At the Bradford Alhambra
|Bad Robber||Tommy Cannon|
|Good Robber||Bobby Ball|
|Sheriff of Nottingham||Graham Hamilton|
|Robin Hood||Craig Douglas|
|Maid Marion||Sharon Kiel|
|Nurse Merryweather||Wyn Calvin|
|Merry Men||The Halfwits|
|Friar Tuck||Robin Bowerman|
|Will Scarlett||Phillip Edwards|
Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball
To describe Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball as stars is, at the very least, an understatement. To describe them as superstars and a true phenomenon is perhaps more accurate. Since their debut TV series for London Weekend Television in 1979 they have not only become top TV stars with their own series and specials every year, but are also the biggest box-office attraction in the UK – in 1985 alone they played to over 600,000 people live through their 10-week Summer Season in Blackpool, their British tour of March and April and further record-breaking shows in Birmingham.
To have outsold not only other comedy acts, but to have outdrawn even rock superstar Bruce Springsteen, is a totally unique achievement which puts them in a category all of their own. At the Opera House in Blackpool in 1985 their 10-week run broke all previous box-office records by playing to over 300,000 people and grossing in excess of one million pounds. Their 1985/6 Christmas panto, ‘Babes In The Wood’ – their first for five years – at the Bristol Hippodrome put them into even more record books with takings in excess of �700,000.
Their star status is further enhanced by the fact that they are the only act in showbusiness to have won three separate National Club Awards; they have enjoyed success as recording artistes with both singles and albums; starred in their own feature film The Boys In Blue and as well as triumphing in numerous newspaper popularity polls, Tommy and Bobby have also been named Showbusiness Personalities by the Variety Club off Great Britain – the highest accolade presented by their fellow professionals.
So what is the secret of this unequalled success which has also included Royal Shows, a memorable `This Is Your Life’; and a top-rated Christmas TV spectacular? Tommy and Bobby don’t go in for self-analysis. Their present day success has evolved from an initial friendship between two Oldham lads who got together to form a singing act. And it is their genuine friendship and respect for each other that is the very backbone of the Cannon and Ball story.
Robert Harper is the real name of Bobby Ball, and he and Tommy Derbyshire (now Tommy Cannon) were former workmates in a Lancashire engineering factory in the early 1960’s. By day they were welders but by night they became a singing duo called The Harper Brothers and achieved a great deal of popularity in the Northern Clubs.
It soon became evident that Bobby had a natural flair for comedy and was was complemented by Tommy’s ability to remain straight-faced and act as the perfect foil. Singing remained in their act but the comedy content grew stronger – as did their popularity.
“It got to the point where we were rehearsing our act on the factory floor”, says Tommy. “and many were the times that we were reprimanded by the foreman. Then, out of the blue, Bobby’s cousin Wally Harper, a professional comic, booked us for a week at a club in Wales. It was our first appearance outside Lancashire and the response was terrific. After that we decided to give up our daytime jobs and concentrate on showbusiness”
Their professional career now spans 20 years, but it is only in the last 16 years that they have been known as Cannon and Ball. And the name has made all the difference to their lives.
“We were getting nowhere as the Harper Brothers”, says Bobby. So one day we sat down in a dreary cafe with our manager and began slinging names at each other. I can’t remember who came up with Cannon and Ball, but we decided that those names fitted us perfectly.”
This choice of name couldn’t have been more appropriate, because their success has come from the firepower of Tommy Cannon and the sheer comedy ammunition of Bobby Ball.
And so Cannon and Ball began the hard slog to gain recognition. They built up their popularity on the club circuit and in 1975 were voted Best Comedy Duo by readers of a leading magazine. In turn that award led to their first TV booking – for the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club. They also appeared on `Opportunity Knocks’ and managed to come only second to last in the voting.
Since then the rest is pure showbusiness history – their series and specials are always in the top TV ratings, they have played to capacity audiences not just in the UK but in Australia and the Middle East and their unique approach to comedy grows in stature with each new venture.
The over-riding factor during all their years together has been their unique friendship. They don’t try to kid anyone that they never argue. But their friendship – both on and off stage – is there for all to see.
