Mr. Parnell's FT. stable of comics
THEATRE By W. J. IGOE
CrUT OF THIS WORLD (PALLADIUM) THOSE of us who admire the music hall in its traditional form
should beam benevolently upon Mr. Val Parnell these days.
We have glowered upon this brilliant showman in recent years. Admitting that his presentations were generous and staged with the highest degree of skill, we have insisted that the policy of importing American talent was just another way of applying euthenasia to the patient, our beloved " variety."
Our diagnosis of the situation was true. But now that Mr. Parnell has come to our way of thinking we must cheer. Past weeks at the Palladium have brought back the dear days 'of red-nosed English
buffoonery. We have gone home chuckling. The smooth-talking boys. the hysteria-mongers, those dreadful gremlins the crooners, the beauties insufficiently adorned by sarongs and in song, almost blessedly silent. All
H from ollywood have disappeared, one hopes for good.
The one American comedian I should welcome back is Mr. Will Mahoney, and Will learned his craft at New York's " Palladium." the Palace in Times Square, not the Hollywood Bowl or whatever crematorium breeds caterwaulers like-but let us not mention names. Mr. Parnell has a promising stable of English comics. Mr. Ted Ray, Mr. Reg. Dixon and Mr. Nat Jackley, in that order are the favourites among the maturer drolls. Each must be kept upon a rein, yet each is a comedian we understand. He talks our language. But the most heartwarming are the colts, Mr. Max Bygraves and Mr. Frankie Howerd, star of the current show. Here are potential music hall "Derby winners." Mr. Bygraves is a whimsical personality. Off-stage he is almost terrifyingly quiet. One is not surprised to learn that once he sang at Westminster Cathedral as a choir boy. He looks as if he spent a month of Sundays sagely listening to Cardinals and could pass as a junior
member of an old-established law firm, The horn-rimmed spectacles are the correct size. 1-k is " our Mr. Bygraves," the unobtrusive suiting making everyone in sight look like a slightly off-colour harlequin. So modest is the comedian that he is practically the invisible man.
But on-stage he is a bolt of dynamic fun, his chuckles bubble like boiling gravy. A keenly clever satirist, he has a pleasant singing voice and, as a mime, clowns with creative brilliance. His gallery of dart players at the local, embracing all types, is evidence of a sense of comedy rooted in brains his own brains.
Given richer scripting, Mr. Bygraves may become one of the
greatest names in music hall. He has all the qualities of our national comedy genius and a fine intelligence. Frankie, as ever was, was born great, a rough diamond, but a diamond. He is in the grand tradition. With ease and just a hint of innate gaucherie, he strolls away with the honours in a company rich in talent. Looking like a cross between Denis Price and Peter Ustinov, he directs his timing with darting hands, gestures that are as telling as the notes of a piano. If ever that indiarubber face is photographed in moving pictures, Frankie, I suspect, will be surprised, and will enjoy it as much as his admirers.
The voice embraces rich Cockney;
the range includes R.A.F.. Oxford and Cricklewood. His forte is to satirise the new breed of humbugs fostered by popular education. He is the candidate pompously intoning. The audience laughs; he reverts to barrow-boy : "Give the boy a chance." he screams, pulls himself up and translates into his own con ception of polite English. "Tater ye not," he begs; "Take not the Mickey." Tears stream down the large. indignant, sad clown's face. Tears of another kind nearly flood the theatre. Frankie. the Boy, has had his chance in the West End and has taken it magnificently. He is a member of an excellent company which includes Mr. Nat Jackley, Miss Binnie Hale and a very-muchto-be-commended team of singers, the Ben Yest Royal Guards.
DEAR MISS PHOEBE (Pmamorx)
nUALITY Street as a play had Barrie's charm and nothing of that sinister gleam of cultivated infantilism that makes Mary Rose an ordeal for some of us; it was created with all his great technical skill. This musical version suggests to the reviewer that it was made for lilting lyrics, and in the dance " dear Miss Phoebe " finds her truest expression. But then Miss Phoebe is Carol Raye, and Miss Raye is a singing and dancing sprite, and Mr. Peter Graves going to the wars, as Valentine Brown, in scarlet, is that unbelievable thing in a British " musical," a " hero " who looks heroic and sings with tone and panache. Miss Olga Lindo, as one would expect, is a perfect Miss Susan; Miss Gretchen Franklin and Mr. Bernard Clifton, as Patty the serving maid and the Recruiting Sergeant. are grotesquely delicately funny. The latter gives grand bravura to the rousing drinking song, Cowslip Wine, and the throbbing March of the Redcoats.
This is flawless entertainment, recommended to all members of the family.