THEATRE IN SOUTH AFRICA (1956 – 1973)

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared in South Africa, as well as amateur shows in which they appeared or which were directed by them – either separately or together.

I have included musicals, operas and plays in which Anne and Webster appeared, as well as amateur shows directed by them – either together or separately. The list is not complete so I would be glad to hear from anyone who can add to it or enlarge on the information presented below.

SPRING QUARTET September 1956, Cape Town. Anne and Webster. Before Anne and Webster went to Johannesburg to settle, they played in Spring Quartet, straight after their trip to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle. Leonard Schach directed the play for the Cockpit Players, at the Hofmeyr Theatre. Others in the cast were  Joyce Bradley, Cynthia Coller, Jane Fenn, Gavin Houghton and Sydney Welch. Decor by David Crichton, costumes by Doreen Graves. At the piano were Keith Jewell and Geoffrey Miller.

In Cape Town for “Spring Quartet”. September 1956

JOHANNESBURG 1956-1967

NIGHT IN VENICE Wednesday 14 November to Saturday 1 December 1956, Reps Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Johannesburg Operatic Society, Anne Ziegler, Webster Booth, June Hern, Tom Reid, Harold Lake, Stella Beder, Director: Arnold Dover, Music: Drummond Bell.

Night in Venice.
Night in Venice November 1956

ANGELS IN LOVE 29 July 1957, Reps Theatre, Anne played the part of Dearest, with Rory McDermot, Joan Blake, Michael Turner, Arthur Hall, and Edwin Quail (Fauntleroy), directed by Minna Schneier.

31 July 1957 Anne’s first non-singing role

WALTZ TIME 31 May 1958, Springs Civic Theatre, Anne and Webster, produced by Bert Dobson for Springs Operatic Society.

MERRIE ENGLAND 16 to 21 June 1958, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London. Anne and Webster, Mabel Fenney, Pamela Emslie, Hilary Adams, Cawood Meaker, Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Doreen Egan, conducted by Jean Fowler.

16 June 1958 Merrie England, East London.
16 June 1958, Merrie England, East London

THE VAGABOND KING 1 August 1958, Durban. Anne and Webster starred in the show. Produced by Isobel McLaren (wife of singing teacher Arnold Fulton.

MERRIE ENGLAND 12 to 29 November 1958, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg, JODS. Anne and Webster starred and produced and starred in the show, with Marian Saunders, June Bass, Nohline Mitchell, Kenneth Anderson, Len Rosen, and Dudley Cock, conducted by Drummond Bell.

November 1958. Merrie England at the Reps Theatre, Johannesburg.
November 1958. Anne and Webster produced and starred in Merrie England at the Reps Theatre in Braamfontein for JODs.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Christmas 1958, City Hall, East London, Anne appeared as principal boy. Anne told me that she had also appeared in DICK WHITTINGTON in East London.

WALTZ TIME 1959, City Hall, East London, The Dramatic Society of East London, Anne and Webster and East London cast.

Waltz Time East London.

THE GLASS SLIPPER December 1959, Reps Theatre, Johannesburg Repertory Players, National Theatre and Childrens Theatre, Anne Ziegler, Yvonne Theron, Siegfried Mynhardt, David Beattie, Hilda Kriseman, Olive King, Bruce Anderson, directed by Hugh Goldie. Music: Joyce Goldie (Piano conductor) Band: Leader Walter Mony, Bassoon: Richard Cherry, Clarinet: P Reinders, Percussion: A Johnson, Violin: Erica Anderson, Viola: Lance Lange, Cello: Phyllis Chaplin

The Glass Slipper, December 1959. Children’s Theatre
Anne as the Fairy Godmother pointing the way for Cinderella’s coach to go to the ball. I ushered at the Reps Theatre for one of the performances.

MIKADO 1960, Bloemfontein, Webster. I know very little about this show. I am not sure whether Webster sang in it, directed it or did both.

