Dates and Prices
|December 22nd and 23rd||6:10pm and 8:40pm|
|December 26th to 31st||6:10pm and 8:40pm|
|January 2nd – 21st||Mon – Thurs 7:30pm
Fri and Sat 6:10pm and 8:40pm
Stalls: £6.00 £5.00 £4.00
Circle: £6.00 £5.00 £4.00
Cannon and Ball
The rise of Cannon and Ball to becoming the most consistently ‘in demand’ double act in the country is one of real success. Success that can be measured in the respect of admiration of their fellow artistes and the loyalty of their ever growing audience. The Cannon and Ball story is one of talent, hard work, and continual striving for perfection. This dedication is amply demonstrated nightly when they “top the bill” at the country’s leading theatres and cabaret clubs.
There cannot be many artistes today who are kept as busy as Cannon and Ball. But their success is no accident, it has been hard won. Indeed, Cannon and Ball have been regarded as one of clubland’s funniest entertainers to have won the prestigious Club Mirror ‘Comedy Act of The Year’ award on three seperate occasions.
It was in 1961 that Cannon and Ball first worked together for a North West engineering company. It was here that there stage relationship developed. “Tommy used to look after me when I got into trouble. We were always fooling about for the lads at work.” (Bobby Ball)
Encouraged by an enthusiastic response at work, they would often be found in the evenings entertaining a wider audience. This part of homely Lancashire is still the guardian of the music hall tradition. Talent shows and social clubs will play an active part in the community. It was to these that Cannon and Ball turned. Initially they performed as a singing duo. “I used to sing” recalls Bobby Ball, “and Tommy would accompany me on the drums, then we would swap over and Tommy would sing to my accompaniment – all for £3 a night.
However, their talent for comedy soon began to enter the act. Comedy entirely original and unique: comedy loosley based on their working relationship as welders. As the act developed through appearances in the pubs and social clubs of South East Lancashire, they began to look out for opportunites to enter showbusiness.
Working mainly in social clubs in the north of England, Cannon and Ball can look back at overcoming some of the toughest audiences in the country. Sometimes they were “paid off” after only one appearance. One night in Newcastle they went on stage to complete silence. They were sitting afterwards in a state of mild shock when the manager came into their dressing room to congratulate them! “You did well lads” he said, “You kept ’em quiet.”
Cannon and Ball not only survived this experience, but learned how to build a following that is now the envy of many top artistes. At this time they were known as The Harper Brothers. In 1970 they teamed up with their present manager, Stuart Littlewood, who persuaded them that a change of name would be for the better. Over lunch one day the three came up with the name Cannon and Ball and from that point they have never looked back.
After two years, Cannon and Ball started to attract attention outside the north of England. In 1965 they began to appear throughout the country. It was now that their earlier tough apprenticeship proved invaluable. They were quickly able to overcome many of the problems that some northern comedians experience when appearing outside the region.
Never having to rely on dialect or stories, their zany style needed only subtle change.
In 1972 Cannon and Ball undertook tours to Australia and South Africa for cabaret and radio.
However, their early television experiences had been less kind to the pair. Cannon and Ball still look back in anguish to the night opportunity knocked on Hughie Green’s talent programme. “We were terrible”, says Bobby Ball. “We were the proverbial ‘Opportunity flops'”. At the end of their act the clapometer, which registers the audience’s applause “scarcely flickered”, he says.
They were learning. There was another TV chance with ‘The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club’. Then came a projected series of appearances on Bruce Forsyth’s ‘Big Night’.
But before they had reached the screen the programme had run into ratings trouble and in the subsequent revamping their contributions had ended up on the cutting room floor.
In 1978 they undertook a nationwide tour with the American singer, Gene Pitney, appearing at the London Palladium and other major theatres.
Another TV mis-fire for Cannon and Ball came in July 1979, when technicians pulled the plugs on ITV after two shows of their first series, and it was October before the series returned. However, this series established Cannon and Ball as firm favourites with millions.
Their record-breaking panto at Bradford ran into March 1980, when they began to work on the Saturday night TV series, followed by a highly successful summer season at Great Yarmouth.
All in all, it was a hectic twelve months for Cannon and Ball. It was a year ago that their second TV series took off and they reached the number 10 spot i nthe ratings, and between May and September they filled the 1,500 seats of Blackpool’s North Pier twice-nightly and six times a week. There were occasions when enthusiastic audiences stormed the stage.
All 7,000 tickets for a week at a Birmingham theatre were sold out eight months in advance. Even such international stars as Jack Jones, The Three Degrees, and Dionne Warwick, had not attracted such interest, said the manager, who added: “With these bookings we could play them 52 weeks in the year.”
