Friday, 25 March 2011

Good for any game at night my boys, who'll come and join me in a spree?



We at Dolores Delargo Towers and our "gang" never like to miss an opportunity to enjoy a little Victorian sing-a-long evening. And so it was that we trotted off to the magnificent Witon's Music Hall last night (Thursday) for just such an extravaganza!

This Evening of Music Hall was part of a week-long celebration of the great George Leybourne, the man who was "Champagne Charlie" (as a new biography of his life, The Heaviest of Swells has just been published). Indeed, the book's author Mr Christopher Beeching was among the players...

With a superb cast including former Crackerjack favourite Jan Hunt, plus Miss Gemma Page and Mr Jim McManus and our host and Master of Ceremonies Mr Robert Meadwell, the audience was treated to the full gamut of rip-roaring classics like Daisy, Daisy, The Boy In The Gallery, My Old Man, How'd You Like To Spoon With Me?, Two Lovely Black Eyes and The Old Bull And Bush - and we sang along like good 'uns!

Miss Page did a very sweet rendition of The Honeysuckle And The Bee and returned later as "Burlington Bertie", and Mr McManus was brilliant with his meandering monologues. His My Old Dutch was sublime...

We've been together now for forty years
An' it don't seem a day too much.
There ain't a lady living in the land
As I'd swap for me dear old Dutch.
No, there ain't a lady living in the land
As I'd swap for me dear old Dutch.


Mr Beeching played the "Champagne Charlie" role with gusto - recreating the very look of the original character as well as treating us to the traditional Oh! The Fairies, The Heavy Swell Of The Sea (with all its double-entendres, the inspiration for the title of the book) and of course the self-titled Champagne Charlie Is My Name.



However, as ever it was the cheeky talents of Miss Jan Hunt (read my previous blog about Miss Hunt and her Music Hall talents) that stole the show - a little Marie Lloyd here, a little coquettishness there - fabulous! And she dealt with the roaming hands of her chosen audience member who she had dragged up on stage hilariously well...

Here's one of the classic Marie Lloyd songs she performed:


I'm one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit,
One of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit.
In the gay old days there used to be something doing
No wonder that the poor old abbey went to ruin.
Those who raise their voices sing and shout of it,
You can bet your life there isn't a doubt of it.
Outside the Oliver Cromwell last Saturday night
I was one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit.


From a review of the book:
"The Heaviest of Swells energetically brings to life the man who was responsible for establishing the artistic and financial power of The Lion Comique, [the Comic Singer] during the formative years of British Music Hall. Leybourne was a man who earned a vast fortune during his career, only to die penniless and exhausted at the early age of 42, leaving a wife and two children destitute.

George Leybourne’s songs continue to resonate down through the years. The Man on the Flying Trapeze and Champagne Charlie are among the most famous titles. Another, If Ever I Cease to Love, [a somewhat salacious song!] has been used at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras every year since 1872. Leybourne had a repertoire of over 250 songs, covering a huge range of subjects, from rowdy upper class yobs, to timid heartbroken lovers, to street corner con-men, to wealthy champagne drinking swells."
"George/"Charlie"'s ‘swell’ persona also helped to launch him on a whole new career of celebrity endorsements after Moet commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of Champagne as a symbol of taste, affluence, and the good life. He also agreed to drink nothing but Champagne in public. His efforts did much to establish Champagne as an important element in any outward show of conspicuous consumption."
Including, unfortunately, his own.

Champagne Charlie is my name, Champagne Charlie is my name.
Good for any game at night, my boys.
Good for any game at night, my boys,
Champagne Charlie is my name, Champagne Charlie is my name.
Good for any game at night my boys, who'll come and join me in a spree?




A grand night, indeed, and one we all thoroughly enjoyed! Wilton's is truly one of the wonders of theatre - being the oldest Music Hall anywhere in the world - and needs as much support as we can give it!


Wilton's Music Hall

Order your copy of the book The Heaviest Of Swells

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