Troupes [S-Z]

Sam Dearin’s Minstrels to Southern Cross Comedy Co ……. p.1
Stanley McKay’s No 1 Pantomime Co to Tubby Stevens’ Tit-bits Revue Co ……. p.2
U.S. Minstrels to Ye Olde Nigger Minstrels (Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville) ……. p.3


STANLEY McKAY’S GAIETIES (aka WARTON & McKAY’S GAIETIES): see entry in Organisations & Partnerships [M-Z]



aka Royal Pantomime Co / Stanley McKay’s Pantomime Moving Theatre / Stanley McKay’s No 2 Pantomime Co

Formed in 1910 Stanley McKay’s mammoth Pantomime Company staged shows throughout Australia (mostly under canvas) until disbanding in 1914 after a New Zealand tour (as the Royal Pantomime Co). Its repertoire included Harry Taylor‘s Bo-Peep (1910) and Cinderella (1915), and Hey Diddle Diddle  (1913), along with several comedies (notably John F. Sheridan‘s Fun on the Bristol, 1880). After being revived in 1915 with original members Bruce Drysdale and Phyllis Faye, the troupe disbanded for the final time in 1916 when  McKay and Drysdale enlisted for military service.



aka Stanley McKay’ New Pantomime Company / Mother Goose Pantomime Company

Stanley McKay’s second pantomime company was formed in 1914, a few weeks after the previous troupe returned from New Zealand and disbanded. Initially known as his New Pantomime Co., it was later referred to as the No 1 Co. when McKay established another simultaneously touring company in 1915. Headed by Jim Gerald (dame) and Essie Jennings (principal boy) the troupe’s feature pantomimes were Harry Taylor‘s Old Mother Hubbard (1912), Robinson Crusoe (1914) Cinderella (1915) and Fred Weierter’s Mother Goose (1914). The troupe disbanded when McKay and Gerald enlisted for active service in 1916.



(1913) Tom Selwyn and George C. Gilham of the Tasmanian Amusements Company put together the State Entertainers for a season in Launceston, Tasmania, in the lead-up to the State Election (23 Jan.). Advertised as comprising artists from both the town and from interstate, the initial line-up was headlined by ventriloquist Frank Cane (aka Kavello) and Conway and Synnot (direct from the Tivoli circuit). After opening at the Mechanics’ Hall on 4 January the company moved to the Lyceum on the 11th, remaining there until early June with numerous line-up changes and occasional one-off shows in nearby towns. Among the biggest names to appear with the company were Charles Pope, Gus Franks and Roy Rene (then billed as Boy Roy).

The name State Entertainers was removed the Lyceum’s advertising from 5 June. An unnamed vaudeville show continued for several nights before closing in the lead-up to the Lyceum becoming a picture and vaudeville house under the proprietorship of former State Entertainers Les Vane and Con Carroll from 14 June (with Charles Pope as manager).



aka Sudholz’s Moving Pictures

Sudholz Bio-Tableau Ents [1906](1905-1908) Clamor Sudholz, manager of one of J.C. Williamson’s touring Bio-Tableau companies, purchased the equipment. Following the conclusion of the Melbourne season on 13 November he put together his own film and vaudeville show. After opening his account in Launceston, Tasmania (beginning 22 Nov.), Sudholz  took his film and moving pictures show back to the mainland, playing seasons in Geelong (Victoria), Adelaide, and Perth before the end of the year. He then crisscrossed the country until mid-1908, playing most states (sometimes more than once). Among the artists engaged were Robert Needham, Belle Sprott, Mabel Martin, Wynifred Harris, Fred Watson, Marshall Crosby and Rose O’Mahony (singers), J.J. Willis (raconteur), Carl Wolfe (magician), and Leslie Harris (monologist).

1: After settling in Perth in 1908 Sudholz initially managed theatres and tours for King’s Theatre. He later operated his own moving picture-houses in Perth and Geraldton, Western Australia.
2: In 1907 Sudholz operated his Bio-Tableau show out of Perth’s Queen’s Hall for some three months (ca. April-June).
Image: Theatre Royal, Hobart, 1906. Source: Linc Tasmania.



aka Swastika Costume Comedy Players / Swastika Vaudeville Players

(1923-1924) Prior to playing the New South Wales North Coast the Swastika Players had reportedly appeared “in other states, including West Australia, South Australia and Victoria, and [had] just concluded an exceedingly successful run in Sydney” (Northern Star 1 Nov. 1923, 4). No details of any engagements prior to Taree (NSW) in early October have yet been located, however (suggesting that it may have been known by a different name). The only other engagements identified to date were undertaken in Brisbane in December 1923 and a one-off engagement at the Goodna Insane Asylum in March 1924. The troupe may have toured regional Queensland during the interim.

