Before They Were Famous !

Ever wondered what people did before they were famous - just like the television series we now have our very own 'Pantomime - Before They Were Famous'


Aladdin - Queens Theatre, Hornchurch 1954

In This "Aladdin" Dame Joan Plowright was 25 years old playing companion to the Princess. This was the year she made her debut in London, and it would be seven years before she married Laurence Olivier, later to become Baroness Olivier, and created a Dame. She would go on to win two golden globe awards, 1 Tony Award, an Oscar Nomination, and an Emmy and Two Bafta nominations,

Bernard Cribbins now know to millions for "Dr Who", was aged twenty six, and was two years away from his West End debut. The voice of "The Wombles" on television, and of Jackanory fame, he made many films including three "Carry On" films and countless television and stage appearances.



Coronation Street, The Les Dawson Show et al

Aladdin - Palace Theatre 1963


Hyacinth Bucket, Hetty Wainthropp et al

Jack and the Beanstalk - Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury 1964

& Cinderella - The Guildford Theatre 1959

It's hard to imagine Hyacinth Bucket as a thigh slapping Principal Boy but here we have Patricia Routledge as Jack and Prince Charming. The Jack cast also featured Polly James (later to start in the Liver Birds) and prolific panto author John Moffatt.



Coronation Street's Percy Sugden

Mother Goose 1956 - Queens Theatre, Blackpool



Not really before he was famous, as the previous year in 1955 Bill appeared in the Royal Variety Show. A veteran of over 880 variety broadcasts and appearances, as a comedian he was sometimes on the same bill as Jill Summers and Betty Driver, his "Corrie" co-stars.

Radio's "Witty Willie", he was born in Oldham in 1916. He began his career in "Stars In Battledress" and in variety theatres. The role of Percy Sugden was written specifically for him. Bill Waddington died in 2000.



Creator of Dame Hilda Bracket

Palace Theatre Westcliff in Palace of Varieties circa 1964-5.


Pictures supplied by Diane Saddington, Costume House Westcliff


as part of the Aida Foster Babes

Babes in the Wood

London Palladium 1965

Star of her families reality tv show, a judge on X Factor - you name it, this lady has done it. But in 1965 she was one of the Aida Foster Babes as Sharon Arden. You may also notice another famous name in the list!



as Colin in Puss in Boots

Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford - 1986/7

Recently named the most powerful person in British Theatre by The Stage newspaper, David Ian is one of the most successful and prolific producers in British theatre today. His smash hits include some of the best loved and most talked about productions of the last twenty years including Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Anything Goes and The Producers to name but a few.


David's career in theatre began as an actor in West End roles such as Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It was whilst appearing in the Pirates of Penzance at the London Palladium that he met Paul Nicholas and together they began producing shows.


David is currently Head of Global Theatre for Live Nation, as well as being a judge on Grease is the Word in both the UK and the US (You're The One That I Want) to find a new Danny and Sandy for a West End and Broadway Revival of Grease. Before that he was a judge on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria to find a lead for The Sound of Music which he co-produced with Andrew Lloyd Webber.


He is, with Live Nation, the joint power behind First Family Entertainment with Howard Panter from The Ambassador Group. Before his producer days he could be seen as principal boy and follower of the hair fashions of the day!

Photos supplied by, and used with permission of, the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

also pictured - Scott Howard as Puss and Theresa Kartell.



Empire Theatre, Newcastle 1961/2

Now known as one this countries greatest stage performers, she is, perhaps, this countries greatest performers of the works of Stephen Sondheim. On television she appeared in Fresh Fields, as well as the film Shirley Valentine. She continues to work both as an actor and as a critically acclaimed director, including the Cameron Mackintosh production 'Hey, Mr Producer'.


Chrysanthemum's Pantomime Society 1962 - Aladdin


Known to many as 'Nasty Nigel' from the original Popstars programme, he is now the executive producer of American Idol and also a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. He trained as a dancer before becoming a choreographer on the BBC's Young Generation programme in 1969. He then went on to be a floor manager for The Muppet Show in the 1970's.

Photo supplied by and used with permission of Ellie King

Gaumont Southampton - Mother Goose - 1960


Don Maclean

Further details can be found on Don's website


The Producer Joe Collins is probably now more famous for being the father of Joan and Jackie Collins!


Gaumont Southampton - Babes in the Wood 1962

Anita Harris


Further details can be found on Anita Harris' Website -


The Producer Joe Collins is probably now more famous for being the father of Joan and Jackie Collins!


Theatre Royal Windsor - Robinson Crusoe - 1960/1

Frank Thornton and Anna Sharkey


Frank Thornton is probably best remembered as Captain Peacock from 'Are You Being Served' but this highly versatile actor has done so much more. His entry in the Internet Movie Database probably best serves to demonstrate his credits to date - in his eighties he continues to perform!


Anna Sharkey has performed in stage and television production including the Original Cast of Nunsense in London. Married to Jonathan Cecil she was a close friend of Jack Tripp.


