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Category Archives: Fay Duncanson

My Theatrical Marathon

With all the talk of the London Marathon during the month of April, I decided in my own way to do a little marathon of my own, except mine was a Theatrical Marathon, in which I saw 9 shows in 11 days. Starting with:

1. Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” at the Coliseum Theatre.

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 Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” at the Coliseum Theatre.

She was the main reason that I decided on the Marathon, and to say that she lived up to all the expectations that I had is an understatement. Her performance was brilliant. To my mind she was as good as Gloria Swanson who appeared in the original noir classic in 1950. In fact, Close was even better because apart from being a brilliant actress, she sang, and how she sang! Receiving rapturous applause and ovation after ovation. When I read that the production was to be semi-staged (and I had already bought my ticket), I thought, ‘semi-staged’ Ugh! What is semi-staged? Is it going to be like in concert? How wrong I was! Lonny Price’s brilliant production was spectacular and moody and very creepy, with metal staircases, walkways, and gantry’s covering the whole stage and the most gigantic chandelier ever to grace a London stage.

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Glenn Close as Norma Desmond

The English National Opera Orchestra of 48 musicians were placed across the whole back area of the stage in front of an ever changing cyclorama, and it had to be the most amazing sound that I have ever heard in a musical, something you would only hear at the Royal Albert Hall, and on top of that I had Glenn Close, the Glenn Close. The theatre was packed, that was 2359 people, and you could hear a pin drop. As the story unfolded it was as though I was watching it for the first time, which is some feat considering I have lived with “Sunset Boulevard” since 1950 and Ray Jackson had a complete collection of stills from the original film. I knew the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I had not seen the musical. I don’t know why, but I never got round to it. There were many who considered the Lonny Price production the best. I have no comparison, but I know that I had seen the best and if I didn’t see another show it wouldn’t matter. I came out of the theatre on a cloud of euphoria, only to find the traffic in St. Martins Lane at a standstill. There were crowds of people on the pavements and in the road all waiting for Kit Harrington, “Game of Thrones”, to come out of the Stage Door of the Duke of York Theatre opposite the Coliseum Theatre, where he was in previews of “Dr. Faustus”. (I thought that’s number 5 on my marathon list, something to look forward to). But really what were the crowds doing there? I didn’t know that he took his kit off in “Dr. Faustus”.They should all have been lined up at the Coliseum Stage Door waiting to applaud Glenn Close for her triumphant performance in Sunset Boulevard. But as they say that’s Show Business! I knew that I really couldn’t expect too much from the other 8 shows, after all I had just been lucky enough to see the best. You could not top “Sunset Boulevard”.

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Glenn Close and the Coliseum Theatre.

Since writing this Blog, I have found this great review by Johnny Fox which to my joy really confirms all that I have said about this production, and Glenn Close. But also adds a few extra points.

05 April 2016 | On Stage, Theatre & Arts | By: Johnny Fox Review:

Glenn Close Is Blinding In Sunset Boulevard  at the London Coliseum ★★★★★

The night after Imelda Staunton picked up her Olivier award for best actress in a musical in Gypsy, her successor is a rock solid certainty. With such tumultuous reception at the Coliseum, there is no doubt that Glenn Close must win for Sunset Boulevard in which, like Staunton, she plays a deluded and flawed tragic hero of the entertainment business.

That Close is a movie star with a memorable back catalogue playing a silent movie star whose back catalogue has been eclipsed is just the surrealist cherry on her richly iced cake.

Stephen Sondheim began a musical of Sunset Boulevard and it’s fortunate he abandoned it because it’s doubtful he would have orchestrated it with the swimmingly sensual depth of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s homage to the film music by which he’d been enthralled when young, and which may prove his epitaph as the woven, silken fabric of his best work.

The score is the centrepiece of this stripped-down staging in the Grade/Linnet production at the Coliseum, the only residual feature of the ENO company (once its magnificent chorus had been hired then stood down as ‘unsuitable’ to play the ensemble) is the ferociously excellent 48-piece orchestra upstage and centre.

Even if you’re completely familiar with this music, you have never heard it played better. Not only does Michael Reed restrain the tempi and coax the strings to cinematic heights when following the car chase or tenderly underscoring Close’s solos, there’s enough dirty brass to power a Cuban nightclub in support of the upbeat numbers.

