1990 April to June

1st April – JAMES LAST & HIS ORCHESTRA

Live – one day only – JAMES LAST & HIS ORCHESTRA – The German superstar and band leader was back in Southampton for the third time since the opening of the Mayflower. This time he was able to promote his 1989 albums Happy Heart, Wir spielen wieder Polka and his new 1990 album Classics By Moonlight.

One of the numbers featured in the concert

3rd April – THE KING AND I

On the stage – for FIVE days – THE KING AND I – Following on from their production of Fiddler On The Roof, Southern Theatre Productions embarked on the first of a number of Rodgers & Hammerstein classics. The show chosen to launch this initiative was the pair’s fifth musical The King & I, first seen in Britain at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1953 after a hugely succesful Broadway opening in March 1951. This was the fourth amateur production of the musical to grace this stage, the previous three when it was the Gaumont.

the trailer for the 1956 film

10th April – THE YEOMAN OF THE GUARD

On the stage – for FIVE days – THE YEOMAN OF THE GUARD – Southampton Operatic Society began life in 1924 as the Guild of the Above Bar Congregational Church and was the oldest musical society in the city. Miss Edith Ashdown, the daughter of a Southampton businessman and a member of the Above Bar Congregational Church, gathered her friends (including Evelyn Thorne who ran a local ladies’ choir) to perform a musical play Princess Juju. This was well received so they decided to form a society and present Merrie England by Edward German at the Watts Hall. For the next five years, the society alternated between dramatic and musical productions under the title of Southampton Above Bar Musical and Dramatic Society but in 1930 it separated into two distinct bodies – operatic and dramatic. The Second World War curtailed the activities of the society between 1939 and 1945 but it soon reformed to perform “Merrie England” once more in 1946. The works of Gilbert & Sullivan soon became the society’s annual offering.

In 1990 Music for Holy Week…The Mayflower Theatre had not just been a ‘hit’ with SOS, it had also become very popular with the local population and, as a result, there was a significant increase in the number of professional companies wanting to perform there – they attracted bigger audiences so more drinks and ice creams were sold. This led to an increase in hiring charges and less choice of dates available – SMS and STP were incandescent that they had only been offered a shared week and took to writing angry letters to the Echo. The Society kept out of this unwelcome publicity and was offered a full week for The Yeomen of the Guard – but it was Holy Week…

The acting members were asked about their availability and, although there were 18 who replied that they could not participate, it was considered that there was still enough to justify committing to the show. It was nearly cast successfully but, with Allen Mansell serving as MD and several tenors not participating, it was necessary to invite non-member Patrick Hughes to play Fairfax. Pam de Grouchy continued as Producer and soon had the men portraying Yeomen involved in a beard growing competition (a contest won by Robin Woodward).

Pam always aimed to set the mood for the theatre-goer from the moment they entered the auditorium (sometimes the foyer) and this Yeomen was no different, the Echo review commented on the stage before the overture began, ‘A stark, dark set, heads on spikes and characters in stocks – who stayed like that for the whole performance – added atmosphere to the 16th Century Tower of London scene. Exploding cannons signalled the start of SOS’s presentation of the popular G&S operetta.’ The entrance of Jack Point and the villagers provided a contrast, ‘Jesters, jugglers and tumblers added to the riot of colour already provided by the scarlet red of the Yeomen’s uniforms.’ The reviewer seems to have not noticed the dancing bear!

‘The singing power of the society is unquestionable and particularly outstanding were David Jupp as the head jailor in a brilliant comic performance. As always, Jillian Charnley was excellent as the enchanting Elsie Maynard. Capturing the audiences heart was the reprise of the duet “Rapture! Rapture!” – sung by Catherine Baker and Colin Sly – done in a 1920s style which brought the house down. Acting honours should go to Patrick Hughes as Colonel Fairfax and Philip de Grouchy as Jack Point.’ She also appears to have missed Margaret Amey’s lively portrayal of Phoebe!

The Society decided against a summer production at the Nuffield and instead, Yeomen was reprised in the open air in the Cloisters at Beaulieu Abbey for three performances in June. The setting was perfect and, when it rained heavily on the final evening, the show was quickly moved inside the Abbey itself. Despite Ted Starks and Robin Woodward advertising the show by spending the daylight hours roaming around Beaulieu in full costume, the experiment still made a loss of £300 to go alongside the £1970 deficit inflicted at the Mayflower.