But for a couple of proud north countrymen the final accolade came in the autumn when they were invited to switch on the Blackpool illuminations: an honour which compares roughly with having a rose named after you at the Chelsea Flower Show. Their immediate predecessors in this role were Kermit and Red Rum. “They ran out of animals”, jokes Bobby Ball.
Their LP Rock On Tommy gained them a silver disc and their new single Hold Me In Your Arms, taken from their second LP Cannon and Ball Together, is selling very well.
1982 was a sensational year for the boys. Their TV series topped the ratings in May/June and their summer show at Bournemouth broke all previous records, taking over £1m at the box office. Christmas that year brought their first ever West End season at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road. This ran for seven weeks and once again broke all records for a non-pantomime West End Christmas Show. The advance demand for tickets was so great that virtually every seat for the run had been sold before the show opened. Just three days after the Christmas Show finished, Cannon and Ball attended the Variety Club Luncheon at the London Hilton Hotel where they were proud to receive the ‘Show Business Personalities of the Year’ Award for their achievements in 1982.
These achievements have been further surpassed in 1983 with a record-breaking 13 week Spring theatre tour, in which the boys played a total of 134 performances in 90 days. In March Cannon and Ball’s first full length feature film ‘The Boys In Blue‘ was premiered in Manchester and went on general release shortly afterwards. The film has proved very popular with family audiences and has just been released on video cassette.
Summer season was spent at Scarborough, once again enjoying capacity business, and in the autumn Cannon and Ball paid their first ever visit to Ireland, covering theatres in both Ulster and the Republic. Following a brief cabaret tour in October, their touring live work concluded with two sell-out concerts at the London Palladium – their first ever headlining appearance at the world’s top theatre. Their current television series was made in London during November and early December and following their Christmas season in Manchester, the boys will be taking their annual and well-earned holiday during February 1984.
Plans for the new year include another spring theatre tour, a possible visit to the Middle East, a summer season in the beautiful Devon resort of Torbay and next Christmas will find them at the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham. At the same time discussions are continuing about a possible script for their second feature film and a further LP record should be due in 1984 if the boys have an opportunity to fit it in.
A few years ago, the late Eric Morecambe named them as “the next double act”, and later said: “I like them because they emanate a lot of warmth, Bobby Ball has a lot of heart and Tommy Cannon isn’t just a straight man. Another five years will establish them in a big way”.
They are certainly repaying this early confidence and it is easy to see why Cannon and Ball are so much sought after as top stars in Britain’s theatres and cabarets.
Rocky Sharpe and the Replays
They rock, they’re sharp and they re-play some of the greatest oldies you possibly don’t even remember.
They are without doubt the most authentic R’nR vocal group working in Britain today. Performing Doo Wop as it should be performed; with energy, style, humour and a strong preference for the offbeat. Their records have constantly been chart and Radio hits in Britain, many major European countries and as far afield as South America and Australia. They have been frequent visitors to the continent for TV, radio and live shows in Germany. Spain, Austria, Holland and Italy and just when it seems they’ve been away too long, they come storming back with another great version of a Rock ‘n Roll Doo Wop song that keeps the spirit of the fifties alive and well and living in the radio’s, TV’s, juke boxes, and dance halls up and down the British Isles.
Rocky Sharpe and the Replays was formed in early 1978 by Rocky and Johnny after they had discussed with Chiswick Records the idea of re-recording some of the great but less well known Doo Wop songs of the R’nR period.
It wasn’t just a wild idea either, since both Rocky and Johnny had been founder members of Rocky Sharpe and the Razors, a successful R ‘n R/Doo Wop group who played the London pub and college gig circuit in the early and mid 70’s. While Chiswick Records had previously released an EP by the ‘Razors’ (‘Drip Drop’), which despite the groups pre-release break up, sold considerably well. Rocky and Johnny enlisted the talents of a friend, Helen Highwater, who became the third member of the group and the trio were introduced to producer Mike Vernon of Blue Horizon Records fame (Chicken Shack, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall etc.).
‘Rama Lama Ding Dong’ was a unanimous choice for the first single. It became a Top Twenty hit and sold nearly % million copies in Britain alone. The group had really taken off in a big way, but it wasn’t until after the first hit that the problem of finding a permanent bass vocalist was solved and Eric Rondo stepped in to fill the role.