Few productions have excited as much anticipatory comment on social media, and even though former Normas Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige are still singing forcibly and chewing scenery at approximately the same age, speculation was rife whether Close would be up to the vocal demands 20 years after she won the Tony.

She is perhaps fortunate that Lloyd Webber sites ‘With One Look’ so early in the proceedings: once she’d hurdled that, confidently staring down the audience with its final crescendo, she was home free.

There’s a break in her range that more experienced singers could have transitioned better, but then they wouldn’t have acted the part with more intelligence.

Close has a wonderful way of undercutting the climax of a set-piece song by almost throwing away the next line. It’s winning.

This Norma is less imperious, often playful or skittish, which sets her up for a credible loosening of her grip on reality. Some of her mood-swings are too crude, but the additional years of experience have given Close an observant perspective on ageing and delusion which she fully transmits to the audience.

You could wish they’d make Norma’s age more accurate. She’s 50. It’s in the script. Gloria Swanson was 50 when she made the film. It’s almost grotesque of the book writer and lyricist to repeatedly suggest she’s ‘ancient’ or beyond the age of sexuality because the pathos is not in her decrepitude but in her elegant reclusive withdrawal, a dethroned queen: in Close’s aching interpretation, a Wallis Simpson of the silver screen. ‬

The original London and Broadway productions both lost money because of the high initial costs including an elaborate rococo mansion set with a realistic swimming pool and gilded staircase on lifts. Here, the grand luxe is represented only by a cluster of chandeliers and the deconstruction makes you focus more on both the strengths of the 1950 Billy Wilder movie and its flawed but fascinating characters, and the weaknesses of the stage book. It enhances the ‘big’ songs and exposes the feebler comic chorus numbers for tailors and beauticians. Clever.

The search for a suitable leading man and foil to play Joe Gillis must have been tough. Someone not so starry as to steal the limelight from Close, and competent enough to carry the dramatic narrative. Not Barrowman, then. Michael Xavier, rescued from old-before-his-time roles like Captain von Trapp is an amazement and a delight. At the curtain call, the audience were on their feet for him before Close even made her bows. His elegant fluidity even as a down-at-heel and slightly desperate writer is so attractive, and he sings conversationally and with feeling, like an effortless charm.

Fully clothed, he is every inch the leading man, and stripped to skimpy Speedos emerging from the orchestra pit ‘pool’ at the top of act two with a washboard stomach and balconied pectorals, he’s hot too. Don’t be late back from the bar.

I’m also including a great write-up from Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s, of Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard.

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Michael Xavier as Joe Gillis and Glenn Close as Norma Desmond, at the London Coliseum, April 2016. Photograph: Richard Hubert Smith

For all the endless dashing around for the newest, edgiest thing sometimes you just have to see the greats do the classics. We watch this eccentric, old silent movie star seduce and manipulate a younger man to feed her fading dreams and also watch him exploit her neediness. God, it’s exciting, dark, sexy and hilarious. Glenn’s first song is called Surrender; she all but floats down the stairs, with an ache in her heart and you can almost feel it in your own. She plays the naivety of a child with the gravitas of a goddess. In the final moments, I turned to look down the aisle to see rows upon rows of wet cheeks and shining eyes. We all left the theatre knowing we’d just shared something very special.

 

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Watch GLENN CLOSE on YOU TUBE.

Glenn Close Preparing for the role Sunset Boulevard at ENO – YouTube

2. “Mrs. Henderson Presents” at the Noel Coward Theatre.

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I should have known after seeing the brilliant “Sunset Boulevard” that I was going from the sublime to the ridiculous. I only wanted to see this show because of my past history. I owned with my partner Ray Jackson the ‘Casino de Paris Striptease Club’ in Denman Street, W.1., the adjoining street to the Windmill Theatre, and it was during the run and the demise of the Windmill. For me they were such happy days, with such wonderful memories. This show did nothing to change my opinion of what the Windmill was and stood for. The corruption with the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, it was all there in the show. The Windmill was tacky, and it came across in the production, perhaps it was meant to show that. But striptease and nudity was my business, and I have to say that at the Casino de Paris we did it with finesse and class

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The obligatory Fan Dance.