“We have no pretensions,” says Tommy. “We’re a couple of ordinary fellas enjoying what we do best of all – entertaining folk and making them laugh. I suppose it took along time initially for us to make a major breakthrough. But we’re now glad that we have so much experience behind us. Our TV shows have made a enormous difference. Suddenly we are known by millions, and at times still find it hard to come to terms with being recognised in the street. Were not knocking it – we love it. The important thing to us is that we haven’t changed in our attitudes. We’re still Tommy and Bobby to everyone and still get a kick every time someone shouts `Rock on, Tommy” in the street.”
Both are happily married and still live close to each other in their native Lancashire. Tommy is married to Margaret and they have two daughters, Janette and Julie, and three grandchildren. Bobby’s wife’s is Yvonne and they have a daughter, Joanna, who is 16. Bobby still retains close links with his two sons Darren and Robert from his first marriage.
In their increasingly rare off-stage moments both Tommy and Bobby like to keep fit, and while Bobby prefers either to sit in solitude on a riverbank fishing or in his club called `Braces’ in Rochdale, Tommy divides his time between golf and his passion for football – he is now a working director of Rochdale FC.
And the future? In the words of both a United States President and a classic rock song – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.
Making his first appearance at the Alhambra, Craig is delighted to be playing his favourite pantomime part – Robin Hood.
Craig first hit the top as a sixteen-year-old back in 1959 with hits like ‘Teenager In Love” and the million-seller “Only Sixteen” During the sixties, many more classic hit records followed, including “Pretty Blue Eyes” “A Hundred Pounds Of Clay” and “When My Little Girl Is Smiling”
Following his initial success, Craig decided to develop his all-round ability, and over the years he has mastered all aspects of showbusiness – from cruising the world on luxury liners to hosting his own radio show.
But pantomime remains his number one choice ‘There’s nothing quite like it” he says. “What could be better than a show with the country’s top comedians – plus music, spectacle, excitement and total audience involvement? Pantomime really does have a special magic and it’s wonderful to be part of it’.’
Pembrokeshire-born and from a long line of Welsh Presbyterian preachers Wyn has become a world-travelled comedian, broadcaster, actor, wit, television chat-show host and one of Britain’s most popular pantomime performers.
Recently the Radio Times referred to him as Chameleon Calvin’ because of his unique ability to adapt to almost any branch of entertainment. His radio and television output has been prodigious – particularly for the BBC in Wales. Programmes have ranged from variety and musicals to third programme Chaucer. In the theatre he has been hailed as a ‘record-breaker’ in summer shows and pantomimes – but he has also appeared in the circus ring as a clown and the opera house as possessor of a fine baritone voice.
Immediately before coming to Bradford to rejoin Cannon & Ball (following their enormous success in Babes In The Wood at Bristol last season) Wyn was entertaining British Forces in Germany.
His current radio programme Sounds Unforgettable has been running for five years and features light classical and choral music – some may think a far cry from playing the hilarious role of ‘Blodwen The Nurse’ in our pantomime.
Wyn Calvin’s work for charity has become legendary. For four years he has been chairman of The Variety Club of Great Britain (Wales Committee), is a Councillor of The Grand Order of Water Rats and an Executive Committee Member of The Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund and of The Stars Organisation for Spastics.
He is also one of the most ‘in demand’ after-dinner speakers – and has been invited to speak at events in the House of Lords on eight occasions.
Do you think that he loob like the ‘mother’ of Les Dawson, Ted Rogers, Harry Worth, Cilla Black, Jimmy Cricket, Roy Hudd and Paul Squire? ‘Cos he has ‘mothered’ all of them in recent pantomimes!
One of Yorkshireman Graham Hamilton’s claims to fame is that he once acted in plays produced by Russell Harty! Graham was taught by the television chat show host when he was at school at Giggleswick in North Yorkshire.
Since those days, Graham has appeared on television many times himself and has played in many a West End hit. Born in Leeds, he began his career with the Harrogate Repertory Company, and went on to appear in The Mousetrap, Oh! Calcutta!, Jeeves and Dads Army in the West End. He played Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, in the successful revival of Lionel Bart’s hit musical Oliver! at the Albery Theatre.