From Act 2 finale

17th April – THE STARS OF THE BOLSHOI BALLET

On the stage – for TWO nights – STARS OF THE BOLSHOI BALLET – Legendary Soviet ballerina Natalya Bessmertnova led the company over the two nights. She was partnered by the much younger Yuri Vasyuchenko who was able to perform to her demanding standards. The first half of the programme was devoted to Swan Lake Act II, one of the most enduring and loved pieces of ballet. The second half of the programme was made up of estracts from seven varied ballets that included Le Corsaire, Don Quixote and an incredible performance by Yuri Valdimirov in Spartacus.

Natalya Bessmertnova and Yuri Valdimirov in Spartacus

20th April – RICHARD DIGANCE

On the stage – for one day – RICHARD DIGANCE – is an English comedian and folk singer. In the 1970s he toured the United States. Though failing to make much of a name, he ended up a support act for Steve Martin. He also supported Tom Jones in 87 concerts, and other artists such as Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Joan Armatrading, David Essex and Elkie Brooks.

His first own TV Special was in 1985 for Thames TV, A Dabble With Digance, and featured newsreader Carol Barnes. After the success of this special he was signed to TVS in Southampton after being a studio warm-up act there for Matthew Kelly and this first series of six programmes screened on Thursday nights. He also filmed a pilot The Three Busketeers featuring himself, Chris Barrie who went on to star in Red Dwarf, and Adrian Hedley. At this time he still continued as a studio warm-up act for The Des O’Connor Show.

Richard left for London Weekend Television under Greg Dyke and filmed numerous Saturday night TV Specials for ITV. His guests included Status Quo, Brian May, Elkie Brooks, The Moody Blues, Marc Cohn, Buffy St Marie, Joe Pasquale, Juan Martin, Julia Fordham, Chris de Burgh and many others. An additional series with Jim Davidson Wednesday At 8 made him a popular guest during this period from 1985 to 1995. His guest-spots are almost endless; Surprise Surprise with Cilla Black – The Gloria Hunniford Show – The Jim Davidson Show – Des O’Connor Show – Live From Her Majesty’s – Live From Piccadilly – Summertime Special with Michael Barrymore – Live From The Palladium with Roy Orbison – The Comedians – Magpie – Celebrity Snooker and Fish o’Mania with Steve Davis – Pebble Mill At One – Saturday Night At The Mill – That’s Entertainment with Kenny Everett and Julian Clary – Crosswits – The Tom O’Connor Show – The Parkinson Show with Tommy Steele and many more. He received a BAFTA Nomination as TV Entertainer Of The Year.

He came to public attention as a regular turn on the popular Sunday evening Live from… (Her Majesty’s/the Piccadilly/the Palladium) variety series (produced by LWT for ITV) and also on Summertime Special, a variety showcase of the 1980s. He was famed for his television one-hour specials, starting in 1985 with A Dabble of Digance. Abracadigance was a series of four shows in 1988.

He was a particular favourite with Southampton audiences and was considered a true all-round entertainer.

A profile of the star

22nd April – THE DRIFTERS

Live – one day only – THE DRIFTERS – are an American doo-wop and R&B/soul vocal group. They were originally formed as a backing group for Clyde McPhatter, formerly the lead tenor of Billy Ward and his Dominoes in 1953. There were three golden eras of the Drifters; the early 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s (post-Atlantic period). From these, the first Drifters, formed by Clyde McPhatter, was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as “The Drifters”. The second Drifters, featuring Ben E. King, was separately inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as “Ben E. King and the Drifters”. In their induction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected four members from the first Drifters, two from the second Drifters, and one from the post-Atlantic Drifters. The various formations of the Drifters recorded 13 Billboard top 30 chart hits. A 1970s revival in Britain, with both old and new material, was not matched in the United States, although it saw their biggest successes on the UK pop charts, peaking with the number 2 hit “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies”. It was on the back of this seventies revival that The Drifters undertook this UK 1980 tour.

A performance by The Drifters

25th April – FIVE STAR

Live – one night only – FIVE STAR – the five-piece group of siblings from Romford were masterminded by their father and manager, Buster Pearson, in the style of the Jackson 5. He was a former recording artist and session musician who had worked with Wilson Pickett and had set up Tent Records Ltd in 1982. Their debut single was released on Tent in 1983 and although it did not chart, it gave them TV exposure and a record deal with RCA Records (with future releases being joint Tent/RCA releases). After two unsuccessful singles in 1984, their chart breakthrough came in 1985 with the release of “All Fall Down” which peaked at No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. The group released their debut album, Luxury of Life, in June 1985. It included their last three singles and was followed by the single “Let Me Be the One” was another UK Top 20 and US Hot 100 hit. The album was certified Platinum in the UK later in the year. Also in 1986, the instrumental track “First Avenue” (which had been released as the B-side to “All Fall Down”) was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance, and a remixed version of “Love Take Over” gave them another US Hot R&B Top 10 hit.