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 Jamie Foreman as Arthur (The Comic)

The cast of Mrs. Henderson Presents were good in their own way, and they did the best of what was expected of them, but story-wise there was so much that was missed out, and the music? Forgettable! Maybe I am biased, (I am, I really am!), but when they cast an actor in the role of a comic (which is a breed unto itself) it doesn’t work. The continuity and plot was put into this poor guys’ hands and it really needed a seasoned comic to be able to handle it, and manipulate the audience. But the poor bugger he did his best. Enough said! The sooner I forget about it the better.

3. Sheridan Smith in “Funny Girl” at the Savoy Theatre.

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I was so pleased to be able to get a seat, they were like gold dust, so my expectations were high. Let me first say that I consider Sheridan Smith a brilliantly multi-talented actress whose portrayal of Cilla Black in the TV mini series was superb, and also she sings beautifully, but does she look Jewish? Never in a million years! I blame the miscasting of this lovely actress, on the producers and the director and choreographer.

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Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice

They made her look and act like an American Hilda Baker, and as for her love interest (it was Cynthia, “She knows you know!”), he was so tall that when they embraced she came up to just below his chest. Which could have been interesting, if it wasn’t “Funny Girl”! “Let My People Come” or “Hair”, yes! But not “Funny Girl”. And he sounded like Vincent Price! So there I am watching “Funny Girl” with a Hilda Baker with an American accent and (Cynthia) Vincent Price. I think that the choreographer must have watched every film and TV that Hilda Baker made, because he gave poor Sheridan Smith all her moves. Didn’t anyone tell them that Fanny Brice, although she could be gross and funny, she had class. And the clothes they gave her! Ugh! The sort of clothes that I imagine Hilda Baker would have chosen. Having to wear them was enough for anyone to take to drink!

11-Funny-Girl-Sheridan-Smith(Cynthia) Darius Campbell, (Hilda Baker) Sheridan Smith, (Mrs.Brice) Marilyn Cutts.

An open letter to Sheridan Smith:

Dear Sheridan Smith,
Write it off as a bad experience. They need you, more than you need them.
You are a truly beautiful, talented and brilliant actress.
Blame the Director, Producers and Choreographer, who trying to ride on the back of your
extraordinary current success, mistakenly cast you into “Funny Girl”
By the way, if they ever decide to make a Musical on the life of Hilda Baker you
Would be a dead ringer!
Yours sincerely,
Eric Lindsay

Behind the Scenes: Funny Girl Fit-Up (Savoy Theatre) – YouTube

That’s 3 down 6 more to go.

4. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at the Lyttelton Theatre.

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This is the first time that I have been to this theatre and what a beautiful modern theatre it is. I had no idea what the play was about, but the Black Bottom was a dance I knew so I thought I’d give it a go and I’m so pleased that I did. Nothing like what I expected, this play with music is so moving that in one part I was nearly moved to tears and choked up. The whole cast was brilliant, except I found that Sharon D. Clarke in her quieter moments difficult to hear. The really outstanding performance was to my mind O-T Fagbenle a wonderful ‘tour de force’, so moving and heartfelt.

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The review by Quentin Letts published in the Daily Mail on the 3rd.February, 2016 says it all far better than I can.

Long-suffering jazz band hits all the right notes: QUENTIN LETTS’ first night review of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
By Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
August Wilson, Royal National Theatre
Rating:
Good play, good jazz, great acting: the Royal National’s new production of ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ hits lots of right notes.
August Wilson’s 1984 play is set in a recording studio in 1920s Chicago. Ma Rainey is a black jazz singer and a frightful prima donna. Her white manager Irvin (Finbar Lynch) spends much of his life saying ‘let me handle this’ as he soothes her tantrums.
Ma is played here by Sharon D Clarke, who could almost have been made for the part. Ma is by turns impossible, brilliant at the microphone and – when she needs to be – sweetly encouraging to her stuttering nephew (Tunji Lucas).