A COUNTRY GIRL October 1960, Produced by Anne and Webster at Little Theatre, Springs. Leads were played by Corinne van Wyk and John Wilcox.

LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS 19 December 1960 to January 1961, Playhouse, Johannesburg, Anne, Valerie Miller, Leon Eagles, John Boulter, Robert Haber and Ivor Berold, directed by Leonard Schach.

Anne, Dame Flora Robson, Ivan Berold
Anne and Valerie Miller

THE AMOROUS PRAWN September to October 30 1961, Alexander Theatre (previously the Reps Theatre), National Theatre, Pretoria, 31 October to November 12, Alhambra Theatre, Durban, November 15?

Webster was the Prawn, with Simon Swindell, Gabriel Bayman, Diane Wilson, Joe Stewardson, Ronald Wallace and Joan Blake, directed by Victor Melleney.

Amorous Prawn rehearsal with Joan Blake, Simon Swindell, Ronald Wallace, producer: Victor Melleney. Webster with a monocle was the Prawn.

THE DESERT SONG October to November 1961 at Springs Theatre, Anne directed this show for the Springs Operatic Society. Sylvia Watson (nee Reilly), who kindly wrote to me to tell me more about these shows was in the chorus.

THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL February 1962, Alexander Theatre, Webster took a small non-singing part with Simon Swindell, Michael McGovern, Gordon Mulholland, Joe Stewardson, directed by Albert Ninio. My piano teacher, Sylvia Sullivan, saw the play and remarked about Websters role, “Such a small part for such a great man.”

THE VAGABOND KING October 1962, Springs Little Theatre
Anne and Webster directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE October 1962, Bloemfontein. Webster directed this production. As a gimmick he had a chimpanzee going on to the stage with the pirates. The chimpanzee idea was not without problems. She disgraced himself during Websters opening night speech. With a quick wit he quipped, You naughty girl. I wont take you out again in a hurry.

THE MERRY WIDOW November 1962, Springs Little Theatre. Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

GOODNIGHT MRS PUFFIN January 1963, Alexander Theatre, Anne and Webster with Jane Fenn, George Moore, Deborah Francis, Leonne Carnot, Clive Pownall, Paddy Canavan, Anthony James and Michael Newell, directed by John Hayter.

The Amorous Prawn. Anne is Mrs Fordyce, with Leonne Carnot, Jane Fenn
Anne and Webster with their stage family.

THE NEW MOON, 10 April 1964, Springs Little Theatre, Anne directed this production for the Springs Operatic Society.

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD May 1963, Alexander Theatre, JODS, Webster took the part of Colonel Fairfax at short notice with Denise Allen, June Hern, Lilian Gartside, Len Rosen, Lyle Matthews, Ethlynne Cohen and Peter Lynsky, directed by Keith Stammers-Bloxham, conducted by Desmond Wright.

Yeomen of the Guard 6 June 1963.
6 June 1963. Yeomen of the Guard.

TONIGHT AT 8.30 8 July 1964, Hofmeyr Theatre, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, CAPE PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL (CAPAB) Anne and Webster appeared in Family Album with Yvonne Bryceland, Michael Drin, Nanette Rennie and Flora McKenna, directed by Margaret Inglis, conducted by Keith Jewell.

THE MERRY WIDOW October 1965, Bloemfontein. Anne directed this production in Bloemfontein.

The Merry Widow in Anne’s production in Bloemfontein. I don’t know her name. Do you?

THE LOVE POTION November 1966, Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Anne, with Alec Bell, Fiona Fraser and Arthur Hall, directed by Ricky Arden. This show was not a success and came off early.

