They played the most important unused theatre in the UK
Gallery: shows



Brighton Hippodrome shows
Hippodrome programme 1904

  American acts were drawn to the Hippodrome in its early days. The great Harry Houdini topped the bill in the week beginning 5 December 1904. Bert Leslie, another American, described by the New York Times in 1910 as playing 'a disreputable, slang-slinging Bowry bum', went on to a successful career on Broadway. Other top Americans who appeared at the Hippodrome included Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy (although Stan Laurel came, of course, from Ulverston). Also on this bill, the Carina Sisters came over from the Continent. Ergotti and King Luis were a 'Risley' act, in which one acrobat lies on the stage and juggles objects such as barrels or other acrobats with his feet. Note also the inclusion of 'animated pictures of the latest subjects'—a selection of short films had a regular spot in the show.

This programme from 1911 still has films ('Hippodrome Pictures') with orchestral accompaniment as the last item ('time permitting') but also includes John Tiller's Sunshine Girls—yes, that's the Tiller Girls, best remembered for their weekly appearances on ITV's Sunday Night at the London Palladium from 1955 to 1967. Top act was male impersonator Vesta Tilley, whose husband, Walter de Frece, was now the owner of the Hippodrome.

Elephant at station
In December 1934 Lord John Sanger's Circus and Menagerie was at the Hippodrome. The elephants arrived by rail and trooped down to Middle Street.
This was not the last circus to appear at the Hippodrome, which still has a (disused) elephant house and ramp behind Hippodrome House.
      Further circuses appeared at Christmas 1936 and in February 1944, October 1946 and September 1947. In the week before the last circus, the show was Henry Hall's Guest Night, broadcast live on the BBC Light Programme during Tuesday's first house.

Hippodrome ad 1941-10-25
Johnny Worthy, one of the stars of Revue Frivolities from October 1941, was the father of Johnny Worthy, a trustee of actors' union Equity and one of the Our Brighton Hippodrome campaign team.

The report (right) from the Sussex Advertiser is typical of the write-ups that newspapers gave of the weekly programmes at all the local theatres, usually listing all the acts.

  Sussex Express

Hippodrome programmes Programme covers remained the same for several months with the same adverts on the inside and back cover pages. Only the inner four pages with the current show were changed.
Programme cover 1948
  Programme cover 1951
  Hippodrome programme 1952-53
Programme cover
  Programme cover 1957
1957 plays
  Programme cover 1957
1957 variety
Hippodrome posters

Hippodrome poster Max Miller
Max Miller, 'Brighton's Own', was a regular. He first topped the bill in the week of 6 April 1942 and was back again on 17 August that year. He was at the Hippodrome three times in 1943, in November billed as 'straight from his great success at the London Palladium'. That great radio ventiloquist Peter Brough was in that show, called Variety Comes Back. This poster was for the show in May 1952.
  Hippodrome poster DRB
The Deep River Boys had been in the new Queen Elizabeth's first Royal Variety Performance only two weeks before they headlined at the Hippodrome in November 1952. Note the sensitively coy bill matter: 'America's famous sepia harmony team'.
    A later member of the group, Eddie Whaley Jr, was born in Brighton. His American father, also Eddie, was half of the first black act, Scott and Whaley, to star in a British film.
     This was still a time when radio stars were better known than their television counterparts.

  Poster Bassey
Shirley Bassey, then only 21, topped the bill in the week from 27 October 1958.
Sleeping Beauty
The pantomime—a tradition revived after the war—for the 1954/55 season was Sleeping Beauty. You can read Shirley Jaffe's memory of appearing as the wicked witch in this panto here.
  Hancock poster
By 1961 Tony Hancock was the most popular comedian on radio and TV. Despite this shift in popular taste, the variety show line-up was much as it had been for the previous 60 years.
     The revolution was about to come...
  Hipposrome poster Helen Shapiro 1962
Pop acts now started to be the big draw: Helen Shapiro and Gary Miller in 1962, with the 'rocking' Red Price Combo, which had been a major element in Lord Rockingham's XI.
Emile Ford
Lonnie Donegan
Two 1960 shows from consecutive weeks.
For a time Brian Epstein's acts dominated theatrical tours. The Billy J Kramer Pop Parade was at the Hippodrome in the week from 1 December 1963.
  Frog Prince
The panto that opened on 21 December 1963 was the last at the Hippodrome.
Hippodrome Roy Orbison ad
Roy Orbison was due to top the bill on 2 June 1963 but The Beatles rose to fame so quickly; From Me To You was in its fourth week at no 1, having replaced How Do You Do It? by Gerry and the Pacemakers in the top spot. Only four months earlier, the 'dynamic' Beatles had been well down the bill, supporting Helen Shapiro around the north of England.
  Beatles programme

Brighton Hippodrome Rolling Stones
By this time, the really big pop acts did single shows on Sundays, between the six-day weekly variety. The Stones, joined by Mary Wilde and Kenny Lynch, were at the Hippodrome on 19 July 1964.
  Dusty Springfield poster
The High Numbers, supporting Dusty Springfield on 23 August 1964, soon changed their name to . . . The Who.
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