At the London Palladium
|A4-sized brochure||A5-sized programme|
|Airy the Fairy||Barbara Windsor|
|Sheriff of Nottingham||Derek Griffiths|
|Maid Marion||Cheryl Baker|
|Nurse Wanda||John Inman|
|Robin Hood||Marti Webb|
|Will Scarlett||Peter Howitt|
|Friar Tuck||Nicholas Smith|
|The Bad Robber||Tommy Cannon|
|The Good Robber||Bobby Ball|
|Merry Men and Speciality Act||The Sanctus Troupe|
|Street Entertainers||Sue and Peter Barbour|
|Special Guest Star||Rod Hull and Emu|
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. Following more record breaking seasons in Bournemouth (1986), Bradford in Panto (1986/7), and a triumphant return to Blackpool for the 1987 summer.
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 which 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.
Rod Hull and Emu
Rod Hull and Emu are known to millions as one of this country’s finest comedy acts and television appearances over the years have attracted a great following, particularly since the now legendary appearance on the Michael Parkinson show.
Their TV series of Emu’s World for Central TV (now in its sixth year) has especially proved a great success, and it was in 1984 that the series began transmitting live, providing Rod and Emu with one of their most excifing projects to date.
The story of Emus ‘birth’ interests many people. He was ‘born’ out in Australia on a morning TV show which Rod was hosting some 17 years ago. The success that followed made Rod decide to return to the UK and bring Emu with him.
Upon his return, one of Rod’s first TV appearances was on the Royal Variety Performance of 1972 which resulted in many TV guest appearances. Success with TV audiences in fact has not only been in this country but also overseas, including Holland. Germany. France and particularly in the United States where Rod and Emu are regular guests on the Johnny Carson show.
A few Royal Variety Performances later, Rod came up with the idea of The Junior Royal Variety Show, the proceeds being donated to his favourite charity, the NSPCC.
Rod and Emu enjoyed a most successful 1985 Christmas season in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Churchil Theatre, Bromley, for which Rod completely re-wrote the traditional story, encompassing all the favourite characters in the Emus World TV series.
1986 was one of his busiest years with another TV series for Central TV followed by a 5 month engagement for Butlins Holiday Camps and also a UK theatre tour spanning 2 months.
The 1986/87 panto season saw Rod and Emu in Robinson Crusoe at Nottingham and during 1987 they recorded yet another TV series and played some very successful dates around the country during the summer.
When not appearing with Emu anywhere there is nothing Rod likes better than to spend time at home with his wife Cheryle, an accomplished artist and illustrator of Rod’s books, and his children Dannielle (19), Catrina (17), Toby (9), Amelia (7) and Oliver (6).
Unbeknown to some, Rod is also a keen writer and poet. ‘The Reluctant Poet’ is a book of poetry he has had published.
Marti Webb is now established as one of Britain’s most popular musical stars. She has been appearing in musicals most of her professional life. Some of her West End appearances include Half A Sixpence, Stop the World I Want to Get Off, Oliver, Godspell, Evita and Cats. Her major breakthrough came when she performed Tell Me on a Sunday by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, first a number one album, then an award-winning television spectacular and finally as part of the theatrical creation, Song and Dance.
Her recording of Ben, the royalties of which were donoted to the Ben Hardwick Fund, was a huge hit for her. Since then she has made many chart appearances – one of the most frequently requested is Always There, the theme from the BBC television series Howard’s Way. Her recent albums were the highly successful Always There, which features TV themes and Gershwin, a tribute to the legendary composer.
Marti makes many cabaret appearances around the world. Next year she will be starring in Song and Dance, which embarks on a world tour including Japan, Hong Kong, Europe and North America.
John Inman was thirteen when he started his theatrical career and appeared at the South Pier in Blackpool, his home town. Since then he has never really looked back, filling his heavy work schedule with appearances on television, in cabaret and in numerous stage productions all over Britain and abroad, and starring on London’s West End stage. Indeed, his West End debut came in the musical Ann Veronica at the Cambridge Theatre, and he has also made his mark in London starring in Salad Days, Lets Get Laid and Charley’s Aunt.
However, Johns characterisation of Mr Humphries in the long-running BBC TV series Are You Being Served? brough him to the attention of the viewing public by the million. This series has been seen all over the world, elevating John to international stardom, particularly in New Zealand and Australia where he has starred in several series of the Australian version. John regularly tours down under, appearing in cabaret, revue and theatre seasons at all the major venues.
Are You Being Served? has enjoyed outstanding success since it was first screened back in 1973 – the final scheduled series was seen in 1985. In 1976 a successful stage version of the show played summer season in Blackpool, followed a year later by a full-length film for EMI. The same year, John was chosen as the subject for This Is Your Life and was later honoured by the Variety Club of Great 8rilain as their BBC Television Personality of the Year. Shortly afterwards, he was named the Funniest Man On Television by readers of TV Times.
Besides his commitment to Are You Being Served? John Inman has appeared extensively on television, guest-starring on all the major variety shows. In 1981, he starred in the successful ITV series, Take A Letter Mr Jones.