THE BARTERED BRIDE November (Pretoria) 14, 17, 20, 22 December 1966, (Johannesburg), Aula Theatre, Pretoria, Civic Theatre, Johannesburg, PERFORMING ARTS COUNCIL OF THE TRANSVAAL (PACT), Webster played non-singing role of Circus Master, with Gé Korsten, Nellie du Toit, Gert Potgieter and Oysten Liltveld, directed by Victor Melleney, conducted by Leo Quayle

The Bartered Bride?

COUNTESS MARITZA 1967, Pretoria. Anne and Webster either directed or appeared in this production or perhaps they did both.

KNYSNA 1967-1974

MERRIE ENGLAND 11  July 1968, Knysna and District Choral Society, Webster, Anne, Dorothy Davies, James Squier and Ena van der Vijver

CINDERELLA December 1968, Knysna. Anne played principal boy and wrote the script. Del le Roux, Ena van der Vijver, Dorothy Davies and Sadie Hamilton Cox were also in the cast.

Ena van der Vyver and Anne as principal boys.

PANTOMIME December 1969, Knysna, Anne played principal boy and wrote the script but I do not know the name of the pantomime.

COX AND BOX/TRIAL BY JURY ( Date?), Knysna, George, Oudtshoorn and Ladismith (Cape)

LADY AUDLEYS SECRET December 1971, Port Elizabeth Opera House, Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society. Anne produced this show.

Alys Tayler and Ted Mayhew in Lady Audley’s Secret, PE, 1971.

DICK WHITTINGTON December 1972, Port Elizabeth Opera House, PEMADS. Webster produced and conducted for this pantomime, while Anne played Principal Boy.

Rehearsing Dick Whittington in PE>

THE MIKADO 4 to 14 April 1973, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pam Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas. Webster produced this show.

Webster at rehearsal.
Rehearsal
Me and June Evans
Me, June Evans and Neil Evans.
Me in The Mikado.
Me – back left with June Evans and other members of the chorus.

Updated 16 December 2019.

WEBSTER BOOTH AND GILBERT AND SULLIVAN.

In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.

Webster Booth and Gilbert and Sullivan.

As a young man, Webster Booth was serving articles as an accountant in Birmingham and taking singing lessons in his spare time at the Midland Institute with Dr Richard Wassell, the organist, and choirmaster at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. He was a tenor soloist in the church and fulfilling engagements as tenor soloist in regional oratorio performances as far apart as Wales and Scotland.

Midland Institute where Webster had lessons with Dr Richard Wassell.

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Interior of St Martin’s Church, the Bullring, Birmingham

St Martin's

In 1923 the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company came to Birmingham and he managed to obtain an audition with New Zealander, Harry Norris, the D’Oyly Carte conductor. Harry Norris was impressed with Webster’s voice and on his recommendation, he was summoned to see Rupert D’Oyly Carte in London. He was meant to audit a firm’s books in South Wales. Instead, he decided to throw caution to the wind and went to London for the audition instead. He sang five or six songs to an unreceptive D’Oyly Carte and his general manager, Richard Collett.

‘I became increasingly anxious. It was like singing to two mummies…
”I think he’ll do,” Mr D’Oyly Carte said in a rather pained voice, thinking, no doubt, that here was yet another name one the pay-list.
“I should think so, sir,” was the reply.
‘Thus unenthusiastically was I welcomed into the Profession of the Stage.’ (Duet, p. 34)

Although he had been doing well in accountancy, he abandoned his job with little regret to become a professional singer, making his debut with the company as one of the Yeomen in The Yeomen of the Guard at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 9 September 1923.

In 1924 he married Winifred Keey, the daughter of Edgar Keey, his former headmaster at Aston Commercial School. Winifred borrowed £100 from a relative, with no intention of repaying it, and used the money to follow Leslie to London against her parents’ wishes, or possibly, even without their knowledge. They might have approved of the match had Leslie remained a respectable accountant like his elder brother, Norman, but they were against her taking up with a chorus boy in the D’Oyly Carte. Her family had no more to do with her, partly because of her defiance of their wishes and partly because she had borrowed such a large sum of money under false pretences from a member of the family. Because they disowned her they never knew that she and Leslie had married or that she gave birth to a son, and, thinking the worst of her, imagined that she and Leslie were living together in sin.

