Panto Bills and Posters

Puss In Boots

Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham 1898/9

The programme claims an “unprecendented array of Unequalled talent” for this production including “a full and powerful chorus of 150 voices!”

It certainly has a dream cast- topping the bill was Eugene Stratton, described as “The Birmingham Favourite”. Stratton was the minstrel star of music halls who first brought the song “Lily of Laguna” to the stage. Born in America in 1861,  Eugene Stratton arrived in Great Britain with “Haverley’s Minstrels” in 1881, and starred in Music Hall from 1892. He specialised in sentimental songs in blackface, among them “Little Dolly Day Dream” and “I May Be Crazy”.A member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, he became “King Rat” of this charitable organisation in 1896, and again in 1900. He died in 1918.

Paul CinquevalliPaul Cinquevalli  also known as “The Human Billiard Table” (a part of his act) he could play billiards on his own back better than most people could on a table! He was originally a trapeze artist, becoming a juggler after suffering an accident. He first appeared in Britain in 1885, and became the premier juggler and equilibrist in the United Kingdom. He had played “Slave of the Lamp” to Dan Leno’s Widow Twankey in Aladdin at Drury Lane in 1895. He too died in 1918.

Marie Dainton, playing Principal Girl in this production was one of Music Hall’s leading ladies- she, along with Marie Lloyd, Little Tich and Joe Elvin were the headliners who began the “Music Hall War” of 1907. These artists persuaded others to strike for better pay and conditions in Music Hall, and to picket those theatres that broke the strike. The strike lasted for a month, following the creation of the V.A.F (Variety Artist’s Federation”) and was the forerunner of our present day “Actors Equity Association”.

Fred Emney, the burlesque comedian who played Dame Shortly in this pantomime was the father of the character and film actor of the same name. He was born a year after this production finished its run in Birmingham. Fred Senior was born in 1865, and first appeared in pantomime  at Sadlers Wells in 1895. He appeared as Dame in the Lyceum Theatre London in 1894, and as Nurse in “Sleeping Beauty” at Drury Lane in 1900, and again in 1906 as Empress opposite Harry Randall as Mrs Crusoe. In 1916 Fred Emney appeared as Baroness in Cinderella at the London Opera House . It was to be a tragic pantomime for him- on the opening night, whilst performing the “Whitewashing scene” with the Brothers Egbert, he slipped on some soapsuds and fell heavily onto the stage. The audience, thinking it was part of his routine laughed and applauded, but it was his last appearance. Fred Emney died a week later on 7th January, 1917.

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This page was last updated 17th July 2003

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