The 1984 play by August Wilson  is set in a recording studio in 1920s Chicago
Miss Clarke sings with her usual smoky power. But the story is not really about Ma, or studio boss Mr Sturdyvant (Stuart McQuarrie).
It is about Ma’s long-suffering band members, one of whom, young-buck trumpeter Levee, refuses to be cowed by her or by convention. All Levee’s cockiness and sex appeal and rage is caught fizzingly by OT Fagbenle.
Mr Fagbenle knows how to play a horn. He can act, too. The tale of Levee’s family left last night’s audience in sudden silence. ( Me too. He is quite brilliant. E.L.)
He is supported by Lucian Msamati as cerebral pianist Toledo, lecturing his colleagues in the duty of all black people to aspire. Toledo talks and talks.
Levee is more a man of action – and makes moves on Ma Rainey’s pretty girlfriend Dussie Mae (Tamara Lawrance). Giles Terera and Clint Dyer are also excellent as the other band members.
A slightly odd set, designed by our old friend Ultz (a railway station in Austria?), has the band’s practice room a long oblong basement, terribly narrow. The studio producers are upstairs in a metal Portakabin-style box which swings on chains.
Does the play have an unsatisfactory sense of justice? Well, that reflects the injustice against black Americans in the 1920s but it arguably leaves the evening less than cathartic.
Director Dominic Cooke extracts such good performances from his cast, however, that you still leave richly satisfied.

National Theatre Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom trailer – YouTube

5. Kit Harington in “Dr. Faustus” at the Duke of York’s Theatre

KIT HARRINGTON DR.FAUSTUS

Well now I was going to see what it was all about. I have to hand to Mr. Jamie Lloyd he is a visionary and a great director. The production of the Christopher Marlowe Play was brought up to the present day with an adaption by Colin Teevan. Kit Harington spends the whole of the second act in his underpants, which is sure to bring in thousands of his fans from “Game of Thrones” and also quite a lot of the gay community who will be fighting with the fans for front row seats. My admiration to Jamie Lloyd exceeds no bounds. He is astute, clever, commercial and artistic, what more can one have in a director. He rightly deserves his position as Artistic Director of the Jamie Lloyd Company.

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Kit Harington as Dr. Faustus.

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The whole production had the feel of a Jean Genet play, and I expected to see Lindsey Kemp appear from “Flowers”, which was another Jean Genet play, floating about the stage. Kit Harington gives a fine performance as Dr. Faustus, but I felt that there was something lacking in his vocal range of the Marlowe text. But I’m sure this will improve with more classical work. You have to hand it to him, he is star quality as you can see.

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Kit Harington before his shower scene in blood.

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Kit Harington post shower.

Kit Harington Doctor faustus . unchain my heart – YouTube

6. “Kinky Boots” at the Adelphi Theatre.

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I never got to see it when I was in New York last year, so I was very happy that I included it in my Marathon. The film I loved and this musical sticks closely to the plot. The cast are brilliant, the staging unbelievable, it has all the glitz and glamour that you would expect from an American musical with an English plot. If you haven’t seen it, go! go! go!  You will love it.

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Killian Donnelly, Amy Lennox and Matt Henry “Kinky Boots”.

UK – Kinky Boots the Musical – Trailer 2015 – Adelphi Theatre – YouTube

7.  Uzo Aduba, Zawe Ashton in “The Maids” at the Trafalgar Studios.

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Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

THE MAIDS PLOT

By now you must gather that I think that Jamie Lloyd is the bees knees, and you are right! What a brilliant director he is. To be able to invoke such terror and excitement into a play is something I have never in all my years’ experience in the theatre seen before. This play is so powerful and the performances of both Uzo Aduba and Zawe Ashton so exceptional, that I doubt that I will ever see such class acting again in my lifetime. To ask me to say which was the stronger performance, I am at a loss because the magnetism between them both was equal and if awards were to be given and there was only one, split it in half, equal, equal. Or go to the extra expense and have another made, like an Olivier. They deserve it.

