ALL MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS MY COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY IT FOR ANY PURPOSE WHATSOEVER WITHOUT OBTAINING MY PERMISSION! Webster Booth (tenor - 1902-1984) and Anne Ziegler (soprano - 1910-2003) were best known in Britain as duettists on the Variety circuit from 1940 to 1955. During that time they rose rapidly to fame and were frequently heard and seen on radio, records, television, film and stage. Besides this Variety Act, Webster Booth was one of the foremost tenors of his generation and continued to sing in numerous oratorios throughout his career on the Variety circuit. Join The Golden Age of Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler and Friends on Facebook.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Charles S.P. Jenkins suggested that it would be interesting to write about the London Theatres where Anne and Webster appeared - either together or separately. I am grateful to him for compiling these articles. Anything I write in addition to his articles will be in italics. Visit Charles' site on East End Memories at:

Photo: Charles S.P. Jenkins

The Adelphi Theatre on the Strand, originally named the Royal Adelphi, is the third theatre to be built on the same site and opened in December 1930.  The theatre is noted for its art deco décor.  The first production was Charles Cochran’s production of Rogers & Hart’s Evergreen, starring Jessie Matthews.  Musical Comedy continued at the theatre with Noel Coward’s Words and Music and, in 1937 Cochran’s Home and Beauty (Henry Sullivan/Brodszky/AP Herbert), also known as Cochran’s Coronation Review, which introduced Binnie Hale singing A nice cup of tea. Here is the link to YouTube: 

Webster Booth, Janet Lind and Magda Neeld made a recording of gems from this review:

In 1940, the “royal” was dropped and the theatre was known as the Adelphi from then on, but the management continued to present musical comedies, which included Ivor Novello’s The Dancing Years which had commenced in 1939 at another theatre and  re-opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 14 March 1942 running to July 1944.

In 1945 Lee Ephraim presented Anne and Webster in a sumptuous production of a new musical play, Sweet Yesterday with music by Kenneth Leslie Smith. The cast included Doris Hare. James Agate remarked in his review in the Sunday Times on 24 June 1945, “Mr Webster Booth and Miss Anne Ziegler sing delightfully and very, very often!”

Here is Webster’s recording of Morning Glory from the show, which illustrates his vitality and brilliant diction:

Bless the Bride by Vivian Ellis was presented in 1947, the last of the British musicals before the arrival of all the American blockbusters to take London by storm after the war, such as Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun.
During the 1950s, former band leader Jack Hylton presented variety shows starring popular radio and television personalities.  In 1958, Beatrice Lillie appeared as Auntie Mame in the play of the same name which ran for two years.  Following this, a number of successful musicals and musical revues found home at the Adelphi including The Music Man, Blitz, Charlie Girl and A Little Night Music

In 1968 there were plans for the redevelopment of Covent Garden and the Adelphi was  threatened with demolition. Fortunately actors, musicians and theatre owners led a campaign against the demolition of the Adelphi and the theatre was saved. 
I saw Anna Neagle and Derek Nimmo in Charlie Girl in 1966 shortly after my arrival in London, and in 1972 my husband and I saw an excellent production of Showboat at the Adelphi.

On 27th February, 1982, the original D’Oyly Carte Opera Company staged its final performance, a concert performance of songs from each Savoy Opera, as well as Cox and Box and Thespis.  In 1985, Me and My Girl, was successfully revived at the theatre and ran until 1993.  This musical is responsible for introducing The Lambeth Walk to polite society on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1930s. 

Photo: Charles S.P. Jenkins

In 1993, The Really Useful Group purchased the Adelphi and refurbished it for the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard.  Since then, a number of successful musicals have played the Adelphi including revivals of Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and Evita.   Cats was filmed at the theatre in 1998, and included John Mills in the cast in one of his last roles.  Other recent successful productions include a new production of Chicago: 

and the current, Love Never Dies:

Looking at the chronology of musicals presented at the Adelphi and other London theatres over the years makes me realise that I should have been born much earlier as I would have liked to have seen the gentler musicals of the thirties and forties, while I have little enthusiasm for the brasher musicals presented in later years!

