1989 July to September

5th July – RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY

July 5, 1989 – Live on stage for four days – RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY, is Britain’s oldest dance company. It was formally established in 1926 by Marie Rambert, who was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1888.  From the 1920s to the 1940s, the company emerged from Marie Rambert’s ‘Ballet Club’ performing regularly on Sundays at the Mercury Theatre in London’s Notting Hill, to become a full time touring company. The first performances as Ballet Rambert were in 1935. Its popularity meant it outgrew the tiny Mercury Theatre and from 1946 London performances were often at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.  In the late 1970s and 1980s, the repertoire of Ballet Rambert focused on the work of three choreographers: Robert North, Christopher Bruce and Richard Alston, who each played a huge part in the development of the company. From 1975 to the early 1990s, there were links between Ballet Rambert and London Contemporary Dance Theatre through Robert North and Richard Alston. Guest choreographers such as Siobhan Davies were invited to work with the company.

A day at the Rambert School

For this visit to the theatre Rambert Dance Company brought three new ballets: Septet –   Choreographer: Merce Cunningham – Composer: Erik Satie | Soldat – Choreographer: Ashley Page – Composer: Igor Stravinsky. A battle of wits between a soldier and the devil | Embarque – Choreographer: Siobhan Davies – Composer: Steve Reich. A look at the Amercan landscape that is sure to set you leaping down the street. For these performances Rambert partnered with The Mercury Ensemble as its orchestra.

9th July to 17th July CLOSED

18th July – LITTLE WOMEN

July 18, 1989 – On the stage – for five days – LITTLE WOMEN. This was a production of the play Little Women (by Angela Huth), from the Theatre Royal, Bath. It starred Barbara Murray and the well-known saga tells the story of a year in the life of the March family. While their father is away in the civil war, the four sisters and their mother work hard to maintain a happy and peaceful home. We hear of their troubles and their joys and come to sympathize with the characters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

Barbara Murray

26th July – CLOSED

27th July – JIMMY JONES

July 27, 1989 – On the stage – for one night only – JIMMY JONES, an English stand-up comedian, with a reputation for being outspoken. Jones first appeared on stage in 1962 at the Dagenham Working Men’s Club, on the same bill as Max Bygraves. Granada Television discovered Jones in a Walthamstow pub in 1970, recruiting him for their popular Saturday night show, The Comedians. Jones’ catchphrase ‘Kin’ ell’ was a play on words, derived from footballer George Kinnell. In 1983, Jones was presented with what is reported to have been the first gold disc for a comedy album, after his Live from the Talk of East Anglia (1981) achieved 100,000 sales. He was the first stand-up comedian to release a video of his live shows, and in the early 1980s had three videos in the UK top ten. This was his 4th appearance at the Mayflower.

Jimmy Jones tells a joke

28th July to 1st August – CLOSED

2nd August – SOLID SILVER SIXTIES SHOW

Live – one night only – SOLID SILVER SIXTIES SHOW – What would become a sixties institution the SOLID SILVER SIXTIES SHOW was in its second year and made a second visit to the Mayflower.  It is the original and premier sixties show, performing classic hits by the original hit makers. This year, 60s favourites The Searchers, Brian Poole & The Electrix and Freddie & The Dreamers unite for this slice of sixties history.

The Searchers performing in a Solid Silver Sixties Show

3rd August – CLOSED

5th August – AN EVENING WITH CLIFF RICHARD

August 5, 1989 – on stage – for one night only – AN EVENING WITH CLIFF RICHARD – THE GOSPEL TOUR – the British pop singer, musician, performer, actor and philanthropist had sold more than 200 million records worldwide. He had total sales of over 20 million singles in the United Kingdom and is the third-top-selling artist in UK Singles Chart history, behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Although baptised as an Anglican, Richard did not practice the faith in his early years. In 1964, he became an active Christian and his faith has become an important aspect of his life. Standing up publicly as a Christian affected his career in several ways. Initially, he believed that he should quit rock ‘n’ roll, feeling he could no longer be the rocker who had been called a “crude exhibitionist” and “too sexy for TV”. Richard intended at first to “reform his ways” and become a teacher, but Christian friends advised him not to abandon his career just because he had become an active Christian. Soon after, Richard re-emerged, performing with Christian groups and recording some Christian material. He still recorded secular songs with the Shadows, but devoted a lot of his time to Christian work, including appearances with the Billy Graham crusades. As time progressed, Richard balanced his faith and work, enabling him to remain one of the most popular singers in Britain as well as one of its best-known Christians.

