At the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. Friday 21st December 1990 – Saturday 16th February 1991.
|Robin Hood||Jonathan Kiley|
|Sheriff of Nottingham||Maurice Thorogood|
|Friar Tuck||Ian Sandy|
|Maid Marion||Bernadette Nolan|
|Nurse Tickle||Christopher Biggins|
|The Babes||Tom Howse / Jade Holdham /
Kelly Jacobs / Christopher Galton
|Bad Robber||Tommy Cannon|
|Good Robber||Bobby Ball|
|Little John||Tom Perrin|
|Merry Men||The Halfwits|
|King Richard||Tom Hardy|
Cannon and 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 television series and specials every year, but they are – without doubt – the biggest box office attraction in the UK.
To have not only sold out all 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.
In the summer of 85 their ten-week run at the Opera House, Blackpool, smashed all previous records by playing to over 300,000 people and grossing over one million pounds. Results in 1986 were the same when they played a season at the Bournemouth International Centre. Booking for their 1986/87 pantomime flooded in and Babes in the Wood at the Alhambra theatre was yet another success with the record books once again having to be re-written.
Cannon and Ball’s star status is further enhanced by the fact that they are the only act in showbusiness to have won three seperate National Club Awards; they have enjoyed success as recoding artistes with both singles and albums; starred in their own feature film ‘The Boys In Blue’; triumphed in numerous popularity polls and have also been named Showbusiness Personalities of the Year by the Variety Club of Great Britain, the highest accolade that can be bestowed by fellow professionals.
So what is the secret of this unequalled success which has included Royal Shows, a memorable appearance on This Is Your Life and their top-rated Christmas Spectaculars? It is without question a success which has evolved from an initial friendship between two Oldham lads who got together to form a singing act.
Bobby (Robert Harper) and Tommy (Thomas Derbyshire) were former workmates at an Oldham engineering factory in the 1960’s. By day they were welders, but at night they became the Harper Brothers, a singing duo, which achieved a great deal of popularity in the Northern clubs.
It soon became evident that Bobby had a natural flair for comedy and this was complemented by Tommy’s ability to remain straight-faced; acting as the perfect foil. Singing remained part of 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. “Many were the times that we were reprimanded by the foreman! Then out of the blue, Wally Harper, Bobby’s cousin and a professional comic, booked us for a week at a club in Wales. The response was terrific. After that we decided to give up our daytime jobs and concentrate on showbusiness.
Since then their career of over twenty years is showbusiness history – their series and specials are always in the top TV ratings and they play to capacity audiences not just in the UK, but even in Australia and the Middle East.
“We have no pretensions”, says Tommy, “We’re a couple of ordinary blokes doing what we do best – entertaining people and making them laugh. We love it. The important thing is that we haven’t changed in our attitudes. We’re still Bobby and Tommy to everyone and still get a kick every time someone shouts ‘Rock on Tommy’ in the street”.
In their increasingly rare off-stage moments, both Tommy and Bobby like to keep fit, whilst Bobby also enjoys the solitude of the riverbank, angaging in his favourite pastime, fishing. Bobby has also published his series of childrens books. Tommy prefers to divide his time between playing golf, following football and the his race horses.
1987 was just as busy as ever for Cannon and Ball. Following the finish of their pantomime in Bradford at the end of February, Tommy and Bobby took a well earned holiday and then straight into a spring tour from mid-April until the end of June. Their summer season at Blackpool Opera House commenced mid July until the end of October – another marathon record breaking fourteen week season.
The Guinness Book of Records had to be re-written yet again when Cannon and Ball took their pantomime ‘Babes in the Wood’ for the 1987/8 Christmas season to the most famous variety theatre in the world – The London Palladium. During its breathtaking �2 million run another record was created, when during one week ticket sales contributed to the biggest box office gross in the history of the British theatre.
The London Palladium embraces true stars and makes them feel at home, and the London Palladium certainly became a second home to Tommy and Bobby; where, in addition to their pantomime season, from the same stage they recorded their TV Christmas special; appeared with Jimmy Tarbuck as his guest stars in LWT’s Live from the Palladium series, and appeared in the Royal Variety Show before Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip.
Touring, television and summer season in Paignton occupied most of 1988, and Christmas 1988 found Tommy and Bobby on home ground, taking Babes in the Wood to the Palace Theatre in Manchester, where yet again all pantomime box office records were broken.
A completely new venture took off during spring 1989, when Cannon and Ball starred in the comedy play ‘You’ll Do For Me’ which was directed by Brian Rix and toured throughout Britain. Summer ’89 was spent in Scarborough with Sunday concerts being held across the Pennines where they starred at the Opera House in Blackpool.
Following summer season they recorded for Yorkshire Television and during October and November undertook an extensive cabaret tour. Last Christmas they appeared in ‘Babes in the Wood’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome. This year they have recorded more shows for Yorkshire Television, followed by summer season at Great Yarmouth and further recent cabaret appearances.
It is a true testimony to his skills as an actor that Christopher was for some years best known to the publicin general as a big brand of villain. For his is among the most loved personalities in the profession, as series such as On Safari and Surprise Surprise prove.
However, his appearance as Emperer Nero in I Claudius set the pattern for his sinister small-screen persona. No sooner had he established the blood-lusting Roman Fiddler than he was offered the part of the Reverend Ossie Whitworth, the wicked vicar in the hugely popular Poldark series.