Theatre Royal Windsor - Babes in the Wood 1961/2

Anna Carteret & Ray Cooney

Anna Carteret has appeared in many Peter Hall productions including 'Major Barbara' in which she played the title role, 'King Lear' and 'An Ideal Husband', which transferred from London to Broadway. Her other London stage credits include "Richard III" for the RSC at the Savoy Theatre in 1999. She also starred on TV as '˜Inspector Kate Longton' in the long running TV drama 'Juliet Bravo'.


Ray Cooney began his theatrical career as a boy actor in "Song of Norway" at the Palace Theatre in 1946. He served his apprenticeship by playing in various repertory companies from Worthing to Blackburn before graduating to Brian Rix's company at the Whitehall Theatre in 1956. He played "Dry Rot" and "Simple Spymen" and then began a writing career which, to date, has produced seventeen West End plays including "One for the Pot" (co-written with Tony Hilton), "Not Now Darling", "Move Over Mrs Markham", "There Goes the Bride" (all co-written with John Chapman) "Chase me Comrade", Why Not Stay For Breakfast?", "Wife Begins at Forty", "Run for your Wife!", "Two into One", "Out of Order", "It Runs in the Family" and "Funny Money".

As Producer and Director he has been responsible for over thirty London productions, including "Lloyd George Knew My Father", "Whose Life is it Anyway?", "They're Playing Our Song", "Duet for One", "Bodies", "Chicago", "Clouds" and "Children of a Lesser God".
In 1983, Ray formed the Theatre of Comedy Company (bringing together the founder members consisting of Thirty West End stars) and he became its first Artistic Director. During Ray's tenure the company produced over twenty plays including "Run for Your Wife", "Out of Order", "Two into One", "Passion Play", and the acclaimed revivals of "See How they Run", "Loot", "When We are Married" and "Pygmalion" starring Peter O'Toole and John Thaw.

During Ray's hectic theatrical career he has always found time to continue acting and played the last year of "Run for your Wife" in London before appearing in the New York production. Recently he played the lead in "It Runs in the Family" and "Funny Money".


Dilys Laye

Dilys Laye in "Babes In The Wood", Princes Theatre (now the Shaftesbury) London - 1948/9 Season As "Babe" by permission of the Aida Foster Stage School.



Dilys is the star of Four "Carry On" Films- "Cruising", "Camping", "Doctor" and "Spying". She appeared on Broadway in "The Boyfriend" in 1954, her other films include "Trottie True" as the young Jean Kent, "Tunnel Of Love", "On The Beat" (With Sir Norman Wisdom), "Blue Murder At St. Trinians", and "The Countess Of Hong Kong" (directed by Charles Chaplin) Playing opposite Marlon Brando! She has appeared at the National Theatre, The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Dilys recently toured as the Grandmother" in Roald Dahl's "The Witches".


We are very grateful to John Willmer for providing the date for this production.

Katie Price aka Jordan

To start there was Page 3, then came panto stardom in 1997. After that came 'I'm a Celebrity' and marriage to Peter Andre, amongst other things!



Paul and Barry 'Chuckle' - The Chuckle Brothers


Before they became the Chuckle Brothers, they were the Harman Brothers! According to Barry they played Chinese Policemen in this production with the late, great, Jack Tripp.


More details on the Chuckle Brothers can be found in our Double Act Article or our new Spotlight Article


Tom Merrifield

Cinderella - 1960's


Tom Merrifield was born in Sydney, Australia. Trained as a classical dancer he became a soloist with the Borovansky Ballet aged sixteen. In 1956 he moved to Britain to begin a distinguished career in film, television and the West End including '˜On the Town', '˜West Side Story', '˜Man of la Mancha.'

Tom's work as a sculpture is in private collections throughout the world and he is recognized as being a major living artist. The Bolshoi Ballet presented him with a signed ballet shoe as their tribute to his talent.

More details can be found on


Gillian Lynne

Puss in Boots - 1957


The musical stager / choreographer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - to name but three! Gillian Lynne was a leading soloist with Sadler's Wells Ballet, the star dancer at the Palladium, played opposite Errol Flynn in the movies and danced with all the greats on TV. She became instrumental in the development of jazz dance in Britain and her distinctive style - a fusion of classical and jazz - led to her groundbreaking work on Cats, which was recognised with a new category of Olivier Award, specially created for her to acknowledge Outstanding Achievement of the Year in a Musical.

Richard Hearne Jnr - TV's Mr Pastry

London Hippodrome 1932

as Mr Pastry

He was to become television's "Mr Pastry" in the 1950's and early '60's. starring at the London Palladium and around the country. His sketch "The Lancers" became a classic, as he mimed dancing with various partners.

Here he is apparently partnered with his father Richard Hearne SNR in Julian Wylie's pantomime "Dick Whittington" at the London Hippodrome 1932.

There is no cast list, but I'd guess he and his father played Captain & Mate in this production, which starred Fay Compton, Leslie Henson, and Johhny Fuller as Cat.


Jean Alexander

York Theatre Royal - Cinderella 1960

Billy Dainty

London Coliseum - Mother Goose 1942/3

Connaught Theatre Worthing- Aladdin 1971

David Rintoul (ASM & Chorus), later to become Dr.Finlay on TV in the 1990's, as well as "The Mallens", the RSC and several movies including Hornblower for USA TV.

