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no. 318

Saturday, 18 October 2003

The Bing Boys Are Here,
Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, 16 April 1916

Alfred Lester and George Robey

Programme cover for The Bings Boys Are Here,
with caricatures of Alfred Lester as Oliver and George Robey as Lucifer.

(from original artwork by John Hassall
printed by Hudson & Kearns, London, 1916)

The revue The Bing Boys are Here, 'A Picture of London Life, in a Prologue and Six Panels,' produced at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, on 16 April 1916, was written by George Grossmith and Fred Thompson (after Rip and Bousquet's Le Fils Touffe), with music by Nat D. Ayer, and lyrics by Clifford Gray. Other material was contributed by Eustace Ponsonby, Philip Braham and Ivor Novello, and the production was under the supervision of Gus Sohlke. Besides the principals Alfred Lester, Violet Loraine and George Robey, other members of the cast included Jack Morrison, Ethel Davies, Reginald Crompton, Arthur D'Orville, Joseph Monkhouse, Jack Christie, Gillie Potter, Odette Myrtil, Phyllis Monkman, Maidie Andrews, Buena Bent, Lilian Davies and Blanche Stocker.

The Bing Boys are Here ran successfully for 378 performances. A number of recordings were made for the Columbia label in London by members of the original cast, including Ayer's hugely popular duet 'If Your Were the Only Girl in the World' sung by Violet Loraine and George Robey (Columbia L-1035). Odette Myrtil, playing her violin, also recorded 'The Languid Melody' (Columbia L-1051).

George Robey, Violet Loraine and Alfred Lester

Caricatures of George Robey as Lucifer, Violet Loraine as Emma and Alfred Lester as Oliver
in The Bing Boys are Here, Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, 1916,
in an advertisement for Columbia Records, London, 1916.

(artwork: unknown, 1916)

'There is one characteristic feature about the new Alhambra Revue which sets it apart from most of its kind, inasmuch as it starts with a definite idea which is developed with a certain continuity that gives it a story that is coherent, and in which the leading characters play rôles that are intimately associated with the story of the piece.
'In the prologue we are introduced to the Bing Boys on their native heath, that is, at Binghamton, and what more natural than that the boys should yearn for a more extensive view of life, and to that end inform their parents of their intention to visit London. The initiative is really due to Lucifer, who is a forward boy, while brother Oliver is of a timorous and retiring nature, of lugubrious voice and countenance, and inclined to a morbidly pensive train of thought.
'The gay young Lucifer leaves one aching heart behind him, for Emma, the cook-general in the Bing household, has bestowed her youthful affections on the elder son of the house, and even Lucifer's affectionate farewell cannot charm away her sadness. Then she takes the momentous resolution of trying her luck in London, and she starts on a wayward career which eventually lands her into the Peerage, as the wife of the elderly Duke of Dullwater.
'So it is that when Lucifer and Oliver make their entry into the Embankment Hotel we are not surprised - or should not be - to find Emma there in great form, and known as Miss Fuschia of Valparaiso. There is no mistaking the fact that the Bing Boys are seeing life, for a merrier set of people than those assembled in the Knickerbocker Room are seldom found under the roof of a cosmopolitan caravanserai.
'Emma has now taken to the stage, and has won success under the nom de theatre of Mary McGay, and the Bing Boys, who seem to have the open sesame of the stage door of the Pall Mall Theatre, are being received by Miss McGay in her dressing-room. Lucifer is ardently enamoured of the attractive actress, and would tell her of his love, but Mary has the artistic temperament, and will be made love to after the manner of an operatic scena. Lucifer being deficient in vocal charm, places Oliver behind the screen to sing while he indulges in the actions and gestures of a fashionable tenor.
'A visit to the Zoo naturally falls into the itinerary of the Bing Boys, and, of course, Miss Mary McGay has an equal right to go there if she is so minded. Needless to say the scene is a very picturesque representation of the Mappin Terraces and their occupants [including Phyllis Monkman attired as a cockerel, and members of the chorus as monkeys and lions, leopards and jaguars]. For the last scene, we are in the stately walls of Dullwater House, with Emma as the Duchess, and we may take it that the Bing Boys are considering the advisability of returning to the prosaic environment of Binghampton.
'Such is the rough outline of a story that has as many details as an inventory, and not a single one of these details is anything but a source of amusement. Of course, much depends on the artists, and I do not think I have ever seen either Mr. George Robey or Mr. Alfred Lester to better advantage, while Miss Violet Loraine has absolutely topped her high professional reputation. The cast is full of clever people, and at the risk of being invidious, I must pay tribute to the delightful dancing of Miss Phyllis Monkman.'
(B.W. Findon, The Play Pictorial, no.169, vol.XXVIII, The Bing Boys are Here edition, London, 1916, p.50)

Odette Myrtil

Odette Myrtil (1898-1978), French born violinist, actress and singer,
as she appeared in The Bing Boys are Here,
Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, 1916.

(photo: Daily Mirror Studios, London, 1916)

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