1930 July to September


On the stage – for six days – TALBOT O’FARRELL’S ROAD SHOW – Talbot O’Farrell was a 51 year old English music hall singer (a tenor, whose repertoire included both sentimental and comic songs). He was born in the north of England, and worked as a policeman in Hull prior to a career in entertainment and achieved moderate success as Jock McIver (Scottish comedian and singer), before adopting an Irish persona as Talbot O’Farrell around 1912 and was billed as “The greatest Irish entertainer of all time”. In 1922, he performed in Sydney, Australia and appeared at the Royal Variety Performance in 1925. At the time of this show he had the honour of serving as King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats. This, his latest revue, stopped off in Southampton as part of an extensive UK tour and paved the way for a succesful career in films.

Talbot O’Farrell captured by Pathe in 1930

14th July – THE REVUE SHOP

On the stage – for six days – Archie Pitt‘s latest revue, THE REVUE SHOP, came to the Empire and featured established music hall acts The Barry Twins, Clifford Morgan and Stanley Arthur. It couldn‘t measure up to his previous production at the Empire which had starred his wife Gracie Fields.

Archie Pitt singing with his wife

21st July – CLOSED

THEATRE CLOSED – The theatre closed for two weeks for the extension of the electrical circuitry to facilitate electric house lighting and the installation of an electronic sound system. As with other major Moss-Empire houses, facilities were added to allow for the projection of talking pictures.

4th August – THE SQUALL

On the stage – for six days – THE SQUALL – Sybil Thorndike was back at the Empire in 1930 in the British Premiere of a Broadway play “The Squall” by doctor’s wife, Jean Bart, ahead of the London opening at the Globe Theatre. It is set near Granada in Spain and tells the story of a gypsy girl, Nubi, who escapes the clutches of the gypsy chief and is given refuge by senora Mendez (Thorndike) in the family home; Nubi seduces both the husband and the son and in retaliation Mendez contacts the gypsy chief who comes to take her back.

Sybil Thorndike features in this 1929 Pathe short

11th August – LILAC TIME

On the stage – for six days – LILAC TIME – Southampton got its first taste of “Lilac Time”, now on its fourth revival and setting out on tour following a London season at Dalys and the Lyric Theatres. The show was based around the music of Franz Schubert and the Empire was lucky in having the West End stars leading the cast as the tour set out. Frederick Blamey played Schubert, Gertrude Wolffe as Lili and Thorpe Bates was Baron Schober. The musical unfolds in Old Vienna as the young composer, Franz Schubert, writes a beautiful love song dedicated to his beloved Lili. But he is too shy to sing it himself, and asks his best friend, Baron von Schober, to sing it to her. Sadly she falls in love with the Baron instead of poor Franz, who has to find consolation in their happiness – and in his music. Sub-plots tell of Lili’s two sisters, Willi and Tilli and their boyfriends; a temperamental prima-donna and a jealous Count.

It was based on the 1916 Viennese operetta “Das Dreimädlerhaus”. The English version premiered at the Lyric Theatre in December 1922. It was enormously popular, and this was its fourth revival in the West End. Some of the earlier versions used the original German version name “Lili” instead of “Mitzi”

A Lilac Time duet from the 1950s

18th August – SENTENCED

On the stage – for six days – SENTENCED – Franklin Dyall returned to the Empire on August 18th, 1930, again, with his wife Mary Merrall in a new play which he produced “Sentenced”. The drama begins with a new and novel trial piece set in the Old Bailey in 1911. Dyall plays the part of the judge, Justice Hatton and the story unveils, starting the previous year. Mary Merrall plays the role of Leonora, the murder victim. The play is a two-acter and the evening was rounded off with a one act comedy featuring the two stars, “Why Shelmardina Was Late For Dinner” by world famed Michael Arlen.


On the stage – for six days – HERE COMES THE BRIDE – adapted from the play by Edgar MacGregor & Otto Harbach opened at the Empire this farce incorporated a lot of Spanish/ Mexican dancing, acrobatics, an apache dance, a mannequin parade of the latest gowns and a chorus line that frequently popped on and off for no apparent reason. It went down well with audiences and critics alike. Having opened at the Piccadilly Theatre on 20th February, 1930 it transferred to the Lyceum where it ran until 19th July, 1930. The music was by Arthur Schwartz and the lyrics were penned by Desmond Carter. The following year Schwartz opened ‘The Band Wagon’ on Broadway with Fred Astaire.

An excerpt from the 1930 production

1st September – RIO RITA

8th September – PAVLOVA

15th September – JEW SUSS

22nd September – PAUL ROBESON

29th September – TOPAZE

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