For many years Dominic Combe has been quietly promoting an interest in the early British musical theatre, preserving cylinders and early shellac discs on CD. Little material was recorded prior to the 1910s, however, when things began to change and acoustic records came out in quantity.
Among these were The Happy Day which opened at London’s now lost Daly’s Theatre in 1916, Kissing Time which opened at the similarly lost Winter Garden in 1918, and Who’s Hooper which opened at the still operational Adelphi in 1919.
Dominic has supplemented the music with beautifully illustrated A5- sized booklets based on contemporary issues of Play Pictorial magazine, theatre programmes and other sources. Three CDs feature music from the famous but also lost Gaiety Theatre, such as Theodore & Co. ( 1916), Going Up ( 1918) and The Blue Kitten ( 1925). Among First World War commemorations were several popular revues, many of which were staged at venues such as the Holborn Empire, Palace and Hippodrome, all featuring magnificently bright costumes. Joy- land opened at the Hippodrome with a scene showing a large liner at the Liverpool landing stage which Play Pictorial described as “... a huge piece of stage property built in three weeks
under a railway arch at Peckham in South London because no ordinary workshop was big enough”. Ragtime was all the rage and related numbers appeared in most musicals, such as “Raggy Refrain” in Joy- land performed by Shirley Kellogg.
The first Alhambra revue at Leicester Square was the 1916 production of The Bing Boys Are Here which featured the duet “If You Were the Only Girl in the World”, sung by George Robey and Violet Loraine and “Ragging the Dog” with Phyllis Monkman and Jack Christie. The “Bing Boys” came from a fictional country village called Binghampton who decided to try their luck in the city of London. The next Alhambra revue was The Bing Girls Are There ( 1917) and featured the memorable song “Let the Great Big World Keep Turning”, again by Violet Loraine. The trio of revues was completed with The Bing Boys
on Broadway in 1918, thus the Bing Boys and Girls kept the Alhambra operational until the end of the war. Originally the Royal Panopticon of Science, then a music hall, it was rebuilt as a theatre before being demolished in 1937 and rebuilt again as a cinema.
Some of the numbers from Dominic’s recordings of the Bing Boys/ Girls productions will be played as part of an afternoon activity to recreate some of the revues later this year, under the auspices of the George Edwardes Musical Comedy Society which regularly recreates early musical stage works.
For further information about his work you can contact Dominic at d. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The huge ship backdrop for “Joy- land” at the London Hippodrome in 1915.
As he prepares to leave the fictional village of Binghampton for London, George Robey duets with Violet Loraine in the hit song “If You Were the Only Girl in the World”.
“Ragging the Dog” sung by Jack Christie and Phyllis Monkman was one of many popular First World War ragtime songs and dances.