Panto Bills & Posters

The London Palladium production of "Aladdin", 1964-5

Cast: Cliff Richard (Aladdin); The Shadows (Bruce Welch, Hank Marvin, Brian Bennett & John Rostil as Wishee, Washee, Noshee, Poshee); Arthur Askey (Widow Twankey) ; Una Stubbs (Princess Balroubadour), Charlie Cairoli (Chief Inspector Bathrobe) , Alan Curtis (Abanazar), Wendy Barry (Genie of the Ring), Michael Henry (Grand Vizier), Billy Tasker (Town Crier), Paul King, Little Jimmy, Henry Lytton & Johnny Volant Five (Chinese Policemen), Joan Palethrope (So Shy), Audrey Bayley (Tai-Ping), Tom Chatto (Emperor of China), David Davenport (Slave of the Lamp)

Specialities: The Seven Lukacs; The Johnny Volant Five; Kirby’s Flying Ballet

Dancing Girls:  Valerie Barrett, Louise Clark, Rosaline Early, Diana Eldridge, Ingrid Gregoriceva, Gillian Gregory, Janet Gosling, Bernadette Hill, Gabrielle Murrow, Vivienne Roberts, Kaye Rogers, Jennifer Rufus, Joanna Short, Wendy Stewart, Wendy Thornely, Brigitte Verinder, Diane Waring

Dancing Boys:  Rod Barratt, Ray Cornell, Steve Cornell,  Hal Davis, David Eavis, John Harmer, Russell Leachman, Barry Lines, Eric Wilson

Ballet Master: Seamus Gordon

The Shepherd Singers:  Sheila Bruce, Ann Lester, Liz Newell, Angela Shade, Ron Davies, William Daw, Ken Fraser, Johnny Johnson, Gee Kenny, Tony Menery, Alan Starkey, David York.

London run: London Palladium, December 22nd 1964 until early April 1965.

Music & Lyrics: The Shadows

Book: David Croft

Director: Albert J. Knight

Choreographer: Pamela Devis

Musical Supervision: Norrie Paramor

Musical Director:  Billy Ternent

Producers: Leslie A. Macdonnell & Leslie Grade in assoc. with Bernard Delfont 


Issued as an LP to coincide with the opening of the pantomime, the record used Cliff & the Shadows and just two of the smaller-part players from the original cast.  The Arthur Askey song was sung by Charles Granville.  The chorus was an ad-hoc one. The LP entered the UK LP charts early in January 1965.

1.         Overture & Chinese Street Scene : Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra

2.         Oh Me, Oh My! : The Shadows

3.         I Could Easily Fall in Love With You: Cliff Richard

4.         Little Princess:  The Shadows

5.         This Was my Special Day:  Cliff Richard, Faye Fisher, Joan Palethrope & Audrey Bayley

6.         I’m in Love With You: Cliff Richard

7.         There’s Gotta be a Way: Cliff Richard

8.         The Jewel Ballet: Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra

9.         The Dance of the Warriors: Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra

10.       Friends:  Cliff Richard

11.       Dragon Dance:  Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra

12.       Genie with the Light Brown Lamp:  The Shadows

13.       Make Every Day a Carnival Day:  Cliff Richard

14.       Widow Twankey’s Song: Charles Granville

15.       I’m Feeling Oh So Lovely : Cliff Richard, Faye Fisher, Joan Palethrope & Audrey Bayley

16.       I’ve Said Too Many Things: Cliff Richard

17.       Evening Comes:  Cliff Richard

18.       Having Fun:  Cliff Richard 

Panto At The Palladium

(Cliff Richard, The Shadows & Arthur Askey in Aladdin)

Michael Billington “The Panto Industry” January 1965

After last year’s journey into space, the Palladium is this Christmas returning to pantomime. To discover something about the timetable of preparation and the cost of the show I talked first to Peter Penrose, who is production manager for Moss Empires, and, in particular, for this year’s “Aladdin”. In effect this means overall responsibility for “everything that happens from the orchestra pit to the back wall of the theatre”.

What is it like putting on a Palladium Pantomime? “Well, it’s more like a military operation than anything else. It has to be planned with exactly the same precision. Work starts six months before the opening date. Sometimes the artists are chosen first and the subject written around them. At other times we choose the pantomime and then find suitable artists. This year the two seem to have been chosen simultaneously”.

So, having decided to do “Aladdin” with Cliff Richard and Arthur Askey, what then? “The producer works out how many scenes there are going to be and roughly what they are going to consist of. We then present the designer with the list and he makes suggestions as to what he wants and is then left to go ahead with his sketches. The process is repeated with the costume designer. So, you’ll see we start working on the visual side of the pantomime before anything else. Once this is under way, we approach someone to write the music and someone else to write a script based upon the original synopsis.”