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Zawe Ashton and Uzo Aduba

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Uzo Aduba

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Laura Carmichael, Uzo Aduba and Zawe Ashton

The stage set was an open ended 4 poster bed, so that you had a mirror image of another audience sitting watching the play unfold on the other side of the stage. But, they were for real. It is important that I explain this, as it is integral to what I have to say. So that although the theatre is so versatile it can be in the round, or 4 sided. This time it was 2 sided facing one another, with the stage in the centre. Maybe I haven’t explained it too well but the following photos may explain it better. At first I couldn’t believe that the people sitting facing me were real, until I saw a rather large fat lady who was sitting front row in the centre isle with a gentleman friend, drinking what I took to be wine from a very large plastic glass. So the play has started and the drama unfolds, it ran, I think, for 90 minutes with no interval. At odd times I would see the lady sipping the wine, but I was so caught up in the play that it did not really distract. After about half an hour into the play, I caught sight of her refilling the glass from a bottle in her bag, and by this time the wine was beginning to take effect. She was slowly sliding down in her seat and her head was beginning to loll. It finally finished up on her gentleman friend’s shoulder and she must have fallen asleep. Meanwhile the drama is unfolding and being in C Row centre, I was literally in the play and enjoying every moment of it. Much later I caught sight of her fidgeting and moving around in her chair and of all things she takes her phone out, and starts texting and the light from the phone is going on the stage. We are reaching the pinnacle of the play, High Drama! She has meanwhile fallen asleep again with the phone still switched on in her lap and the light still on. No-one on her side of the theatre said a word. What was the matter with them? Were they all asleep or just dummies? No usherette or management came to scold her and take the phone away. Meanwhile Uzo Aduba and Zawe Ashton are acting their tits off, and that stupid bitch was allowed to sit there and no-one admonished her. I just cannot believe that people can be so rude. But then with all that was happening, and the high drama on stage, it made a very memorable night for me in the Theatre, and every time I think about it, I see the funny side of the whole situation.  She was a light relief with such high drama.Thank you Drunken Fat Lady!

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This is what it looked like, before the play started, so I had no idea that there was another audience facing me.

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If you look closely, to the back of this photo.  This it what I saw from my seat in C Row Centre and the drunken fat lady was siting facing me, front row centre isle at the back of the stage.

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Uzo Aduba, Laura Carmichael, Zawe Ashton.

The Maids Vox Pops – Trafalgar Studios – ATG Tickets – YouTube

 

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Uzo Aduba

Here is another interview with the fabulous actress       Uzo Aduba.

Our Interview with Uzo Abuda from The Maids – YouTube

Here is an interview with the brilliant Jamie Lloyd, about “The Maids”.

Interview with director Jamie Lloyd about The Maids – YouTube

8. “Nell Gwynn” at the Apollo Theatre

NELL GWYNN

This was one glorious romp from beginning to end. Such wonderful Theatre, in such a beautiful theatre.

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APOLLO THEATRE INTERIOR

Nell Gwynn at the Apollo Theatre – YouTube

9. Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon in “The Painkiller” at the Garrick Theatre.

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“THE PAINKILLER” with Kenneth Branagh and Rob Rydon

A Farce by Francis Veber and adapted by Sean Foley. Why is it that the French are Masters at writing Farce?  For example, Feydeau, Moliere and Labiche and now we have Francis Veber. Well first you need a simple but clever plot of mistaken identities, and lost virtues, a split stage showing maybe 2 or 3 rooms. Plenty of very solid doors for running in and out and slamming. Windows for climbing out and maybe coming in, and a cast of master actors. Well, with “The Painkiller” you have just that. It was a laugh from beginning to end.

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Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon.

Painkiller

Rob Brydon, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Hadfield.

Well that is the end of my Theatrical Marathon, and it was so varied, and great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed every one. Okay, there were a few that I didn’t think came up to standard, but all in all the Theatre in England is wonderful. Remember that the criticism’s are mine alone, maybe you don’t agree with me, but I have tried to be fair. Stay happy. E.L.

 

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“The Girl Who Saved the Show” A further instalment in the Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story.