Their first new material in 1986, the single “Can’t Wait Another Minute”, was used in the film “Gung Ho”. The group released their second album, Silk and Steel, in August 1986. The album reached No. 1 and sold 1.2 million copies in the UK (being certified 4× Platinum by 1987). The single “Rain or Shine” gave the group their highest ever UK chart position, reaching No. 2. The group won the 1987 BRIT Award for Best British Group with Silk and Steel also nominated for Best British Album. August 1987 saw the release of their third album, Between the Lines, which was another Platinum seller, but sales did not match their previous success. In 1988, the group attempted to change their clean-cut image to a more adult-oriented “leather clad” look, matched with a slightly harder-edged dance sound. Led by the Leon Sylvers III produced single “Another Weekend” their fourth album Rock the World met with only moderate success, and was their last Top 20 album.

Now at loggerheads with RCA, Buster Pearson signed the group to Epic Records in 1990, and the group’s fifth studio album, simply titled Five Star, was self-produced at the family home with every track being written by the group members. Despite heavy promotion and this tour its two singles, “Treat Me Like a Lady” and “Hot Love”, failed to reach the Top 40. The album itself failed to chart and a planned third single, “What About Me Baby” was shelved.

A video of Five Star

28th April – CENTRAL BAND OF THE R.A.F.

Live – for one day – CENTRAL BAND OF THE RAF – Music has always been an integral part of military life and since its formation in 1920, the Central Band of the Royal Air Force has boasted a proud and distinguished heritage. The Central Band had a versatile and unique role. The band was at the forefront of many State Ceremonial events, from ‘Changing the Guard’ at Buckingham Palace to the National Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph. Central Band musicians have been privileged to participate in many high-profile national events, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Royal Wedding.

In 1922, the Central Band became the first military band to broadcast on BBC Radio and remains the most frequently featured on the airwaves. Recent popular broadcasts include a live BBC Radio 3 concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s South Bank Centre and a celebration of 100 years of Military Aviation and Music on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Listen to the Band’ programme. Alongside their broadcasting success, the musicians of the Band are well recognised for their recording prowess. Beginning in 1955 with the release of Eric Coates’ ‘The Dambusters March’ (HMV), the Central Band became the first military band to make a long-playing record and remains at the forefront of military band and contemporary wind ensemble recording. The critical and popular success of “Reach for the Skies” (Decca Records) and collaborative efforts with composer Nigel Hess on “New London Pictures” (Chandos) and euphonium soloist Steven Mead with his CDs “Diamonds” and “Pearls”, stand as firm testament to their ongoing commitment to musical excellence and diversity.

Within the United Kingdom the Central Band enjoys supporting several Service charities. Most notable is their partnership with the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, with whom they undertake an annual concert tour, covering a dozen cities and several of the country’s major concert halls. This concert in Southampton was part of that fund raising initiative.

The band performing The Dam Busters march

1st May – SHOW BOAT

On the stage – for five days – SHOW BOAT – SMS – Southampton Musical Society’s only show of the year at the Mayflower was Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, based on Edna Ferber’s best-selling novel of the same name. The musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over 40 years from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. The musical contributed such classic songs as “Ol’ Man River”, “Make Believe”, and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”. It is regarded as the first musical of the modern era, unifying book, music and lyrics into an integrated overall stage production.

Show Boat boldly portrayed racial issues and was the first racially integrated musical, in that both black and white performers appeared and sang on stage together. Ziegfeld’s Follies had featured solo African American performers such as Bert Williams, but would not have included a black woman in the chorus. Show Boat was structured with two choruses – a black chorus and a white chorus. One commentator noted that “Hammerstein uses the African-American chorus as essentially a Greek chorus, providing clear commentary on the proceedings, whereas the white choruses sing of the not-quite-real.”

The show has generated controversy for the subject matter of interracial marriage, the historical portrayal of blacks working as laborers and servants in the 19th-century South, and the use of the word niggers in the lyrics (this is the first word in the opening chorus of the show). Originally the show opened with the black chorus onstage singing:

“Niggers all work on the Mississippi, Niggers all work while the white folks play. Loadin’ up boats wid de bales of cotton, Gittin’ no rest till de Judgment Day.”

