coast (including Port Macquarie) and then out to the central western districts (notably Dubbo and Lithgow). After a brief visit to Sydney the company went back north (without Bluett) to play Newcastle, followed by a return to the Northern Rivers. The So and So’s entertainment typically comprised comedy sketches, burlesques, tabloid operas, and numerous musical and vaudeville novelties.

  • More details (research notes)
  • See also: The So and So’s [3] [below]
1: Personnel incl. Fred Bluett (comedian/singer), Sydney Clarke (dancing violinist), Fred Deal (light comedian), George Sharratt (comedian/pianologuist), Jean Maynard (contralto/elocutionist), Hazel Fuller (operatic soprano), Annette Lang (soubrette/danseuse), A.J. (Aneurin) Morris (operatic tenor).
2: After disbanding sometime in September several members of the company, including Sharrett and Lang, Hazel Fuller and Aneurin Morris remained in the Northern New South Wales regions as members of Harry Borradale‘s Sparklers.
Image source: South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (NSW) 28 Jan. 1921, 10.


THE SO & SO’S [3]

aka Shafto’s So and So’s

(Perth: 1922-1923) Almost exclusively associated with Perth’s Shaftesbury Theatre, the So and So’s comprised some of the cream of Australia’s variety entertainers of the 1920s. The first line-up made its debut on 17 March 1922 under the direction of comedian Arthur Hemsley. On 27 May a new troupe opened at the Shaftesbury, while the previous company completed its Western Australian commitments playing Fremantle and Kalgoorlie. George Sharratt took over the direction of “Shafto’s” company from 22 December. Its last-known performances were in early July 1923. The So and So’s entertainment comprised vaudeville, revue/revusicals, moving pictures, and even operetta. Significant artists included: Brull and Hemsley, the Phillips Sisters, James Caldwell, Nat Hanley, Delavale and Stagpoole, Vince and Eva Courtney, Hat’s McKay, Will Rollow, Jack Kearns, Lola Hunt, Peter Brooks , and  the Dudleys.

  • More details (research notes)
  • See also: The So and So’s [2] [above]
1: This company does not appear to have had any relationship with J.C. Williamson’s So and So’s Costume Comedy Company, which played Adelaide over the 1920-1921 period. See So and So’s [1] above.


THE SO & SO’s [4]

aka J.C. Williamson’s So and So’s / So and So’s of 1925 and 1926

(Adelaide: 1925-1926) In late-1925 American variety entertainers Lee White and Clay Smith played a two week engagement under J.C. Williamson’s management at Adelaide’s Theatre Royal (14-27 Nov.) before taking a break. Williamson’s subsequently arranged for several members of the White-Smith troupe to join its newly-created So and So’s revue company for a four months season at the city’s Exhibition Gardens al fresco theatre (28 Nov. 1925-27 Mar. 1926). The White-Smith performers – George Welch, Ernest Sefton, Billee Lockwood, Bob Cory, Fabbie Benstean and the ballet (billed as Lee White’s Peaches) – were joined by George Gee, Adele Crane, Peter Brooks, Gladys Hermes, Ian Iredale, Count Fillipini, and local dancers Bobbie Helpman and Mignon Keckwick. The music director was William R. Cade, and the producer Herbert Myers (for J.C. Williamson’s). Later arrivals included Gus Bluett, Yvonne Banvard, Peggy Kemble, and Bruce Green.

1: Lee White’s Peaches was renamed “The Snap Girls” in February 1926.
2: A few days after the season began, soubrette/dancer Gladys Hermes was struck by a car and subsequently forced to take a fortnight off while she recovered from her injuries.
3: Although styled as revue, the So and So’s entertainment appears to have been a hybrid of revue and vaudeville.
Image source: Advertiser (Adelaide) 24 Nov. 1925, 2.



aka Cass Mahomet’s Concert Party

(1924, 1928) Active in Western Australia in 1924 (ca. March-November) and in New South Wales in 1928 (ca. January-March), Cass Mahomet’s variety company presented an array of songs, dramatic interludes, comedy sketches, farces, and pantomimical tit-bits etc. Although the format stayed largely the same for the both tours, its leader was known as Cass Mahomet in 1924 and as Mahomet Kassim in 1928. The original line-up was Mahomet, Violet Desmond, Spotty Fenton, Syd Hales, Vera Murray and Venda Edwards. By the end of the 1924 tour only Mahomet and Murray remained. The new members were Fred Brown, Ethel Crisp, Robert Hart, The Melody Three and Flo Merrett. The 1928 tour comprised Kassim, Joan Blake, Ivy Gyler, Pete Kenner, Fred Ricks, Frankie Scott, and the Honolulu Girls (in Hawaiian melodies). The 1928 tours also featured an automaton.

See also: Cass Mahomet

1924: Fred Brown (juggler/ventriloquist/comedian), Ethel Crisp (lyric soprano), Violet Desmond (soprano/dancer), Venda Edwards (instrumentalist), Spotty Fenton (comedian), Sydney Hales (baritone), Robert Hart (sketch artist), Cass Mahomet (singer), The Melody Three (singers), Flo Merrett (pianist), Vera Murray (male impersonator/descriptive singer).
1928: Joan Blake (dancer), Ivy Gyler (instrumentalist), The Honolulu Girls (singers), Pete Kenner (character comedian), Fred Ricks (ventriloquist/comedian), Miss Frankie Scott (singer), and Johnny Jones (automaton).
1: Not to be confused with a company of the same name put together by Syd Melrose for brief season at Adelaide’s Victoria Hall in October 1926.
2. Mahomet appears to have debuted his “Concert Party” on 10 March 1924 for the opening of “The Diggers’ Fair” (Perth). By the start of its regional tour in early April, the troupe had been re-branded the Southern Cross Comedy Company. Its last known season was undertaken in Geraldton in mid-November.
3. The 1928 tour is believed to have commenced in Deniliquin, New South Wales, on 3 January. It’s leader, who had been using the name Mahomet Kassim since 1926, had only recently come off another national tour with magician Levante.
4. No details regarding the second Southern Cross Comedy Company poster [right] have yet been located, including the year.
Top Image. Southern Cross Comedy Co, 1924. Both posters courtesy of Charles Prasad.


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on April 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm  Comments Off on Troupes [S-Z]