5 Star Reviews for “Totally Fabulous” Ghost Lights: Ivor Novello & His Leading Ladies

GHOST LIGHTS received an enthusiastic reception from a brilliant full house audience on Friday 11th December at Marylebone’s Hinde Street Church. West End singers Fenton Gray (Ivor Novello) and Rosemary Ashe (Dorothy Dickson) , Rebecca Louise Dale (Mary Ellis) and Jutstina Kehinde (Elisabeth Welch) gave a brilliant performance and evoked the magic of these stars of the past.
Thank you to Nigel Foster and The London Song Festival for asking me to write this for the festival this year. It has been a joy to work with you and all the artistes involved. Thanks also to the Coward Estate and the Novello Estate for their support.
         
GHOST LIGHTS
5Star Review by Stephen Vowles – Boyz Magazine
“Totally fabulous!! I’ve always been intrigued by the life, loves and work of both Noel Coward & Ivor Novello and Ghost Lights written and Directed by David Slattery-Christy opens up that world beautifully…The beauty of the English language is clearly on display as we are taken back in time to a by gone era of cocktails, high society and pure glamour. The way the songs are linked together showcases them with great style… it cannot be faulted with musical Director and pianist Nigel Foster totally capturing the mood and flavour of the era. The singers, especially Rosemary Ashe, are extremely polished and show a pure class and refinement.”
GHOST LIGHTS
5 Star Review by Ned Hopkins – Sardines Magazine
“The London Song Festival is to be congratulated on presenting David Slattery-Christy’s charming musical entertainment Ghost Lights in the elegant Hinde Street Church last Friday, bringing the melody and magic of a bygone era back to today’s pandemic-stricken London.
The plot for the show is a reunion between Ivor Novello (Fenton Gray) and three of his leading ladies who, strangely, were all American but became much loved over here: Mary Ellis (Rebecca Louise Dale), Dorothy Dickson (Rosemary Ashe) and Elizabeth Welch (Justina Kehinde). The setting is the empty stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane at a time when its current Novello show The Dancing Years was interrupted by World War 2 in 1939 – later to be damaged by bombs. Indeed, the evening poignantly resonates for our present time when most theatres are dark, albeit we now battle a virus and not Hitler, although during the war theatres soon reopened and battled on.
Time and place are nicely evoked in the elegant Hinde Street Church by screens revealing the interior of the iconic theatre and, at the start, the BBC radio announcement that theatres were closed due to the outbreak of the war.
If current rules oblige performers to distribute themselves around the stage safely-distanced from each other, here they do so with the polished high style the period requires, enlivened by some pleasing movement.
Directed by Slattery-Christy himself, the piece neatly juxtaposes the contrasting melodic styles of Ivor Novello and Noel Coward: both contemporaries, friends and gay at a time when it was very much a crime to be ‘other’ – but were adored by the public – whose shows and personalities dominated the London stage during the first half of the last century.
The four performers, all vocally on tip-top form, throw themselves into an interesting selection of numbers by the two composers. Alternating with standard ballads such as Waltz of My Heart and Glamorous Night and lesser-known but delightful songs including Novello’s catchy Why Isn’t It You? and Coward’s touching Never Again. Particularly effective is one written by Novello for a Charlot’s revue, Night May Have its Sadness, which modulates into an up-tempo Finale with top hats. Bliss!”
GHOST LIGHTS
Review by John Orchard
“I loved this show…congratulations to your cast on a wonderful entertainment…The story with its parallels between theatres and shows having to close during the war and at this time couldn’t have been more apposite, providing an opportunity for some great lines to punctuate the terrific songs of Novello & Coward. Bravo!”

 

Ghost Lights : Ivor Novello & His Leading Ladies

Brilliant to be presenting this as the finale of The London Song Festival on 11th December. Thank you for allowing me the honour to create this specially commissioned work. The performance will then be broadcast on Saturday 12th September at 7pm via the LSF YouTube Chanel.