In subsequent productions, “niggers” has been changed to “colored folk”, to “darkies”, and by the time of this production “Here we all”, as in “Here we all work on the Mississippi. Here we all work while the white folks play.”

Listen to the original opening of the show

7th May – ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET – ROMEO AND JULIET

On the stage – for six days – ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET – ROMEO AND JULIET – English National Ballet brought Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet, to the Mayflower. Created 10 years previously for London Festival Ballet (as ENB were known) it had stood up to the test of time. It incorporates a range of dance-styles, contemporary and classical, to enrich the production which is a remarkably literal re-telling of the play in dance. Nureyev, for example, does not rely on his audiences’ familiarity with the plot and includes scenes such as those relating to Romeo’s stay in Mantua, the failure of Friar Lawrence’s message to reach him and the tragic consequence of Benvolio bringing him news of Juliet’s ‘death’. He is also aware that the play is more than a simple paean of romantic love. Nureyev’s great achievement is his rich portrayal of Renaissance society and the symbolic imagery drawn from Shakespeare’s text that he has meshed into his own Romeo and Juliet.

English National Ballet’s Philarmonic

17th May – HALE AND PACE

On the stage – one night only – HALE & PACE – Gareth Hale and Norman Pace met at teacher training college. They discovered much in common, particularly humour, and began playing clubs in a comedy band. One of the clubs that they most liked playing was “The Tramshed” in Woolwich. This developed into sketch writing, with a show entitled Don’t Stop Now – It’s Fundation. Before appearing on TV, they did a series of radio shows for Radio 4 based on their show at the Tramshed. Their early TV breaks came on The Entertainers (1984), Pushing Up Daisies (1984) and they went on to appear in the Channel 4 sketch show Coming Next (1985) and the Saturday Gang (1986). After a single one-off special for London Weekend Television in Christmas 1986, they were given a full series in 1988. The first series won the Silver Rose of Montreux, as well as the Press prize. Their relationship with ITV lasted a decade, with most of their programmes going out around 10pm on a Sunday. Their most famous comic creations are the stone faced bouncers The Two Rons – also known as The Management, who include the phrase ‘I do Ron, Ron’ in their stilted conversations in a reference to the song “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals. They are also famous for their ever-smiling and colourfully dressed children’s TV presenters Billy (Hale) and Johnny (Pace).

A 1990 performance from Hale & Pace

23rd May – ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK

Live – one night only – ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK – a 54 year old English pop singer. Humperdinck has been described as “one of the finest middle-of-the-road balladeers around.” His singles “Release Me” and “The Last Waltz” both topped the UK music charts in 1967, and sold more than a million copies each. In North America, he also had chart successes with “After the Lovin'” (1976) and “This Moment in Time” (1979). He has sold more than 140 million records worldwide. Humperdinck was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and won a Golden Globe Award as entertainer of the year, while also beginning major involvement in charitable causes such as the Leukemia Research Fund, the American Red Cross, the American Lung Association, and several AIDS relief organisations. This concert was a rare UK outing for Engelbert who spends most of his time in the United States.

Here is a concert recorded in Birmingham as part of this 1990 UK tour – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn7rB6Q8nvM

24th May – JULIAN CLARY

On the stage – for one night – JULIAN CLARY – a 31 year old English comedian, actor, presenter and novelist. Clary began appearing on television in the mid-1980s. After a number of appearances on Friday Night Live in the mid-late 1980s, Clary co-hosted the short-lived ITV game show Trick or Treat in 1989 with Mike Smith, before achieving greater success later that year with his own high-camp Channel 4 gameshow, Sticky Moments with Julian Clary. More a vehicle for his brand of humour than a genuine gameshow, Sticky Moments was a light-hearted “non-quiz” satire, with him often awarding points because he liked the contestants, rather than because they possessed a particular skill or aptitude. Much of this was evident in this show.

An episode of Sticky Moments in 1990 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjDJL9ocqpo

31st May – JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER

On stage – for one night – JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER – a 39 year old British solo cellist, the principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the founder of the In Harmony music education programme. The tour was to promote his new album “Lloyd Webber Plays Lloyd Webber “. He was accompanied by the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.

