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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

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Shows


centurion
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Listening the other day to BBC programme on Irving Berlin's WW2 Army Show. There was an interesting reference to his WW1 show Yip Yip Yahank including a recording of Berlin singing a number (I hate to get up in the morning) that spanned the two shows. As well as entertaining the troops Yip Yip Yahank had some success on Broadway. It put me to thinking – there was a British musical "Coming Together" Writen and produced by Ian Beth Hay, a sometime collaborator of PG Wodehouse's, who had seen action and won an MC, it too played Broadway with success in 1917/18. It included a lifesize replica of a MkIV female tank Although most of them were on army pay the cast of both productions contained professionals with some previous theatrical experience. Now I'm well aware that the British army was awash with concert parties and the like but were there any other 'military' productions in WWI of either Broadway or Dury Lane standard?

Come to that did the Germans or French do anything similar? [springtime for Hindenburg perhaps!]
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centurion

If I could add a smidgeon to your question,I am reading "Drawing Fire" by Len Smith, of the Shiny 7th, Londons,and he mentions a couple of times a concert party called Lena Ashwell Party,and I wonder if anyone knows of this group or of it's standard of accomplishment.

Sotonmate

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Kate

Thank you and my apologies - I haven't yet entered the Music and Entertainment threads !

(but I have now !).

Sotonmate

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I've written a fair bit on Lena Ashwell on the Forum. A quick search should return a few threads.

Both Lena and post-war ex-military shows are discussed on the Music & Entertainment thread

Thanks for this, but, as I said, I'm well aware of the plethora of concert parties and the like during the war (not post war) but what I'm trying to find out if there were any 'professional' shows during the war at the Broadway or Dury Lane level other than Yip Yip Yahank and Coming Together. Both these shows appear to have been great successes getting favourable reviews from the regular theatre critics and, it seems, spawning songs that outlived the war.

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Theatre was certainly active during the war, including pantomimes offered at major London venues, often for the sake of the children. Some pantomimes were specifically held as a treat for the children of men serving abroad. I have an account of one which included the song 'Keep the home fires burning' alongside 'God save the King'. Sometimes the London ones were attended by royalty or by Lady Jellicle, Lady French or members of their families.

The tercentenary of William Shakespeare was marked in 1916, though I suspect that the choice of plays may have been topical: 'Julius Caesar' was performed at Drury Lane alongside a mixed pageant including many leading actors. Elsewhere, Stratford ran performances, in Dublin there was a production of 'Henry V', and there was a Shakespeare Festival of Mercy where medals were sold for war funds. There were other events and performances, partly because Shakespeare fulfilled a useful role as a national hero and would focus patriotic feelings. I think the tercentenary was even marked in Berlin.

In early 1915, a performance took place in London to benefit the American Women's War Hospital, including a specially written 'Masque of War and Peace' in which elements of nature were personified as Hate, Friendship, Frightfulness (= War), Peace. It raised £4000.

Opera was still going strong several years into the war. For example, Beecham was active, conducting a season of Grand Opera In English, incuding Mozart and Wagner. In 1918, Beecham was fined £5 for driving his motor car to a venue in contravention of the Gas and Petroleum Restriction Order. His defence was that he was in a hurry to get from his home to The Strand and then to Drury Lane for a rehearsal.

Many performances throughout the war are listed with a note that proceeds are going to various servicemen's support charities and well known performers would give special matinées to raise funds for a cause dear to them. You also often see shows advertised as being 'in their 11th successful month' or similar; 'Chu Chin Chow' is an example.

This is just a sample, as I'm not sure whether it's what you seek.

(After the war, drill halls were often used for performances to raise money for benevolent causes supporting ex-servicemen or bereaved families. I have examples.)

Gwyn

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