Tickets available for the live performance on The London Song Festival website:

www.londonsongfestival.org

Written & Directed by David Slattery-Christy

Musical Director : Nigel Foster

Choreography : Aimee Leigh

Music by Ivor Novello and Noel Coward

Rosemary Ashe as Dorothy Dickson

Rebecca Louise Dale as Mary Ellis

Fenton Gray as Ivor Novello

Justina Kehinde as Elisabeth Welch

BBC Announcer: Steve Royle

Sound Effects: David Brown

By Arrangment With The Ivor Novello Estate & The Coward Estate

West End for Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno

Delighted to announce that Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno will have a West End showcase of Monday 27th April at 7.30pm at the beautiful Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus.

Starring Steve Royle as Dan Leno and guest star Roy Hudd OBE as Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

With Neil Rowland as Henry Galvin, Nicole Violet as Lydia Leno, Andy Cooke as Doctor Savage & Lou Steggalls as Nurse Kelly.

Written and Directed by David Slattery-Christy. Music-Hall Direction by Debble Flitcroft. Original Choreopgraphy by Debra Smyth. Sound Design by David Brown. Set by Graham Greenwood. Costumes by Gillian Wood and UK Productions Costume Hire. Design & Artwork by Ed Christiano of Deeper Blue Ltd.

  

Dan Leno play at Lytham Hall with Peter Kay in audience!

What an exciting end to this leg of our tour of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! starring Steve Royle.It was brilliant to have comedian Peter Kay in the audience and for him to take the time to meet the cast backstage afterwards.

 

It has been brilliant and the audiences we have had across the country have been fantastic – as have the reviews. We were thrilled to have the legend that is Roy Hudd OBE in the audience at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne.

 

“A play that captures the heart and soul and genius of our greatest Victorian comedian, Dan Leno ‘The Funniest Man on Earth’. His triumphs, his sorrows, his unfulfilled dreams and his fulfilled disasters. It is beautifully cast and played, very moving and, best of all, it is very funny. Steve Royle as Leno is a revelation – a master comic playing a master comic.” Roy Hudd OBE

Our final review for Lytham Hall was very much appreciated as well:

Dan Leno, A Royal Jester Lytham Hall

“A standing ovation on a glorious summer evening at Lytham Hall was a tribute to the power of the writing by David Slattery-Christy and a simply outstanding performance by Steve Royle. Set in Camberwell asylum at the end of Leno’s life the play explores the mental confusion of the Victorian Music Hall star Dan Leno, now unable to distinguish his stage persona from his real self. Steve Royle displays complete mastery of every type of physical and verbal comedy, brilliantly portraying Leno as extrovert, vulnerable, irascible and child-like all at the same time.
The music hall turns are the highlights, particularly the Beefeater sketch where Royle exploited the open-air setting to dragoon two of the audience on a walk through the picnickers.
Andy Cooke, Nicole Violet and Lou Steggals as his doctor, wife and nurse help to explore and explain Leno’s mental muddle, whilst Neil Rowland as his somewhat spiky brother is excellent. The pantomime scene at the end is a pleasing enhancement since the play’s premiere at last year’s Lytham Festival and the presence of Peter Kay, incognito amongst the audience, suggested that this funny yet poignant show is something very special. Next stop, London’s West End next year.”

Toby Stirling

Blackpool Gazette / Lancashire Evening Post / Lytham St Annes Express

Edwardian actress Lily Elsie has a Blue Plaque!

     

Joseph Coyne & Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow 1907

Thank you to all those who attended the unveiling of the Blue Plaque for Edwardian actress Lily Elsie (1886-1962) on Friday 16th August at her former London home at Stanhope Place, Hyde Park. It really was a lovely, special morning in honour of one of London theatre’s greatest stars of the early 20th Century. Special thanks to West End actress and soprano Rosie Ashe for officiating and Roy Hudd OBE and his lovely wife Debbie for their support. Thanks also to Geoff Bowden and his partner David, Victoria Willis and her daughter Flora, Robert Smith my agent, Raymond Langford Jones, Lynn Nortcliff, Mark Abrahams, Peter for taking the official pictures and Dimitri Paleocrassas the current owner of the building. We did Lily Elsie (1886-1962) proud indeed! Graham & I were delighted.