Winifred and Leslie’s son, Keith was born the year after their marriage on 12 June 1925, and his birth was registered in Birmingham North.

6 August 1925 – Borough, Stratford. Interest remains unabated in the D’Oyly Carte company, now in the second of their two weeks’ engagement at this theatre. On Tuesday The Yeomen of the Guard was staged, and met with the usual enthusiastic reception from an audience who obviously enjoyed every number. Encores were frequent. The entrance of Mr Henry A Lytton as Jack Point was naturally the signal for an outburst of applause, which was fully justified by his consistently fine work in this well-written role. His apt mingling of humour and pathos is amongst the best things he has ever done. As the other strolling singer Miss Winifred Lawson made a distinct success, singing and acting with real talent. Happily cast also were Mr Leo Sheffield as the grim gaoler and Miss Aileen Davies as Phoebe. Miss Bertha Lewis made a capital Dame Carruthers, whose chief song was rendered artistically; and Miss Irene Hill scored as Kate. Mr Sydney Pointer’s agreeable voice helped him to make Colonel Fairfax a prominent figure, and Mr Darrell Fancourt was a strong Sergeant Meryll. Others who shared in the success were Mr Joseph Griffin as Sir Richard, Mr Herbert Aitken as Leonard, and Mr Leslie W. Booth as the First Yeoman. The stage director is still Mr J.M. Gordon and Mr Harry Norris is the touring musical director.
In 1926 Doctor Malcolm Sargent (as he was then) took over as conductor for the London season at the Prince’s Theatre and Leslie considered that period to be one of his happiest and most fulfilling times with the company. It was then when he asked Sargent to listen to his voice and tell him whether he thought he could make it as an opera singer. Sargent told him that if he did not have a private income he should forget about singing in opera as the pay was very poor.

18 November 1926 – D’Oyly Carte Canadian Visit. It has been arranged for the D’Oyly Carte principal company to visit Canada at the end of the season at the Princes on December 19. The company will embark for Canada in the steamship Metagama on the 24th. The tour will open in Montreal on January 4. Mr Richard Collett, the general manager of the company, will be in charge of the tour.

After a stay of two weeks in Montreal, the company will proceed to Toronto and thence to Winnipeg, staying in each of these cities for a fortnight. There will also be visits to Lethbridge, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island. The tour will end at Montreal in the middle of May. The Mikado, The Gondoliers, The Yeomen of the Guard, and HMS Pinafore will form the repertory. The leading principals, with the exception of Miss Elsie Griffin, will take part in the tour. Miss Griffin’s place will be filled by Miss Irene Hill. Misses Bertha Lewis, Winifred Lawson, Aileen Davies, Messrs Henry A Lytton, Darrell Fancourt, Leo Sheffield, and Charles Goulding are included in the company.
Webster Booth sang Your Tiny Hand is Frozen at the ship’s concert, so impressing principal soprano Winifred Lawson that she was not at all surprised when he soon rose to fame after he left the company. He was particularly impressed when the chorus sang Hail Poetry in the open air when the company visited Chief Big Crow and Chief Starlight in the Sarcee Reserve, Calgary.

Passenger list on return to Liverpool 

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SS Megantic (White Star) return to Liverpool from Canada, May 1927.

He stayed with the company for four and a half years but made no great advancement from singing in the chorus, small parts and understudying the tenor principal roles. In Duet, his joint autobiography, with Anne Ziegler, he complained that the only way he would advance in the company was to wait patiently to fill “dead men’s shoes”. Despite this observation, he was one of the few singers allowed to record individual songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire without prior approval of the D’Oyly Carte family.
His recordings of Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes and A Wand’ring Minstrel under the baton of gifted conductor, a fellow native of Birmingham, Leslie Heward, who died tragically young, remain unsurpassed and are now available on CD.