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In mid 1968 Rosemary Andree came along to an evening show at the Casino de Paris with a handsome young Anglo-Chinese guy called Philip Seow whose claim to fame was that at 27 he happened to be the youngest  hotelier ever in Singapore. We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
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Philip Seow
 
This is where he held the prodigious role of Managing Director of the newly opened Hotel Malaysia in Singapore, which was a luxury 5 star hotel.
HOTEL MALAYSIA DRAWING
 MALAYSIA INTERIOR BROCHUR
MALAYSIE WRITE-UP
We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
Didn’t she just make it all sound so lovely? And I just knew Eric was going to get lumbered again, but this time it would not be my doing! I said “No!” straight away and reminded them of what I went through during my time in Cairo and Athens and Istanbul – oops, I hadn’t told them about the revolution in Istanbul! Rosemary, however, said it wasn’t going to  be like that. It was all going to be lovely. In fact it was going to be worse!
Anyway, I didn’t want to go, and neither did anyone else, but we all wanted the contract. So we put it to a vote and guess who lost?  Fuck it! I was on the trot again! I forgot to mention that during the six months contract Eric would travel from England to Singapore three times to open the shows and rehearse in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky me! Then during my time in England, I would be rehearsing the new show for the Casino de Paris. You may well ask what did I did with my spare time? I scrubbed the stage and cleaned the loos! ! ! I refused to do stairs!
MALAYSIA PRINT AND SAVE
In those days air travel was not quite as fast as it  is today. A plane trip from London to Singapore would take about three or four stop-overs to refuel, so altogether the flight would take about 24-26 hours. What it did to one’s body clock was nobody’s business! By the end of the six months I didn’t know whether I was on my ‘arse or my elbow’! Did something happen in Singapore or was it London? Did Diana Dors give birth to a son, or did I dream it?  Really, I hadn’t a clue! When I arrived in Singapore I would go straight to bed only to be woken an hour or two later by Philip Seow, who had become my best friend, (he had arranged with the front desk that they notify him as soon as I arrived) demanding that I join him in the “London Underground,” the disco that was in the basement of the Hotel Malaysia as there was always something important he had to tell me. Always there was some reason or other that I just couldn’t get out of. So I’d go down there only to be confronted by three large Canadian Clubs and ginger ale, plus three shots, all lined up for me. Whenever I was there, I was his drinking partner.  So by the third “Yum Sing” I was wide awake again and raring to go. So much for jet lag!
But I digress. Rosemary told me that striptease was not allowed in Singapore, so I couldn’t use strippers. Then why did she bring Philip to see our show? Fortunately for us, we couldn’t get any at the time anyway, so that was one problem solved. She also told me that nudity was not allowed and that the girls had to wear pasties over their nipples as the Singaporean government were very strict about nudity, and of course I believed her!
She managed to find for us five girls, four showgirls and one singer, all of whom had worked at the Casino du Liban in Beirut, the no.1 night club in the world. The girls, who apart from being the most amazing looking creatures, were each in their own way stunning with bodies to die for.
DOLLY'SBRENDA  ERIC'S GIRL FRIEND BRENDA SAUNDERS SINGAPORE 1969
Brenda Saunders
ELIZABETH
Elizabeth Carr 
She also found a young lady who had been a dancer in a circus and was quite as beautiful as the rest.
eay[1]
Fay Duncanson
I have to point out  that showgirls are a different  breed from strippers. They do not show their nipples. They are like thoroughbred horses, majestic in stature, beautiful and regal, a breed unto themselves. They wear pasties. You may well ask what is the difference between a small bit of sequined plaster and raw  flesh. To them it was everything and they would not dream of working without their pasties. It was a question of take it or leave it. So I took it because Rosemary told me that was the way they liked it in Singapore.
The show was great. I called them The Dolly’s-a-Go-Go. I say it myself, it was sparkling, glamorous and fast moving. It ran for just forty minutes. Once it started, it ran like a fast moving express train. I was very happy with it.
DOLLY'S BIG SPENDER
The Dolly’s