1: Personnel incl. Vera Vincent (soprano), Graham Mitchell (baritone/comedian), Thelma Wallace dancer), Norman Gray (tenor), Frank Butler (comedian), Jack Wall (pianist/music director).
2: Both the name Swastika and the gammadion cross were in common usage throughout Australia during the early 20th century, but without any connection to the German Nazi Party (which adopted the Swastika as its emblem in 1920). For most Australians, as well as many other countries around the world prior to the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, the word and its symbol inferred “good luck.” For examples of its usage in Australia, including the books of Robert Louis Stephenson, the Boy Scout movement, various social and dramatic clubs, and as a fashion accessory see the Research Notes pdf attached to The Swastika Players.



aka Tait’s Vaudeville Entertainers / Taits’ Vaudeville and Pictures

(1910) J. & N. Tait operated its Vaudeville Entertainers in Geelong and Bendigo (Victoria) during the second half of 1910 as a live variety and pictures operation. His Majesty’s Theatre, Geelong, operated on Saturday and Monday nights between 18 June and 8 August, while Bendigo’s Royal Princess’s Theatre offered a vaudeville-only programme three nights a week from 30 July until 11 August (Tues-Thurs) and then vaudeville and pictures from 16 August until 9 November. Among the best-known artists to be engaged were Ella Airlie, Joe Archer, Essie Jennings, Harry Graham, Will Dyson, Lilas Birt, Daisy Silvester, George Walton (“Australia’s Little Tich”), the Gifford Sisters, the Rhodesburys, Walter Melrose, and Wal and Lily Rockley (“Rollicking Rockleys”). Some programmes also included illustrated songs.

► See also: J. and N. Tait

1: The Tait’s manager in Geelong was Grant Hanlon. J.L. Le Breton managed the Bendigo operations.
2: Lilas Birt was later known as Mrs Charlie Vaude.
3: More than 80 acts appeared in Geelong and Bendigo for J. and N. Tait in 1910.



aka Ted Tutty’s All-Star Vaudeville / Ted Tutty’s Vaudeville and Revue Co

(1918-1924) Best known around Australia as a blackface comedian, and one of Harry Clay‘s leading performers for more than 20 years, Ted Tutty also occasionally toured his own vaudeville companies. His first known company operated around the New South Wales Hunter Valley region from December 1918 to March 1919. In 1922 he took a company through Queensland, utilising his enormous popularity in the state (having toured there seven times for Clay). Tutty’s shows, which invariably featured his wife, Kate (aka Muriel Esbank) and daughter Melvyn, also often included amateur trials, dance competitions, tableaux, and revusicals. His last known company stages shows at Windsor, New South Wales in mid-1924.

1: Artists engaged by Tutty included: Will Dyson, Nellie Brady, Frank Herberte, J. Laidlaw (music director), Tilly and Doris, Clemo, Joe Archer, Emmie May, J. Webb, Dot Brown, Leonard’s Poodles, Hardy Sisters, Bert Brooks, H. Edouin, Eus Bronson, Triss Bronson, Denis Carney, Mercia Morrison, Will Deaveraux, Joseph Halley, Coleman Sisters, Keith and Cairns (1918/1919); Eileen Anderson, Estella Cahill, Desbro and Mac, Éclair Twins, Billy Holt, Joe Hurley, Mona Seard, Ethel Phillips (1922).
2: Tutty’s 1922 Queensland tour operated around the time as Harry Clay, who sent his own company through the state for the first time since 1918.
Image source: Newcastle Sun (NSW) 13 Jan. 1919, 5.



Tivoli Frolics [BC 10 Nov. 1922, 2]

(1921-1923) A revue company operating under the auspices of Musgrove’s Theatres Ltd (which briefly operated the Tivoli circuit during the early to mid-1920s), the Tivoli Frolics comprised a ballet/chorus billed as the Tivoli Eight (later the Tivoli Six). Harry G. Musgrove debuted the company in Sydney in late-November as the Tivoli Frolics of 1921. Thereafter followed Melbourne (from Boxing Night), Sydney (return season) and Brisbane (from 20 May 1922). The latter engagement, which continued up until 19 January 1923, eventually saw the company work one half of a programme with feature guests appearing in the other. The directors of the Frolics’ shows included Leyland Hodgson and James Goold-Taylor, while prominent performers included Madeline Rossiter, Eric Masters, Hector St Clair, Moon and Morris, Vera Benson and Tal Ordell.

Image source: Brisbane Courier 10 Nov. 1922, 2.


