History

Diamonds were our Merry Widow’s best friend.

Despite being jilted at the altar, Carrie Moore took to the stage wearing the diamonds that millionaire Ernest Tyson had given her. It was 1901 and 18 year old Carrie Moore was at the height of her fame, starring in the J. C. Wiliamson production of Florodora.

Dancing Star’s Love Scandal

No Gilbert and Sullivan joke, this. A court case over a breach of promise of marriage once tainted a sweetheart of the Australian stage. Leann Richards reports on the life of Maggie Dickinson … a dancer who brightened Australia’s theatres during some of the country’s darkest days.

Have you seen Harry Lauder yet?

Almost 100 years ago Scottish singer and comedian Harry Lauder was given an extraordinary welcome to Australia and the hype was repaid when he charmed the pants off audiences. Sadly the Great War wiped away his smile. Leann Richards reports.

It was August 1914. Harry Lauder, with his wife and son, John, were sitting at lunch in a Melbourne hotel. War had just been declared and a strange feeling was in the air. A hall porter came in from outside holding a telegram.

“Lieutenant Lauder,” he called.

Theatre’s Poor Cousin: How Circus Fell off the High Wire.

These days Australian circus is a vibrant industry, as typified by the internationally acclaimed Circus Oz, and regular tours from International acts such as Cirque Do Soleil. But this was not always the case. For much of the last century the once prosperous industry was in steep decline. It’s one of the stories uncovered by Mark St Leon in his beautiful new illustrated book, Circus: The Australian Story. Stage Whispers is proud to present this edited extract.

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.