So I flew out to Singapore one week before the girls to set everything up. The new show at the Casino de Paris had just been running for two weeks, so there was no problem there. In Singapore there was a small press conference when I got to the hotel. Most of the press were charming and respectful except for one snotty bitch who kept pressing that there only 6 people on stage, “So little! Oh! It’s all so little!” So I told her I was going to use mirrors and that would double them up. That shut her up.
Philip was charm itself, We had dinner together that night in the exotic Golden Lotus Room, a wonderful Chinese room with a large stage where the girls would be doing the dinner show. Later, he took me up to  the Supper Club, where they would be performing the night club show.
DOLLY'D DON'T TELL MAMA
The Dolly’s
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU  SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah!  A stripper!  I couldn’t fucking believe it!  Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favourite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
DOLLY'S BIG SPENDER
The Dolly’s
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU  SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah!  A stripper!  I couldn’t fucking believe it!  Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favorite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
I couldn’t sleep! I was in panic! What could I possibly do?  I lay all night asking myself how I could compete with that French slut and not let Philip down. The next morning at 8a.m. I faced Philip Seow in his office. He already knew something was wrong by my reaction to the stripper the night before. I had decided that I had to come clean with him. I told him exactly what Rosemary had told me – no full nudity, no striptease, the girls must wear pasties, etc. etc. and that none of the girls that I had engaged for my show would strip as they were showgirls, not strippers. I told him what I had done with the show and that I knew he would be pleased with it. I told him that I was not worried about the show.  BUT what was I going to do about a stripper? What was I going to do with such nudity as I had seen in his night club?
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The Dolly’s
I took a deep breath and said that I thought it would be better if I went back to England and that we should call it a day and forget about the show. He then took an even deeper  breath and told me that on no account would I be allowed to leave Singapore. He said that he had put his job on the line by insisting in bringing our show from England and that if everything went sour both he and I would finish up in Singapore Bay. The hotel had already taken a big risk by making him the youngest Managing Director ever and many people were just waiting for him to screw up. That was just not going to happen if he could help it. As far as he was concerned, I was responsible for this crisis and I had to sort it out, otherwise it was cement boots for both of us.
Shit! That was another fine mess I’d gotten myself into. I wasn’t too happy at the thought of concrete anklets in a dirty watery grave in Singapore bay. I told him that I had an idea, but it was imperative that I brought out an extra artist, a stripper from England. If  he would  pay for the extra artist, I would sort it out in England and I was sure he would be happy. I just couldn’t let him down. I knew it just couldn’t be any run of the mill stripper. This one had to be special to counteract the filth that was currently on show in the Supper Club.  The Casino de Paris did not deal in filth, my girl needed to be really different, clean and special.
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The Fabulous Diane Darling
God must have been watching over me because by chance in the new show that I had just opened at the Casino de Paris in London there was a young lady called Diane Darling. She appeared as Queen Marie Antoinette and slowly did a very long and elegant strip to the minuet, looking every bit a royal queen. Then to top it all she finished up with tassels on her boobs and also on each cheek of her bum. This was something I knew that had never been seen in Singapore or the Orient. She could rotate them either way, together or one at a time, depending on what the audience asked for. In fact, she could do anything with those tassels. She could rotate them so fast that you would think she would take off!  Diane could be my savior if , and this was the main and only problem, she was prepared to come to Singapore at a moment’s notice for six months. “Oh please let it happen!” I prayed.
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Diane Shows A Leg
I rang Rosemary from my room immediately. It must have been at about 3a.m. in England, which didn’t please her too much, but to hell with that! It was a matter of life or me finishing up at the bottom of Singapore Bay!  I told her the situation that I was in and how much I needed Diane. “Promise her anything, just get her on that plane,” I told her.  “I can’t take no for an answer and no other girl will do. Get her!” 
   