In 1988 Richard concluded his thirtieth year in music by achieving a UK Christmas No. 1 single with “Mistletoe and Wine”, while simultaneously holding the No. 1 positions on the album and video charts with the compilation Private Collection, which summed up his biggest hits from 1979 to 1988. “Mistletoe and Wine” was Richard’s 99th UK single and spent four weeks at the top of the chart. It was the best-selling UK single of 1988, shifting 750,000 copies. The album was certified quadruple platinum, becoming Richard’s first to be certified multi-platinum by the BPI since it introduced multi-platinum awards in February 1987. Ahead of his visit to the Mayflower in May 1989, Richard released his 100th single, “The Best of Me”, becoming the first British artist to achieve the feat. The single peaked at No. 2 in the UK. It was also the lead single from the UK top ten album Stronger. Released along with the singles “I Just Don’t Have the Heart”, “Lean On You” and “Stronger Than That”, the album become Richard’s first studio album to amass four UK top twenty hits. Also, Richard received the Brits highest award: “The Outstanding Contribution award”. In June, he filled London’s Wembley Stadium for two nights with a spectacular titled “The Event” in front of a combined audience of 144,000 people.

Cliff performing on his Gospel tour

His Gospel Concert at the Mayflower was a sell out within days of the booking office opening.

6th August – CLOSED

22nd August – CANCELLED – BLUES IN THE NIGHT

On stage – for two weeks – BLUES IN THE NIGHT a musical revue conceived by Sheldon Epps was booked for a two week run to kick off a UK tour following a successful London run, however the producers decided to cancel the tour some weeks ahead.

25th August – BILLY CONNOLLY

Live – TWO nights only – BILLY CONNOLLY – It was 10 years previously that BILLY CONNOLLY made his debut at the theatre when it was the Gaumont. Since then he had become tee-total, having been an alcoholic. “I don’t miss drinking. It has taken me by surprise,” Connolly stated “I miss the craic. I miss the joy of it all. The headbanging stupidity, the loveliness, the craziness of it. I miss it terribly.” He recalls blackouts that he would fill in upon returning to sobriety. “Well, [the memories] stopped coming back. But when I drank, I would go, ‘Oh, I remember now.'” Psychologists call it state-dependent learning. “That was frightening. I remember thinking, ‘Beware, Billy boy. Beware. All is not well. Do something.'” Regarding the decision he made to stay sober: “If [Pamela] goes away, I’m on my own. There’s nothing. There’s only me and it. So the choice becomes very apparent.”

When the Fox Network aired “Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Celebration” the previous year, Connolly was still virtually unknown in the USA, but his performance drew attention, particularly from producers, and interest in him grew. Leading to a US leg of this tour being undertaken following on shortly after this visit to the Mayflower.

A snippet from one of Connolly’s gigs

27th August – CLOSED

8th September – HOWARD KEEL

Live – on stage – for one night only – HOWARD KEEL – was born Harold Clifford Leek, now at 70 he had embarked on a UK tour. He always enjoyed singing, and in 1939, he gave up his job as a car mechanic and took a job as a singing waiter in a Los Angeles café. He confessed that at the time he was “mean and rebellious and had a terrible, bitter temper . . . Music changed me completely.” During the Second World War, when his vocal talent became known he was assigned to tour company plants as a roving entertainer. Appearances in concerts and at music festivals followed, resulting in an audition for Oscar Hammerstein II. “Auditions generally were shattering,” Keel stated later, “but singing for Oscar was like singing in the living room for your father.” Hammerstein gave him a role in the West Coast production of Carousel (1945) and the following year he made his Broadway début as Billy Bigelow in the same show. He took over the role of Curly from Alfred Drake in Oklahoma!, but his major opportunity came when he was given the same role in the London production in 1947. Billed as Harold Keel, he made an impression not only with his ringing baritone but his confident acting and dashing presence. On returning to the United States, he was signed by MGM’s producer, Arthur Freed, who had seen Keel’s screen test and decided he would make an ideal Frank Butler in the film version of Annie Get Your Gun. He became MGM’s resident baritone in the early Fifties, Howard Keel starred in such major musicals as Show Boat and Kiss Me Kate. The studio loaned him to Warners to star with Doris Day in Calamity Jane, one of his most popular films. Keel’s last truly memorable role and his own personal favourite was in Stanley Donen’s classic backwoods musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). The studio was surprised at the remarkable success this comparatively modest production had with both critics and public, and it remains one of the classic screen musicals, with its witty script, sprightly songs and spirited choreography. As the rugged Adam, the oldest of seven brothers, who takes his new bride to their backwoods home where she teaches the other boys how to court the opposite sex, he introduced the song “Bless Yore Beautiful Hide” and teamed well with his co-star Jane Powell.

