Tales of Travelling Mummers

In his research, Stage Whispers editor Neil Litchfield has found many tales of the exploits of early theatrical tours around regional Australia and New Zealand.

Stage Whispers wil add to this feature as new anecdotes are unearthed.

Lorrae Desmond - blonde goddess in the golden dress

Lorrae Desmond’s passion for the “forgotten diggers” of the Vietnam War has never ceased stirring her heartstrings since her five tours of the war zones between 1967 and 1971. To the Aussie troops, Lorrae became known as the “blonde goddess in the golden dress.” Her most treasured possession is a plaque with the inscription: Mother of All Vietnam Veterans. “Her boys” left their stamp of humour, courage and self-sacrifice forever on her mind.

Stephen Schwartz in Oz

With composer / lyricist Stephen Schwartz’s latest musical Wicked recently opened in Sydney, Peter Pinne looks at why Schwartz ranks right up there alongside Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe with musical theatre audiences ‘down under.’

Stephen Schwartz had his first break in 1971 with a small, off-Broadway entry, Godspell. Based on The Gospel According To St. Mathew, this soft-rock, pop-biblical show took off and ended up playing 2,124 performances.

Fabulous Florrie Forde

Who now remembers Florrie Forde? It’s nearly seventy years since she died and her art is all but forgotten, but many of the songs she introduced and popularised are still sung with nostalgic gusto. For four decades this jolly, buxom songstress sauntered across the music hall stages of Britain. She was billed, accurately, as ‘the world’s greatest chorus singer’ – and she came from Australia.

Strike me lucky! It’s Mo!

For the best part of half a century, two bold letters – MO – outside an Australian theatre would guarantee a full house. Those were the days when Roy Rene, popularly known as ‘Mo’, was indisputably Australia’s clown prince. He had a place in the pantheon that included Ned Kelly, Nellie Melba, Les Darcy, Kingsford Smith and Phar Lap. But that was half a century ago.

Houdini’s Yarra Plunge

On Wednesday February 16, 1910, the following advertisement appeared in Melbourne Newspapers.

Daring Dive. Houdini, the world famous escapologist will appear at the Queens Bridge Tomorrow, Thursday afternoon February 17 at 1.30pm prompt.

Popular Comedian’s Tragic Finale

The masks of comedy and tragedy are often entwined to represent the two faces of theatre. So too does the stage comedian often hide a tragic face.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Englishman George Lauri was Australia's foremost musical comedian. For over 16 years he delighted Australian audiences with a series of superb and unique comic performances, yet behind the laughing stage performer was a troubled man.

Summer of the 17th The Doll – An Australian Classic

Peter Pinne looked at the history of Australia’s first internationally successful play prior to its 2008 revival by Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company.

Bigger Than The Beatles

When James Cassius Williamson persuaded reigning world stage superstar Sarah Bernhardt to tour here in 1891, he pulled off a coup unequalled in Australian entertainment industry history before or since – even bigger that The Beatles.

Australia’s Most Popular Actress … 100 Years Ago

American, Minnie Tittell Brune was the most popular actress on the Australian stage between 1904 and 1909. Perhaps it was her long dark hair, perfect manners, quiet religious sentiment or her San Francisco accent that endeared her to Australian audiences. Strangely she never duplicated her Australian success overseas.