His training started at the Salisbury Repertory Theatre and later at the Bristol Old Vic as a prelude to his first West End appearance, creating the character of Head Jumbly in The Owl and The Pussycat Went to Sea.
Television followed and his instantly memorable face began to be recognised for such diverse appearances in Paul Temple, The Likely Lads, The Ronnie Barker Series, Man of Straw, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Showstring, Kidnapped, The Bronte Connection, Infidelities, and he played the part of Lukewarm in Porridge.
During this time he also managed a year with the Royal Shakespeare Company including the London Assurance production with Donald Sinden and Judi Dench. Other theatre work includes national tours of Side By Side By Sondheim, Beyond the Fringe, A Touch of Spring and more recently Cluedo and On Approval.
He is a firm favourite in such programmes as Blankety Blank, Give Us A Clue and Jackanory.
He is also a fine and sensitive director; this began with an ambition staging of Anouilhs The Orchestra in London. For three seasons he has been a guest director at Regents Park, and also played a balletic Puck in A Midsummer Nights Dream. Christopher has directed three musicals for the London festival: Puddling Lane, the first production of The Gospels According To Captain Beaky written by Jeremy Lloyd, and the highly acclaimed Narnia, which won rave reviews in New York.
Meanwhile his films show an equally vivid diversity from Eskime Nell to Applause with Lauren Bacall: from The Rock Horror Show to Derek Jarmans The Tempest in which he played Stephano. This crowded and busy schedule was crowned by a trip to Hollywood to take part in the most expensive film ever made for television, Masada. More recently Christopher has appeared in A School For Scandal at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, played the part of Nahtan Detroit in Guys And Dolls and starred in the television series Dramarama in a show called L for Arnold.
Earlier this year Christopher was chosen once again to appear in the Childrens Royal Variety Performance produced by the BBC and attended by HRH Princess Margaret. Central Televisions Woof is another childrens programme in which he has been featured during the year. In addition he has been presenting his daily game show entitled Wife Of The Week.
During the summer Christopher played and sang the part of Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar at Londons Barbican Theatre.
Maurice enjoyed a career as a television editor prior to a three year training course at RADA, where as an honours graduate he won the Ronson award as well as the Winifred Oughton Character Work prize. Initially he worked as an actor and director in childrens theatre, followed by appearances at the Ludlow Festival, the Palace Theatre Westcliff, the Marlowe Theatre Canterbury, and Leeds Playhouse.
Film and television work includes Julius Caesar playing Strato, The Bitch opposite Joan Collins, The Jigsaw Man with Michael Caine, Chance In A Million, Up The Elephant And Round The Castle; for Thames television Target, Grandad, Triangle, Rent A Ghost; for BBC Television Maggie and Her; for LWT Susan George Naturally, an MME/VCL special and SHH for silent movie productions.
Maurice appeared in the national tour of The Rivals, and My Giddy Aunt, in which he played at the Gaiety Theatre Isle of Man opposite Molly Sugden. He completed a most successful 1988/89 pantomime season at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford appearing with The Krankies in Dick Whittington playing the part of King Rat.
Maurice appeared with John Inman in Pyjama Tops at the Opera House Jersey and the Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne, and was delighted to be invited to work with him again to play the part of Roger in the successful 1989 tour of Bedside Manners. For the 1989/90 Christmas season Maurice played the part of Sherriff in Babes In The Wood with Cannon and Ball at the Hippodrome Theatre Brimingham, followed by Maurice playing the part of Harry Blythe in The Cat And The Canary with Jimmy Cricket at the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke.
He went on to work on a childrens television series called Uncle Jack for BBC Television and then recorded an episode of the new series of Shelley for Thames Television. During the summer Maourice toured in the successful farce Run For Your Wife, playing the part of Sgt Toughton. He is delighted to be working with Cannon and Ball again this Christmas.
Bernadette is the second youngest and lead singer with The Nolans, and has been performing on stage since she was two years old. She was born in Dublin but left there at the age of 1 and has lived in England ever since.
With her sisters, she has enjoyed phenomenal success, both in this country and abroad. It began in the UK with all six girls, appearing on every major television show possible, including The Royal Variety Show, the girls were given four specials of their own; something they had always wanted to do.
The Nolans record successes have included an amazing number of hit singles and albums, culminating in over twenty gold, silver and platinum disks.
Their greatest successes, however, were in Japan, where record sales reached over nine million (exceeding The Beatles). They were also the first ever European act to win the Tokyo Music Festival, where competition included Rany Crawford and Jermaine Jackson.
One of Bernies favourite countries is Australia, where the girls have toured extensively and once again enjoyed record success with hit singles including two No. 1s and albums such as Altogether for which they received a double platinum disc.
Probably the greatest thrill of Bernies career so far was doing a European tour with Frank Sinatra, where she was able to take her dad, an avid Sinatra fan, backstage to meet the man himself.
In May of 1988, Bernie was asked to co-present a new weekly Saturday morning show On The Waterfront which was a great success, and her first solo venture. Although she is still part of the Nolans as a group, Bernie couldn’t resist the opportunity to do her first pantomime at the end of 1988, at the Manchester Palace Theatre, and the following year she appeared for the first time with the Birmingham Hippodrome.
The Nolans have just completed a one-nighter tour followed by a summer season at Great Yarmouth both with Cannon and Ball. Now there is a television advertised album in the pipeline for 1991 for The Nolans and more solo ventures for Bernie on television. Bernie is thrilled to be crowning her busy year with another wonderful pantomime.