In 1975 he performed with the Dads Army team when they were chosen to appear in The Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium.
His TV credits include comedy series such asRosie, Last Of The Summer Wine, 1 Didn’t Know You Cared and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, the BBC TV film of AH Creatures Great And Small, and recently ThePuppetMan for Channel 4. Graham has also been heard on radio in the series I Like Spike, based on the writings of Spike Milligan.
Often cast as the ‘baddie in pantomime, his successes include appearances at Cardiff New, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Oxford Apollo, Birmingham Hippodrome and Bristol Hippodrome.
Sharon, who was bom in Hull, began her stage training there, and then went on to the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts tor a further three years.
Her first professional appearance was in the Aladdin pantomime at Hull New Theatre in 1981/82.
Sharon has made several TV appearances, and is a familiar face from shows such as Souper Troupers, And There’s More, Alas Smith And lories, 3-2-1 and The Little And Large Show.
She is no stranger to pantomime, having performed in Dick Whittington at The Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; Cinderella at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen; and with Cannon and Ball last year in Babes In The Wood at The Bristol Hippodrome
The Halfwits are recognised as one of the fastest, funniest comedy acrobatic acts in the world of entertainment. They have just returned from a six week engagement in The London Palladium Show at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada. Last Spring, the group toured Spain and France, taking in Monte Carlo where they performed at the famous Sporting Club before His Serene Highness Prince Rainier, who is a great fan!
The members of the act come from varied walks of life: Bernard Randolph (the fat policeman) trains and is a coach at the YMCA Gymnastics Club in St. Helens. Before joining the Halfwits he performed as a stuntman. Robert Edumunds was a motor cycle mechanic – ‘Mad Rob’ will try anything, so look out for the flying somersaults. Mann Magne, the French member of the act, was trained at the Ecole Nationale du Cirque in Pans, where Johnny Hutch, the group’s manager, saw him and persuaded him to come to London and finish his training to join the act. Roger Robinson, an acrobat of high standing, trained in his native Yorkshire – his speciality is the trampoline Andy Rothwell, an accomplished and highly trained dancer, was persuaded by Johnny Hutch to try comedy acrobatics-his ‘Granny’ speaks for itself.
The characters and comedy routines are devised and presented by Johnny Hutch, with music by Jac Jay of Paris, and Pat Dodd of the London Palladium.
Robin Bowerman was trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has worked in many theatres throughout the country, including Birmingham, Bristol Old Vic, Greenwich, Leeds and Nottingham.
He spent three and a half years in Alan Ayckbourn’s Company in Scarborough, appearing in numerous premieres of his plays, including Season’s Greetings, Taking Steps and Way Upstream (with which he toured to America). He has just finished playing the part of Lenny in Alan Bleasdale’s Having A Ball at Windsor Theatre Royal.
Robin lives in Leeds with his wife Elaine and two children.
Phillip Edwards trained at The Laine Theatre Arts and started his career in The Bells of Hell at the Wigan Little Theatre He then played a principal role at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon in The Western Flyer.
Last year he appeared in Cinderella at Bournemouth, which starred Rolf Harris.
More recently he has been involved with various Trade Shows for Dougie Squires, Carole Todd and George May. He has just finished a summer season in Bournemouth with The Grumbleweeds.
(The World’s Weeniest Wonderhorse)
Wispa was born in September 1986, He weighed 16 lbs and was only 13″ high. A Bradford local, he lives, with other miniature horse friends at Rawdon. Wispa appears by courtesy of The PAT-A-PET Miniature Horse Stud, Rawdon, Nr. Leeds (Tel. 507304).
Dates and prices
Stalls: �6.00 and �6.50
Circle: �6.00 and �6.50
Upper circle: �5.00 and �4.00
Wednesday matinees all seats �4
Children/OAPs �1.50 off all seats 5th Jan to 13th Feb Mon-Fri evenings.
Opens Dec 18th 7:15
Daily at 7:15pm except 24th and 25th December
Matinees 2pm Wednesday and Saturday