Music Of The Night

1st June – GEORGIAN STATE DANCE COMPANY

On the stage – for THREE days – GEORGIAN STATE DANCE COMPANY – was the first professional state dance company in Georgia. Founded by Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili in 1945, it would later be named as the Georgian National Ballet. Thanks to this company the Georgian national dancing and music has become known in many parts of the world. Throughout its history the Company has appeared at the Albert Hall, The Coliseum, The Metropolitan Opera and Madison Square Garden. In 1967, La Scala welcomed them – reportedly the first and the only time a folklore group was given a chance to perform on its stage. It was something of a coup for the Mayflower to attract the Company to Southampton. The costumes were designed by Simon (Soliko) Virsaladze. The founders’ son Tengiz Sukhishvili was the artistic director and general manager, his spouse, Inga Tevzadze, also a former dancer, now a ballet master. Iliko Sukhishvili Jr. is chief choreographer.The Georgian State Dance Company had seventy dancers and a small orchestra.

A preview of the performance
A colour programme, ‘The Georgian State Dance Company’ tour in 1990. The background shows newspaper articles with a man in a red jacket jumping through them. The title is in the top right hand corner. On the back is a photograph from the show within an advert for 3M. The inside contains tour dates and locations, a list of dances, photographs, a history of the Georgian State Dance Company, adverts and a quiz. The show appeared at the Hippodrome from 19 July to 21 July 1990.

4th June – HOTHOUSE FLOWERS

Live – one night only – HOTHOUSE FLOWERS – an Irish rock group that combines traditional Irish music with influences from soul, gospel, and rock. Formed in 1985 in Dublin, they started as street performers. Their first album, People (1988), was the most successful debut album in Irish history, reaching No. 1 in Ireland and No. 2 in the UK. The group’s second album, Home was released in June 1990 and this visit to the Mayflower was part of the launch promotion. It was recorded sporadically during extensive touring; with sessions in Dublin, London, a rented house with a mobile recording set-up in Carlow, Ireland, and one day of work with Daniel Lanois in New Orleans, while Bob Dylan was taking a break from his sessions with Lanois. The album did not have the overwhelming success of the first record, but it did reach No. 1 in Australia. “Give It Up” and “I Can See Clearly Now” (a cover version of the Johnny Nash song) from the album reached No. 30 and 23 respectively in the UK Singles Chart.

Hothouse Flowers perform one of their hits

12th June – FIREMAN SAM

On the stage – for FIVE days – FIREMAN SAM – started out as a British animated comedy children’s series about a fireman named Sam, his fellow firefighters, and other residents in the fictional Welsh rural village of Pontypandy (a portmanteau of two real towns, Pontypridd and Tonypandy). The original idea for the show came from two ex-firemen from London, England, who took their idea to artist and writer Rob Lee who developed the concept, and the show was commissioned. This was the first time that Fireman Sam left the animation studios and came out to meet his public. This stage production was later turned into a film and released by the BBC on video.

The Fireman Sam songs

19th June – WELSH NATIONAL OPERA

On the stage – for five days – WELSH NATIONAL OPERA – This was WNO‘s second visit to the Mayflower in 1990 and the week started off on Tuesday with Verdi‘s Otello which was repeated on Friday, while on Wednesday Tornrak the third opera by Welsh composer John Metcalf was performed. It has an English-language libretto by Michael Wilcox with Inuktitut sections translated by Blendina Makkik. Set between the worlds of the Canadian Arctic and Victorian Britain, it features Inuit throat singing and other extended vocal techniques that give the Arctic scenes a distinct character. The opera was composed between 1986 and 1990 when Metcalf was working in Canada. It was first staged in 1990 in a co-production by the Banff Centre, where Metcalf worked, and the Welsh National Opera who had commissioned the work. |

On Thursday a favourite of Southampton audiences, The Barber of Seville was staged, while on Saturday Mozart‘s Cosi Fan Tutte returned, based around the theme of “fiancée swapping”, which dates back to the 13th century; notable earlier versions are found in Boccaccio’s Decameron and Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. Elements from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew are also present.

Welsh National Opera’s introduction to Cosi Fan Tutte
WNO’s “Otello”

28th June – LENNY HENRY

On the stage – for one night only – LENNY HENRY – a British stand-up comedian, actor, singer, writer and television presenter, known for co-founding the charity Comic Relief, and appearing in TV programmes including children’s entertainment show Tiswas, sitcom Chef! He had appeared at the Gaumont in the early 80s but this was his first time at the Mayflower. Since then The Lenny Henry Show appeared on the BBC and featured stand up, spoofs like his send-up of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and many of the characters he had developed during Summer Seasons, including Theophilus P. Wildebeeste and Delbert Wilkins. This tour enabled him to perform all the favourite impressions such as Tina Turner, Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Run DMC.

Lenny Henry in a 1990 tv advert

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