Leslie was away on tour for fifty weeks of the year and Winifred, left alone with her small son, was estranged from her parents although living in the suburb of Moseley in the same city. Leslie had suspicions that all was not well at home when he arrived home from a tour with D’Oyly Carte to find Keith sitting by himself on the doorstep. Winifred had left her small son to his own devices while she went dancing. Several years later, she suddenly deserted Leslie and his son.

Leslie searched for Winifred in every town where he happened to be singing, but despite desperate attempts to trace her, he never found her, and eventually divorced her in 1931, citing Trevor Davey as co-respondent. Leslie was granted custody of Keith, who decided on his sixth birthday that he never wanted to see his mother again.

After the stability of a regular – if small – salary from D’Oyly Carte, he was now a freelance performer with a small son to support and no regular money to his name. In the D’Oyly Carte Company he was known as Leslie W. Booth, but now he adopted his middle name and became known as Webster Booth on stage, although his family and close friends continued to call him Leslie for the rest of his life. One of his boyhood nicknames was Jammy, and he once signed a photograph “Yours sincerely, Kingy”!

LWB -01

26 May 1939 – Gilbert and Sullivan The scheme of the London Music Festival is designed to embrace all the chief musical activities of the metropolis and it was proper that the popular concerts given by Mr Ernest Makower at the London Museum should have their place in it. The concert given on Wednesday evening was an unusual one, though Mr Makower never keeps to any beaten path in his selection of music for performance. It was felt that no English festival would be really complete if Gilbert and Sullivan was not represented in it. So, with the permission of Mr D’Oyly Carte, Dr Sargent arranged a programme of selections from the famous comic operas. In a preliminary talk, Dr Sargent apologised for going against Sullivan’s expressed wish that his operatic music should not be performed in concert form.

But no excuse was necessary to justify the admirable singing of the extracts by Miss Irene Eisinger, Mr Webster Booth, and Mr George Baker. We do not often hear Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes so well sung in a theatre. Miss Eisinger’s songs reminded us that Sullivan’s heroines descended at no great distance from Mozart’s soubrettes, whom we are accustomed to hearing her sing so delightfully. It was good too to hear the music played by the Boyd Neel orchestra, whose contributions included the delightful patchwork overture, Un Ballo and the Iolanthe overture. There was, as usual, a large and enthusiastic audience.

1953 – The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (film). Robert Morley, Ian Wallace, Owen Brannigan, Harold Williams and voices of Webster Booth, Elsie Morrison, John Cameron.
Webster was annoyed at the billing he was given in this film. He did not appear in it but his voice was dubbed for Colonel Fairfax in the scene from The Yeomen of the Guard and in the final section singing an echoing version of A Wand’ring Minstrel.
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan 

January 1962 When the copyright on Gilbert’s words was lifted at the end of 1961 Webster was asked to present a Gilbert and Sullivan series of programmes on the English Service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

1962 WB radio

1963 Only a few weeks before The Johannesburg Operatic Society was due to open with The Yeomen of the Guard the committee decided that they needed a stronger Colonel Fairfax than the person originally cast in the role. Webster (aged 61) was asked to take over what is essentially the juvenile lead. He was a great success in the role.

2014-03-13_140054

14 June 1963 (from my 5-year diary)

14 jUNE 1963

4 to 14 April 1973 – The Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London, The East London Light Operatic Society, Pamela Emslie, Colin Carney, Bernie Lee, Leigh Evans, Irene McCarthy, Jim Hagerty and Jimmy Nicholas, produced by Webster Booth. The musical director was Jean Fowler.

I had moved to East London at the beginning of 1973 and joined the show at the last minute. I had a very happy reunion with Webster after seven years apart.

Jean Collen 23 August 2018.

 

Mikado, Guild Theatre, East London 1973