Each winter for many years, John has appeared in pantomime. Partnered by fellow actor Barry Howard from Hi-De-Hi fame, he played one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at major venues all over Britain for many years. Then in 1976 he played Mother Goose at the Wimbledon Theatre for the season which brok the theatre’s box office record. For the next eight years, he starred in Mother Goose throughout the country – Bristol (1977), Nottingham (1978), Oxford (1979), Stockport (1980), Liverpool (1982), Birmingham (1983), Bromley (1984) and in London in 1981, at the Victoria Palace. The sequence was broken in 1985 and 1986 when John starred in Aladdin, first in Stockport, followed by Wolverhampton.
During the early part of 1987, John Inman left Britain to embark on a lengthy tour of the Middle and Far East in the play My Fat Friend, and in the summer he undertook a comprehensive tour of New Zealand, starring in Pyjama Tops.
Derek Griffiths has a wide experience in the theatre ranging from straight plays to late night revues and musicals including Sing a Rude Song (Garrick 1970), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Phoenix 1972), and Kobo in The Black Mikado (Cambridge Theatre 1975); title role in Scapine (Young Vic 1977), the Bricusse/Newley travelling Music Show (1978) and The Wiz in 1980.
A versatile and accomplished musician, he has composed and sung his songs on childrens television programmes including Playschool, Playaway, Insight, and Heads and Tails.
He is an accomplished and self-trained mime artiste – an asset which he uses in all his performances.
His adult TV programmes include Don’t Drink the Water, Back Together Again with Mary Feldman, Battle of the Sexes, Song by Song by Gershwin, London Weekends Hi Summer, The Morecambe and Wise Show, ATV’s Starburst, his own TV special for BBC entitled It’s Today, a special with Harry Secombe, Film Fun for Granada, and That’s the Limit for BBC.
His films include Up Pompeii. Up The Chastity Belt, The Garnett Saga and The End of Civilisation As We Know It.
He wrote, composed and directed his own version of Dick Whittington, in which he played King Rat. The show played to capacity at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester over Christmas 1976/7 and he has since played that other villain Abanazar in Aladdin at Guildford, Poole and Southsea. Pantomime 1982/3 was spent in Canada taking his unusual characterisation of Abanazar further afield with great success and acclaim. Panto 1983/4 was at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London recreating the role yet again and in 1984 he appeared in the Royal Variety Performance at Drury Lane. Summer 1984 was spent in Toronto playing the lead in Run for Your Wife by Ray Cooney at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Other farces include Not Now Darling at Guildford and Boucicaults Nothing to Declare at the Round House, London. He also tours his one-man show around Great Britain, playing to packed audiences of enthusiastic school children and adults.
His hobbies include playing guitar, banjo, clarinet and saxophone, photography and piloting light aircraft.
Barbara was born in Shoreditch in the East End of London, and was evacuated to the country during the war. It was here that she was introduced to ballet, tap and singing lessons. After the war she won a scholarship to a convent, but when she was not allowed to appear in pantomime, Barbara left and went to the Aida Foster stage school. Her first engagement was at the age of thirteen in the Golders Green pantomime, and her first West End show was at 14 in Love From Judy, which ran for two years. She followed this with a television series Dreamer’s Highway with Johnny Brandon, followed by a Watergate Review: Jack Jackson TV show and Six Five Special, and it was at this time she met Danny La Rue working in Winston’s Night Club. The turning point in Barbara’s career came in 1959, when she auditioned for Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be, which opened at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and transferred to the Garrick Theatre where it ran for two and a half years. During this period Barbara starred in the comedy hit series The Rag Trade for the BBC, and completed her first major film role in Sparrers Can’t Sing, which was a big hit both here and in the USA, where she went on personal appearances in connection with it. It caused a sensation in the States because it was the first British film to have sub-titles due to the Cockney dialogue.
Barbara came back to England to complete Carry On Spying, her first ‘Carry On’ film. She then went back to star on Broadway on Oh What A Lovely War, and on returning she starred with Danny La Rue in Come Spy With Me at the Whitehall Theatre.
In 1970 Barbara appeared as Marie Lloyd in Sing a Rude Sing, and in 1972 she was in The Threepenny Opera at the Prince of Wales Theatre. In the same year she toured Britain in The Owl and the Pussycat with Simon Oates; then came Carry On London at the Victoria Palace, with Sid James and the gang, which ran for eighteen months. She then toured with her one woman show in New Zealand, South Africa and Great Britain and in complete contrast in 1976 she joined the Chichester Festival Company to play Maria in Twelfth Night. During the summer of 1985 Barbara toured with the play Nearest and Dearest.
Barbara has appeared inmany traditional pantomimes. She has many films to her credit, including numerous ‘Carry On’ films, and a great number of TV appearances.
With her husband Stephen, Barbara owns the Plough Inn and Windsor Restaurant near Amersham.
Dec 16th – 18th 7:30
Dec 19th 2:30 and 7:30
Opens Dec 21st 7:00
Dec 22nd, 23rd, 24th at 7:30
Dec 26th – Feb 27th except Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30
Stalls �12.50 �10.50 �8.50
Royal Circle �12.50 �10.50
Upper Circle �6.50 �5.50
All performances to Jan 16th, plus Fri eve, Sat Matinee, Sat eve to Feb 27th
Stalls �14.50 �12.50 �10.50
Royal Circle �14.50 �12.50
Upper Circle �7.50 �6.50
Jan 18th – Feb 26th
Stalls �12.50 �10.50 �8.50
Royal Circle �12.50 �10.50
Upper Circle �6.50 �5.50