T.O.M.C.A.T.S. (Charters Towers)

(1909-ca. 1911) A semi-professional, initially all-male variety ensemble based in Charters Towers, the T.O.M.C.A.T.S. (Towers Original Minstrels Can Amuse Thousands Society) gave its debut performance at the Theatre Royal on 14 October 1909. By November 1910 the company had given six concerts. Its shows were accompanied by the Apollo Orchestra (conducted by Will M. Jones), and in March 1910 several female performers joined as extras in the farces. The T.O.M.C.A.T.S. appears to have continued entertaining locals until at least 1912. Interestingly, a series of blackface revivals were staged in Charters Towers between March and July 1954 under the billing “Old Time Minstrels.” Advertisements for the shows often included a reference to “T.O.M.C.A.T.S..

The performers identified to date were: Tom Rich, Norman “Banjo” Patterson, John Curtis, R. Spalding, Edward “Teddy” Thompson, George Adair (Snr), Hugh Doherty, W. Galt, Rays Hoffman, W. Tredrea, P. Cole, George Trail, J. C. Jones, the Glover brothers, D. Warren, Mr Newton, Mr Woolford, J. Marlow.



aka Colin Crane’s Topics of 1925

(1924-1926) (1924-1926) Colin Crane and Dora Warby’s Topics of 1925 opened in St Kilda, Melbourne, in early-December 1924 with veteran conductor Lou Weichard in charge of the music. Jack Woods took over as music director a few weeks later. The company remained in Melbourne for 18 weeks before transferring to Brisbane in late-April 1925. When Crane departed in late-July, Warby took over direction. At that time music director Joyce West was replaced by Will Butland. Fellow troupe member Robert Roberts assumed the role of stage director a few months later. His pantomime, Cinderella (1925) co-written with Butland, was staged from just before Christmas to mid-January the following year. The Topics’ season ended a week later. Syd Beck, Nell Fleming, Stud Foley, Fred Monument, James Foran and Vera Carew were also among the company’s star performers.

1: The St Kilda venue, Wickliffe House, was formerly known as the (second) Arcadia Theatre. It appears to have reverted to its official” name around the same time that Crane and Warby began their lease.
2: John McCallum‘s Cremorne Theatre was the Topics of 1925’s Brisbane venue.  Dora Warby and her husband Dr Albert Brertherton, took over the lease from Edward Major, agreeing to 25 weeks with an option to renew.



(1854-1855) Established in Melbourne in early 1854 by theatrical agent E. Totten, the Harmoneons are known to have toured through regional Victoria and South Australia until late that same year or early 1855. The line-up comprised J.O. Pierce (concertina/flutina/musical director), James E. Kitts (guitar), and Messrs. Thayer (violin), Clark (banjo), Baker (tambo/dancer) and Lee (bones). After the troupe disbanded J.O. Piece spent several years in Bendigo where he was largely employed as a singer at the Shamrock Hotel. E. Totten, who had previously acted as agent for Rainer’s Ethiopian Serenaders was later linked to Rainer’s Serenaders (ca. 1857) and Boley’s Minstrels (1862). James Kitts toured the East and Mauritius before returning permanently to Australia in 1856.



(1919-1922) Put together for a season Brisbane at John N. MCallum‘s Cremorne Theatre, by Walter Johnson, the Town Topics remained there for almost three years. During that time some of the country’s biggest names were engaged – most notably Fred Bluett, Gus Bluett, Amy Rochelle, Nell Fleming, Arthur Aldridge, George Whitehead, Verna Bain, Ivy Schilling, Yorke Gray, Alice Bennetto, Charles Zoli, Billy Maloney, Elton Black, and Fred Whaite (music director/composer). The entertainment comprised high class variety theatre, including lavish burlesques, musical comedies and pantomimes. After the company was succeeded in May 1922 by Harry G. Musgrove‘s Tivoli Frolics [above], it undertook a brief regional Queensland tour for Birch and Carroll before disbanding. Billy Maloney and Elton Black later revived the concept for seasons in Adelaide (1923-24) and Sydney (1924).

  • More details coming soon



(1923-1924) The first Town Topics troupe played a record-breaking engagement at John N. McCallum‘s Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane, between August 1919 and May 1922, and then disbanded a month later following a short Queensland tour for Birch and Carroll. Between November 1923 and May 1924 comedians Billy Maloney and Elton Black, revived the concept in Adelaide for J.C. Williamson’s. The new venture similarly offered high class variety entertainment, and featured former Town Topics [1] stars Arthur Aldridge, Alice Bennetto, Glanmore Jones, Percy McKay, and Claire Lloyd (1924 only), along with Maloney and Black. New engagements included Ernest Lashbrooke, Peggy Peate, Conrad Charlton, Walter Vernon, Vera Cornock, Biddy Raye, and Rosie Bowie. The company disbanded after a short Sydney season in May/June 1924.