The follow-up single ‘Imagination’ became a Top Thirty hit and the first LP ‘Rama Lama’ was released. More chart singles followed including, ‘Love Will Make You Fail in School’ and ‘The Martian Hop’. The groups policy of re-recording the more obscure Doo Wop material was proving itself to be popular. A second LP ‘Rock It To Mars’ followed with a number of other singles including ‘Teenager in Love’ and ‘You’re the One’. Then in Spring ’82, came ‘Shout, Shout (Knock Yourself Out)’, which punched its way into the Top Twenty and reminded faint-hearted fans that the group was still as good as ever.
The third and last LP on the Chiswick label, ‘Shout Shout’ was released shortly after. Before the follow-up single ‘Clap Your Hands’ came out on RAK, the group underwent the only major personnel change it has known. Helen Highwater went her own way as an actress and her place was taken by Gloria Sunshine, who more than fills the part.
The beginning of ’83 saw a new record deal with Polydor and yet another chart hit with ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ which was followed by ‘Stop Please Stop’ and an LP of the same name.
But ‘stopping’ was never the intention of the group and the pipeline is still full to the brim. In their live performances, the group produce the same energy and fun and excitement that they capture on record but at the end of Summer ’83, a further bonus was added when they teamed up with the Scottish R’nR band Johnny and the Roccos as a complete R’nR show. The Roccos were introduced by Mike Vernon (who produces both bands) and as well as enjoying success in their own right on the R’nR circuits of Britain and Norway and with three LP’s to their credit, have been first choice for a whole string of American R’nR and Rockabilly artistes including Charlie Gracie, Billy Lee Riley, Sunny Fisher, Sleepy La Beef, Warren Smith and Ray Smith.
Together the Replays and the Roccos make the most exciting and possibly the only authentic Rock ‘n Roll show at present performing in Britain.
Comedian Dudley Doolittle has a highly developed sense of humour and was born in Rochdale. He says the two are connected. As he puts it “Have you seen Rochdale? You have to laugh before you break down and cry”. Dudley is very attached to his home town and claims a rare distinction amongst the citizenry – he is believed to be the only fully paid-up season ticket holder for Rochdale AFC, or at least the only one who is prepared to admit this unusual and specialised hobby in public.
Dudley commenced his career as an entertainer in the Sixties as a singer and guitarist who rapidly moved into comedy when he found his alert observations on life provoked more audience enthusiasm than his guitar playing. Since that time he has appeared many times on television and has frequently worked abroad covering Scandinavia, the Middle East, South Africa and the Caribbean. As a supporting artiste he has worked with The Three Degress and the Bee Gees, and has undertaken summer seasons in Blackpool and the Isle of Man. His friendly off-the-cuff style has brought him a lot of work in television studios as the unseen “warm-up man” – a difficult trade to master and one for which Dudley holds the respect of many TV producers up and down the country.
For many years Dudley has gladly given up part of his working year to undertake overseas shows for British Forces stationed abroad and in this role, where he’s always well received, he has visited units in Germany, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Italy. Dudley is single and describes his only printable hobby as motorbikes and motor cycle trials, where he is both a keen spectator and a sometime participant. Following his present tour with Cannon and Ball, Dudley will be undertaking a further summer season in 1983 before returning to television work in the autumn.
Wizardz are spectacular. An extraordinary event of dance, mime, music and fire. Wizardz use fire as the ‘danger plus’ element which has the audience riveted in their seats.
Wizardz is Patti Webb and Mark Rowan who have combined their talents to present an act which is as exciting to them as it is to their audience.
Patti, a talented dancer and choreographer puts Wizardz together drawing on her 17 years ballet training, and her love of jazz dance. Mark designs all their costumes, Patti the exotic masks. Together they work their act until it is a finely honed mixture of sorcerous appeal and downright good entertainment.
Wizardz have spent the past two years appearing in the Middle East, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and the UK, and have recently become known to television audiences with their appearances on Saturday Royal (ITV).
Mark Rowan, creator of Wizardz has always courted danger, he says: “I started out as a lion tamer, but after a while began to look for more excitement.
“Two years ago I was appearing in an international show in Paris, on the bill was a lunatic fire-eater from Italy who appeared to want to burn himself to death before our very eyes – the audience was terrified, and so was I. I simply had to learn the art of fire immediately.
“Fire eating is dangerous, Patti and I both have a healthy respect for the flames, but we still do sometimes get burned and have developed a high resistance to pain. I suppose it is lucky that we don’t seem to feel a thing until we are off-stage.
“There is an element of evil in Wizardz, and Patti has expanded my original concept with her innovative choreography.
“Wizardz is an affair with fire, fear and movement – a romance I can’t resist.”