He returned to the UK to star in Charles Chrichton’s Floods of Fear (1958), an often exciting melodrama. He then had his most important non-singing screen role, as Simon called Peter in Frank Borzage’s epic production The Big Fisherman (1959), but film roles proved scarce and he ended his screen career in three of the batch of “B” westerns produced by A.C. Lyles utilising veteran performers.

Keel had meanwhile forged a new career on the stage, and in 1959 he returned to Broadway to co-star with Carol Lawrence in the musical Saratoga Trunk. He appeared in tours of such musicals as Man of La Mancha, I Do! I Do! and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and in 1963 he replaced Richard Kiley in the Broadway production of Richard Rodgers’ No Strings. He also did concert tours, and formed a nightclub act with Kathryn Grayson. In 1972 he starred with Danielle Darrieux in a London production of The Ambassadors, a musical based on Henry James’ novel. After a brief run it went to Broadway, where its stay was equally brief. He embarked in 1977 on a record-breaking tour of the USA, Canada and Australia in the Rodgers and Hammerstein show South Pacific, with his former MGM colleague Jane Powell. The couple toured again the following year in a stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Howard Keel performing in a Royal Gala in 1990

In 1981 Keel was discovered by a whole new generation when he was given the role of Clayton Farlow in the hit series Dallas. The show had started modestly in 1978, but its audience had continued to build and by 1981 it had become the most popular series on network television. Keel later joked that Dallas paid him more money than he had ever made in his life, although he often worked for only 45 minutes a day. After Dallas ended, he went back to music, appearing in musicals and in concert, and this British tour in 1989 played to sell-out audiences. “As long as I can sing halfway decent, I’d rather sing than act,” he said and reflected, “I was one of God’s chosen people, doing what I wanted to do in life.”

12th September – ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

On the stage – for FIVE days – ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY – A Midsummers Night Dream. This Royal Shakespeare Company production of A MIDSUMMERS NIGHT DREAM was first performed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon running in repertoire through the 1989 Stratford season and then toured the UK opening at Southampton’s Mayflower before arriving at London’s Barbican Theatre on 4th December 1989 where it played in repertoire through the 1990 season.

This was a punky Dream- mocking any idea of sentimental prettiness by dressing the fairies in tattered tutus, patched-up wings and Doc Marten boots. Their playground was a junkyard, filled with bicycle frames, an old piano and an iron bedstead which served Titania as her bower. Ilona Sekacz provided a joyous, energising score created by subjecting Mendelssohn’s music to the same inventive, parodic treatment applied to the fairies.

The trailer for a later production by the RSC of A Midsummer’s Night Dream

This was a milestone for Southampton as it was the first time that a full scale RSC production had visited the City.

19th September – THE FIFTEEN STREETS

On the stage – for TWO weeks – THE FIFTEEN STREETS – was one of the first novels published by Catherine Cookson and appeared in 1951. Set in 1910, it tells the story of one family’s fight for physical and moral survival in the poverty and squalor of the dockland slums of Tyneside. At the centre is the apparently impossible love affair between rugged docker John O’Brien and Mary Llewellyn, a schoolteacher. With elements of tragedy, humour, intrigue and love, this simple tale affords plenty of scope for imaginative and evocative production.

A short scene from the tv adaptation of the stage play
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