(1890) Dancers Dan Tracey and Steve Adson presented at least two shows at Sydney’s Coogee Palace Aquarium in late-1890 with their own company. The first (25 Oct.) additionally involved only imitator Arthur Gordon, comedian Harry Hastings and vocalist Blanche Montagu. The second included at least seven more performers, along with Herr Reiner’s Electric Orchestra. Tracey and Adson then undertook a brief New South Wales South Coast tour before opening at the Sydney School of Arts on 18 December. In addition to Tracey, Adson, Gordon, and Montague, the artists engaged for this venture included Will Wallace, Ida Tauchert. Fred Spencer, May Melville, Florence Schuler, Fred Montrose, Mr Winchester, and music director R.C. Steynes. The Tracey/Adson partnership is believed to have dissolved on New Year’s Eve, however. The following night Dan Tracey’s Vaudeville, Comedy and Specialty Company began a joint season with Charlie Fanning’s Concert Company.

1: Tracey and Adson likely met for the first time in July 1888 at a dance contest in Port Melbourne. They teamed up in December that year and went on to work their act for  Hugo’s Buffalo MInstrels, F.M. Clark, J. Billin, Harry Friedman and Harry Rickards (albeit with a 12 months break beginning ca. March 1889). Although short-lived their troupe paved the way for Dan Tracey’s later entrepreneurial involvement in the Sydney and Melbourne variety industries
2: The 8 November Coogee Palace Aquarium show included Lillian (markswoman), Herr Reiner’s Electric Orchestra, Lillie Swift (juvenile whistler), Madame Zouida (French equilibrist), Little Ethel (baby contortionist, wire walker and tumbler), Walker, Corbett and Parkinson (athletes), Annie Shields (“the lady with the iron jaw”), and E.G. Wilson (pianist).
3: Steve Adson’s name is last identified with the School of Arts venture on 1 January 1891. A few days later he and Arthur Gordon were advertised as appearing at the Coogee Palace Aquarium. The pair, along with Blanche Montague also became involved in a series of Harbour concerts aboard the S.S. Invincible throughout January and February (as performers and promoters).



A short-lived vaudeville company set up in 1896 in order to take advantage of the public’s interest in the Trilby phenomenon, the Trilby Tourists played a season in Brisbane (possibly followed by a North Queensland tour). A re-constituted troupe also later played at least one regional New South Wales centre. The initial line-up included Dan Tracey and Steve Adson, Carlton and Sutton, George Dean, and the Chard Sisters. The second troupe included W. Horace Bent, Harry Clay, Hosea Easton, McKisson and Kearns, Ida Rosslyn, Franks and Williams, along with Steve Adson and Carlton and Sutton.



(1924) After returning to Australia in 1921 Claude Dampier and new partner Hilda Attenboro worked as a vaudeville for Harry Musgrove (Tivoli circuit) and the Fullers, while also touring with Pat Hanna‘s Famous Diggers and several of their own line-ups – initially Dampier’s Dandies of 1923, then the New Dandies, Claude Dampier’s Big Revue Co, and finally the Trump Cards Revue Co. This latter troupe, which featured contracted Fullers’ performers, presented five new revues during the last seven weeks of Dampier’s season at Fullers’ Theatre, Sydney (5 July – 22 Aug.). Major cast changes appear to have been made for each show. Among the biggest names to appear with the company were Lola Hunt, Ernest Lashbrooke, and Kyrle Sylvaney (later Kyrle McAllister), Bert Barton and Eileen Boyd.

1: Personnel incl. Rene Albert, Hilda Attenboro, Bert Barton, Eileen Boyd, Sheila Brady, Claude Dampier, Lola Hunt, Ronald Knight, Ernest Lashbrooke, Dorothy Summers, Kyrle Sylvaney (aka Kylre McAllister), G. Taylor,
2: The five new revues presented by Dampier were All Trumps (2 weeks), A Funnier Fare (2 weeks) and Here’s Luck, Hot and Cold, and Brand New (one week each).
3: The Trump Cards moniker was replaced in advertising by either “Claude Damper’s Revue” or “Claude Dampier’s Big Revue” as of late-July. After the Sydney season Dampier travelled to Newcastle (NSW) to work as a solo comedian.



(1927) After returning to Australia from the East, diminutive English comedian Tubby Stevens resigned with Fullers’ Theatres and after a solo engagement in Melbourne was invited to play a season in Perth with his own troupe. Co-starring high profile artists Arthur Aldridge, Frank Perryn, Yorke Grey, and the Linn Smith Jazz Band, the Tit-Bits Revue Company presented a mix of revue and vaudeville with occasional one act musical comedies (revusicals). The line-up also featured Colleen Hope, Daisy Yates, Kitty Crawford (Mrs Tubby Stevens), and Laurie McLeod. Following the end of the Perth season in October Stevens’ opened at in Sydney at the Fullers’ Majestic Theatre, Newtown, with a revamped line-up. The whereabouts of both Stevens and the Tit-Bits after November 1927 is currently unknown.


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]