Barry Quin: (Aladdin) British actor who found fame in Australia- recently in "Captain Cook" movie for Australia, and Dr.Greg Miller in "Prisoner Cell Block H", where he married Peta Toppano (Karen in Cell Block H) and is a lecturer at AADA (Australian Acadamy of Dramatic Art)


Ian Judge (Palace Guard) - director worldwide as well as director of RSC, Royal Opera, D'Oyly Carte, ENO etc..

And of course Peter John as Dame- later Dame & Director at the Palace Theatre, Watford and Music Hall performer and chairman.


Submitted by Chris Abbot from the Salisbury Playhouse - 1964 (Cinderella), 1965 (Dick) and1967 (Jack).

Aside from Stephanie Cole and Christopher Biggins, these playbills reveal many other names of people who continue to make their names in the theatre - Chris Harris (now playing Dame), Brigit Forsyth (too many TV shows to mention), Carolyn Moody and Roger Clissold who went on to be Administrator/Artistic Director of the Salisbury Playhouse. Also Christopher Dunham became Artistic Director of The Palace Theatre, Westcliff.


 Jill Gascoine

"Humpty Dumpty", Oxford Playhouse (although we have been told this could be the New Theatre Oxford) 1953/54. It starred Lauri Lupino Lane and featured Dick Emery as Clara Crumpett. In the Ensemble is Josephine Blake, the musical actress. She was later to become Mrs Dick Emery (the 5th) in 1969. BUT the interesting name in the Ensemble is Jill Gascoine.

Born in Lambeth on the 11th of April 1937, Jill was brought up in Kingston-upon-Thames. Jill trained at the Italia Conti and began her theatrical career at the age of fifteen as a dancer in the chorus of a pantomime at the Grand Theatre, Halifax. She spent the next ten years singing and dancing her way through musicals and revues. In 1961, Jill's career turned towards "straight" acting, and she spent the next ten years touring the countries repertory theatres including Leicester, Dundee, Nottingham and Glasgow. In 1972 she met theatrical agent Marina Martin, who launched her television career. Jill's many television appearances include "Z-CARS", "SOFTLY, SOFTLY", "WITHIN THESE WALLS", "DIXON OF DOCK GREEN", "ARMCHAIR THEATRE" and "GENERAL HOSPITAL". Her first big break on the small screen came when she was cast as Mrs. Onedin in "THE ONEDIN LINE". In 1980, Jill got her first lead role on television as MAGGIE FORBES in "THE GENTLE TOUCH". In 1987, Jill toured with the National Production of George Bernard Shaw's "CANDIDA", in which she played the title role. She also played pantomime for three years running ('85-'87), taking the part of principal boy twice. Jill now lives in L.A. with her two sons, Adam and Sean, and second husband Alfred Molina.


Elaine Paige

Star of Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Piaf, The King and I, Drowsy Chaperone and many more......

In Babes in the Wood at the Wimbledon Theatre - 1966/7. With Arthur Askey, Roy Castle and Lulu 

We are very grateful to Samantha Bain for the date information

One date we do know is 1965 - the place The London Palladium - the production Babes in the Wood. Elaine was part of the Aida Foster Children with a certain Sharon Arden - soon to become Sharon Osbourne.

Denise van Outen

Big Breakfast to Chicago

 - this famous Basildon girl started young!

Peter Pan - Civic Theatre, Barnsley - 1988/89

Anita Dobson

Angie from EastEnders amongst many credits 

Palace Theatre Watford, 1974 

Lesley Judd

of Blue Peter fame

Wimbledon Theatre, 1958/59. She was a pupil at the Arts Educational School

We are very grateful to Samantha Bain for the date information

Charles Hawtrey

of 'Carry On' & 'Will Hay Films' fame

as a Juvenile in the 1932 "Peter Pan" at the Palladium. Also as juvenile is the young Graham Payne, later Noel Coward's protégé and leading man


The amateur pantomime at the Little Theatre Ilford featured the juvenile Liz Robertson as one of the Betty Finch Dancers in Dick Whittington, 1967. Liz Robertson was later to be the star of "My Fair Lady" on tour and in the West End, as well as leading lady in America and the West End. She was to marry Alan J Lerner, lyricist of "My Fair Lady".

The Betty Finch stage school is now run by Linda Finch, and Liz Robertson has recently been campaigning to find a new home for the school which faces closure at its present Ilford Address.


as King Hearty in "Jack & The Beanstalk" at the Grand Theatre Swansea, 1982. Now famous for his long running appearances in "The Bill", Graham had a former career as actor and singer in repertory, tours and musicals throughout the UK.

DISCLAIMER - All the pictures included we either own or use with the permission of the copyright holder. If you own the copyright to these pictures and we have not contacted you for permission, please email us and we will remove it immediately. 

If you know any further information about these pictures, we would be grateful of any additional facts which will be added to the site and accredited. Please email us on

This page was last updated 30th November 2015

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