The miracle happened, Rosemary talked Diane into coming immediately to Singapore. She had that way with her, she could get whatever she wanted. God was with me! The days before the girls arrival, Philip showed me around Singapore. We went to some wonderful night markets and he also showed me Bugis Street, commonly called Boogie Street, which was still going in those days and was infamous for all sorts of things. A must see on the tourist destination agenda.
.BUGIS STREET  BORDERED 2_2
BUGIS STREET 1969
DIANE DRESS 1
Diane As Mae West 
                                                           
The day the girls arrived was a happy occasion for me. I had already arranged dressing rooms and wardrobe space for the them and the costumes. Each girl had her own dresser, everything went along smoothly apart from Diane having a few problems with some of the girls, who behaved as though they were superior to her because she was a stripper. The main instigator was the singer, Juliet, who seemed to stir up a few of the girls, until they’d sussed her out. Things sorted themselves out fairly quickly when I pointed out to them that if it wasn’t for Diane none of them would be in work . When the girls got to know Diane they loved her.
DOLLY'S SHOWGIRLS WITH THEIR DRESSERS 1969
The Dolly’s With Their Dressers
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Diane With The Dolly’s Poolside
The show opened and Diane, who came on in the star spot, stopped the show. She would get a standing ovation every night, the audience had never seen anything like it, and they loved the humour that she put into her act. They just couldn’t get enough of the Tassel Lady. Meanwhile, the ‘Mean French Lady,’  who appeared only once on the first night that we opened in the Super Room Night Club, was terminated immediately and understandably! So much for ‘Viva la France’! I  believe she went back to Place Pigalle to ply her trade!
GALA SHOW
Philip Seow loved the show and appreciated what I had done to counteract the “Parisienne Harlot” and bring some class to the fabulous Malaysia Hotel. After four days of previews there was a Gala Dinner in the Golden Lotus Room for “The Dolly’s Show,” which  was an enormous success. I was complemented on the show by Lee Kuan Yew, who I  had no idea was the the Prime Minister of Singapore, where he was known as ‘The Father of Singapore.’ He told me how much he had enjoyed it. It was he who shaped Singapore into the wonderful country that it is today and cleaned up Bugis Street. I also got to know, and was invited frequently to dine with, Khoo Teck Puat, the owner of the Goodwood Group of companies, who owned The Malaysia Hotel and happened to be one of the richest men in Singapore. I was mixing with, as they would say back home, the rich and powerful of Singapore.
MALAYSIA CHINESE GALA AD
WRITEUP  PUBLISH
Truthfully, the time I spent in Singapore had to be one of the happiest times of my life, even with all the jet lag. It was hard work, but I and the girls, especially Diane Darling, Brenda Saunders and Faye Duncanson had a wonderful time.
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My 3 drinking buddies Brenda, Diane and Fay
Whilst we were at the Malaysia Hotel, Eartha Kitt did a two day guest appearance and ‘Dolly’s-a-go-go’ had the pleasure of working with her.
DOLLY'S WITH EARTHA  KITT
In the beginning of March, Philip informed me that  Khoo Teck Puat had bought a 50% share of Aeroflot, the Russian Airline, as they wanted to start an Oriental route, and that from now on I would be flying with them backwards and forwards between England and Singapore via Moscow! What a happy thought that was, but I couldn’t get out of it.  
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DOLLY'S K.L. 3
I was on the first flight out from Singapore to Moscow. There were eight passengers on board. We all sat in the front cabin and froze our balls off. I’m amazed the crew could get the plane off the ground! The cabin crew did not know how to work anything. Foodwise everything was frozen, they didn’t know how to turn on the heaters. So I just vodka’d all the way to Moscow, where I had to wait six hours for a plane to London. It was all very enlightening and the thought of doing return trips just made me want to throw up!  I flew with Aeroflot four times and it was like being in “Ninotchka.” The whole place was so backward. The people at the airport were so rough and rude. All the secret police stood around looking obviously like secret police in their leather trench coats. Russia was definitely not for me!
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Still, I loved Singapore and it was worth putting up with backward Russia just to be able to get to Singapore. Don’t even ask about Tashkent! It was freezing! I’ve never seen so many Russian mamushkas in my life, and all with their hands out. 
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The Dolly’s
At last the time came for us to go to Kuala Lumpur. The Merlin Hotel was the top hotel there at the time. The staff we found were so different from those in Singapore. In Singapore they were all smiles, but here they all looked as miserable as sin. Maybe it was just their nature; the manager, who was Dutch, and his Malaysian wife were charm itself. It was just the rest of the other miserable sods. Could it have been because I and the girls were given the best rooms in the hotel? That was because I had told the manager that all my girls were very respectable, like the nuns from The Sound of Music!  Of course, that image was ruined when the girls discovered that the hotel pharmacy sold the birth pill and they bought out his whole stock! ! !
DOLY'S VIVA
So we rehearsed the new show and went back four weeks later to Singapore with “Viva les Dolly’s.” It was another blinding success, and it was all thanks to Diane bless her and her four tassels, which also saved me from a watery grave!

You can read the full story of the Casino De Paris by clicking on the following link

The Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story 

 

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