       

David Slattery-Christy, Rosemary Ashe and Roy Hudd OBE

Thank you for a lovely write up, Raymond Langford Jones I’ve just spent a fabulous couple of hours at a special event organised by David Slattery-Christy celebrating the life of Edwardian beauty and singer Lily Elsie (1886-1962) – the unveiling of a blue plaque at her old London home in Stanhope Place, near Marble Arch.

Rosemary Ashe, currently appearing in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 at the Ambassadors, gave a charming speech conveying the essence of the great star of the Edwardian stage and original Merry Widow – who was also a good friend of Ivor Novello. Both personalities, famous during their own champagne-supper times, may now be only glamorous photo images in coffee table books for today’s theatre-goers, so we have David to thank for helping keep their spirits alive in his biographies – and by instigating memorials such as this.

The event was also opportunity to chat to the warm, ever-youthful Roy Hudd, presently touring in Dominic Dromgoole’s production of A Woman of No Importance where he’s covering the entr’actes with period numbers in his own inimitable manner. He’s a Croydon boy, so we had lots in common there. I mentioned how I’d always loved the News Huddlines and how June Whitfield was the best ‘Maggie Thatcher’. This led on to him telling me how she had landed the job, by nailing the PM in an informal impersonation and obliterating initial concerns as to her suitability for the show.

We went on to decry the death of intimate revue in the ’60s, and how its requirement for versatility had once provided a wonderful training ground for emerging actors of an earlier generation, including Kenneth Williams and Maggie Smith.

Rosie Ashe is another, albeit somewhat younger, performer who has kept a high West End profile down the decades thanks to her adaptability and upbeat personality. Thirty years ago I remember seeing her as Hortense in The Boy Friend at The Albery in St Martin’s Lane and, during the run, also surprised to find her on a night away from Nice, as the ‘breeches’ role in Richard Strauss’s Arabella at the Coliseum across the road. She was marvellous in both.

Rosie was also one of the best things in The Witches of Eastwick (for which she gained an Olivier Award nomination as Best Supporting Performance in a Musical) and is now sharing a dressing room with Ian Talbot in the cramped backstage conditions of the frantic Mole set-up. She drew a hilarious picture of how, each night after the show, they relax in their underwear swiging back cans of G&T!

What both actors agreed on, was how longevity in the theatre can, in part, be due to getting on with people and being willing to turn your hand to anything that’s offered. Professionalism in other words. And, of course, there’s that indefinable ‘star quality’ which they both possess in abundance.

Thank you, David, for a fascinating time!

 

Raymond Langford-Jones, Victoria Willis, Flora Willis, Roy Hudd OBE, David SLattery-Christy, Lynn Nortcliff, Dimitri Paleocrassas, Mark Abrahams, Robert Smith, Debbie Hudd.

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Eastbourne Success

Thank you Eastbourne and The Royal Hippodrome Theatre!

What a fabulous audience we had at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne – a standing ovation for Steve Royle and the cast. Were also delighted to discover that the legend Roy Hudd was in the audience along with his lovely wife, Debbie. They met all the cast afterwards and were full of praise for the play which was a real accolade indeed. It was the icing and the cherry on the cake!

Thanks also to everyone at the British Music Hall Society for their help and for allowing us to follow your Day by the Sea event to make it a Weekend by the Sea of music hall! Thanks also to Alex and all the brilliant back stage staff and front of house gang at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre for making us so welcome and supporting us so wonderfully.

Lou Steggals, Steve Royle, Nicole Violet,

Andy Cooke & Neil Rowland

Roy Hudd & Steve Royle

Neil Rowland, Roy Hudd, Debbie Hudd & Steve Royle

      

Royal Hippodrome ready for Dan Leno – Andy Cooke & Roy Hudd

      

Roy Hudd with Playwright David Slattery-Christy & Steve Royle

 

Thank You Stratford Upon Avon & Playhouse Theatre!