“Each man to his job to start with. But inevitably there has to be some contact. The choreographer, for instance, has to see if her girls can move comfortably in the costumes that are being designed for them. The costume designer has to see if her colour scheme will match that of the scenic designer. Anyway, after about two months the bare bones of the pantomime are there. Then we have to decide what this year’s special effects are going to be and where we are going to put them in”.

What do they aim for in these effects? “Each year we try to do something different, though the basic mechanical principal may have been used in Lyceum pantomimes forty years ago. With a pantomime a bit of child psychology also helps. Children of today are so wide awake that if they see a flying carpet in Aladdin they will also expect to see the wires leading top the flies. So for this pantomime we have devised a flying carpet for which there are no wires. (Mr Penrose was understandably cagey about how it actually did work.) We are satisfied if we can devise an effect that leaves the audience wondering how it was all done.”

On the day we met Mr. Penrose, five weeks before the show was due to open., he had come for a lighting session. Wasn’t that a bit early? “Not at all. The designer makes a half inch to the foot model for each single scene and then the basic lighting colours are worked out on this.At this stage we are also working out the position of our traps, revolves, microphones and so forth. Then rehearsals start a month before the show begins.”

One way and another a Palladium pantomime brings a lot of work to an awful lot of people. How many? “About five hundred in all, only eighty of whom actually appear before the public. This number, of course, includes a lot of people who hardly realise what they are working for-the sub contractors, and so forth. The cost of it all? “We never find that out until it’s all over. All I can say is that “Man In The Moon” last year cost between £80,000 and £90.000 and that this is not much above average.”

The Impression that Palladium Pantomime was something requiring an almost military precision and planning was confirmed by a talk with the show’s producer, Albert J Knight. Against the wall of his Regent Street office there leant a large day-by-day schedule detailling the exact time-table of all those involved in bringing the pantomime to buoyant life.

But what exactly was the aim of a pantomime on this scale? What was the guiding principle for its several creators? “We are trying to present a traditional pantomime in the modern idiom. We want to stick to the usual story-line, bringing in as many slapstick sequences as possible, but yet give the public plenty of chance to see and hear Cliff and the Shadows.”

How does one compromise between the old and the new, the traditional situations and the pop-star presence? “Let’s take a concrete instance. If we have the Shadows in the show, then obviously they have to use their guitars. But in this style of pantomime they can’t carry them around nor can they be brought on from the wings. So we’ve decided a Chinese caravan which they take with them everywhere and which contains their guitars. The musical numbers also are there because they appertain to the show. In fact we spent a lot of time making sure that the boys (the Shadows who have composed the music and the lyrics for the show) had got the atmosphere right. When they were playing at Yarmouth in the summer I used to go there regularly and make them listen to records of Chinese and Eastern music to get the feel of what was wanted.”

Were the other panto creations supervised to the same extent? “Not exactly but in chosing our costume designer, for instance, we got hold of the girl who designed Chinese and Tibetan costumes for the new film about Ghengis Khan.We liked her work and thought that it had the right appeal.”

Who exactly should a pantomime be aimed at? After all, the evening audience is different to the matinee audience and the late March audience from the Christmas holiday audience. “Everything should be angled towards the children, which is why we have so much slapstick in this year’s show. Children sit there waiting for someone to fall on their behind. If you overdo the number of love duets, then they rush to the ice-cream stalls. So I don’t think one should direct the show too much towards the adults. If an adult takes a child, then what he wants to see is the child enjoying himself.”

The business of producing a mammoth pantomime is obviously organisational as well as artistic. How does it work in practice? “Well, fortunately, I have several assistants working with me- a dialogue director, a dance master, singing instructor and so forth. And we all rehearse under one roof so I can keep an eye on everything. While the dancers are in the theatre’s Tudor bar, the singers are probably in the Holborn bar, the actors in the downstairs bar going through the script- throwing lines out here, adding others there- and in the palm court the comics are working on a routine. Things really hot up for me and everyone in the last ten days or so when we’re onstage. If some of the artists want to do a personal appearance somewhere, I probably have to say “no”. After working with the company in the daytime I have to spend a lot of my evening lighting. And I never get away to my family until it is over.”

Patently, though, operation pantomime is something that Mr.Knight relishes and adores. The glee with which he described some of the comedy business, his enthusiasm as he talked of the final frantic days of rehearsal were proof of this. So also is the simple eloquent fact that he has already produced forty pantomimes before this one. Each year, he says he looks forward to the next.

From PLAYS AND PLAYERS, January 1965.

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