What a brilliant time we had at the the Stratford Playhouse performing Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! The audiences were amazing as was the venue and all the staff including Rebecca, Phil and Noel. Thank you for making us so very welcome.

What a great evening! Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry..so did both!
A really fantastic, important and poignant story with amazing performances!

 

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Reviews are in…

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle supported by a fabulous cast. Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –

BBC Radio Lancashire Dan Leno Interview

Delighted to have joined Sally Naden on her BBC Radio Lancashire on Tuesday 17th April. Steve Royle and I talked about Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! and the upcoming world premiere at this year’s Lytham festival. Performance dates are 18 to 22 July. Wed to Sat evenings at 7.30 and Fri and Sun matinees at 2pm. Tickets now available – just follow the link at below –

Tickets now available. Click on above image. Add the Promo Code LYTHAMFEST or STEVEROYLE and get a £2 discount on your booking! Limited offer so book now!

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle at Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –
Funnyman Steve Royle from BBC Radio Lancashire and Phoenix Nights will lead the cast in the world premiere of new play Dan Leno: A Royal Jester as part of this year’s Lytham Festival celebrations.
The exciting new play, which charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian, will take place at Lytham’s Wesley Hall Theatre from Wednesday July 18th to Sunday 22nd.
Written & Directed By
David Slattery-Christy
This exciting new play charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian. He then went on to become a huge celebrity in the London theatres and established his name as the pre-eminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some iconic dame roles, and became a favourite of King Edward VII and the Royal family.
Playwright David Slattery-Christy said: “It’s exciting to bring another new play to the Lytham Festival as an official event. This play has been in my head for a long time – but it wasn’t until I saw Steve Royle’s performance in a show last year that I finally discovered an artist who I felt could portray Dan Leno and his comedy. Dan’s story is funny and sad in equal measure – and the play also includes some classic music-hall songs of the period.”
“I am flattered and thrilled to be asked to play this legendary music-hall star,” said Steve Royle, adding, “Dan Leno was as passionate about pantomime as I am and hopefully I will be able to do him justice? I began as an actor with Oldham Theatre Workshop 30 years ago and I look forward to taking on the role with excitement and fear in equal measure.”
The play will run from Wednesday 18th July until Sunday 22nd July at the Wesley Hall Theatre, Methodist Church, Park & Westby St, Lytham FY8 5LU. Evenings Weds to Sat at 7.30pm. Matinees Fri & Sun at 2pm. Tickets from £8. Day Seats £10. Further casting to be announced.
Available for interviews and features. Please call David Slattery-Christy on
Cast
Steve RoyleDan Leno
Andy CookeDoctor Savage / Henry Beerbohm Tree
Jordan KennedyHenry Wild Galvin (Dan’s brother)
Laura NicolLydia Leno (Dan’s wife)
Louise SteggalsNurse Kelly
The play includes original Dan Leno character monologues and
popular music hall songs of the period.
Choreography: Debra Smyth       Musical Director: Darren McNeil
Costumes: Gillian Wood            Sound Design: David Brown
Set Design & Construction: Graham Greenwood & Christyplays
Lighting: Dan Creasey & Congo Design
Christyplays is a cooperative of North West based professionals.
 
Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904 – was born in London into an impoverished music-hall family. His parents worked the northern music-halls of Manchester and Lancashire. His father died when he was four and his mother remarried. Dan spent much of his childhood performing with his family and brother billed as ‘The Great Little Lenos’. It was in Lancashire he was taught to clog dance and became a champion. After an accident on stage when he hurt his back be moved his performance away from tumbling and contortion and developed as a patter singer and comedian – it was this development that led him to create gossipy comic male and female characters that his audiences loved. Returning to London he became a big star of the pre-eminent theatres and went on to also star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some memorable pantomime roles such as Mother Goose. His health deteriortated and he began to become irrational and forgetting his lines. He was thought to be insane, and spent time in the Camberwell Asylum, but it is now widely accepted that he was suffering from a brain tumour that changed his personality and eventually killed him at the young age of 43.