Collage by Charles S.P. Jenkins

 Sir Oswald Stoll commissioned architect Frank Matcham to build the London Coliseum on St Martin’s Lane as he hoped to present Music Hall suitable for family entertainment in a grand venue. The theatre, which opened in 1904, is the largest theatre in London with a seating capacity of 2,358.
The theatre had an Italian Renaissance-style exterior, with mosaic marble walls and ceilings, a Grand Salon and a sweeping Grand Escalier.  There were lifts to take the audience to a roof garden, which remained until 1951. At first there was a rotating sphere on top of the exterior tower which was later replaced by a stationary one with flashing lights inside the sphere, to create the illusion that the sphere was still rotating.

Billie Burke
Stoll presented four shows a day to satisfy a curious public, but despite initial success, non-vulgar Music Hall did not fare well in the long run.  In 1906 Stoll introduced a revue created by the producer of the Parisian Folies Bergères, starring American actress, Billie Burke, who later married Florenz Ziegfeld.  This venture proved to be no more successful than the Music Hall and Stoll lost a fortune. 

In 1907 he reopened the theatre, cutting the number of shows each day to two, and began to present more vulgar shows, which proved more attractive to audiences. 
In April 1931, the name of the theatre was changed to the Coliseum and the highly successful operetta The White Horse Inn opened there and played 651 performances.  Although the theatre was bombed twice, it suffered only minor damage, and remained open through World War 2. When Stoll died in January 1942, the theatre was purchased by Prince Littler who presented a number of musicals including Me and My Girl, Maid of the Mountains and The Merry Widow

Prior to the presentation of the American blockbuster, Annie Get Your Gun on 7th June, 1947, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth appeared there for three week’s variety in May. The bill was headed by Henry Hall and his orchestra with Peter Cavanagh, Anne and Webster, accompanied by Charles Forwood, Billy Russell, Ali Bey and Betty Driver.  Critics pointed out that the turns in this variety show were largely known to people because of the artistes’ frequent broadcasts on the Music Hall programme on the BBC.  A critic noted that, “Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, with Charles Forwood at the piano, present a fine vocal act, and are loudly acclaimed.”

As was the trend in other theatres at that time, a succession of American musicals followed Annie get your Gun, including Kiss Me Kate, Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls and The Pyjama Game. The theatre became a Grade II listed building in 1960.
Sadler’s Wells Opera, which presented opera in English, took over the theatre in 1968 and the theatre’s name reverted to the London Coliseum, while Sadler’s Wells’ changed its own name to the English National Opera in 1974. In 1992 English Heritage purchased the theatre for the company. 
In 2004 and 2006, the theatre hosted the Royal Variety Performance.
Collage by Charles S.P. Jenkins

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is the oldest, most historically important and famous theatre in London.  It is at the far end of Catherine Street, which runs parallel to Drury Lane.
The first theatre was built on the site of a riding yard in 1662.  Charles II granted a patent to the theatre-company, which was known as The King’s Servants.  Since the members were considered part of the Royal Household, they were entitled to wear the royal livery of scarlet and gold, which is still worn by the footmen at the theatre today. Mary Meggs, also known as Orange Moll, was licensed to sell fruit to the audience except those in the Upper Galley who might have thrown fruit at bad actors.  Nell Gwynn, one of her employees, became a performer and also mistress of the king.  This theatre was burnt down in 1672.
Sir Christopher Wren designed the second theatre whose foundations are under the present stage where many famous Restoration dramas were presented. In 1747, David Garrick was the actor-manager there for thirty years.  Garrick’s successor, playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan presented his play School for Scandal.  This theatre was demolished in 1791 and in 1794, a new theatre designed by Henry Holland replaced it.  Macbeth with Sarah Siddons and her brother, John Philip Kemble, starred in the opening production.  In 1809, the theatre burned down once again.
The theatre, as it is known today, was built in 1812 with money provided by the brewer, Samuel Whitbread.  It was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and is in the neo-classical style.  Gas lighting was introduced in 1817; the portico was added in 1820; and the Russell Street colonnade in 1831.
In the foyer today there is a statue of Shakespeare, a War Memorial for those connected with the theatre who died during the First World War; in the stalls and circle rotunda are statues and busts of Garrick, Kean, Ivor Novello, Dan Leno amongst others. In 1905, Henry Irving appeared at the theatre in his last season and in 1906, Ellen Terry’s stage jubilee was presented.
Between 1924 and 1931, under Sir Alfred Butt, a number of American musicals were presented. These included Rose Marie, The Desert Song, Show Boat and The New Moon.  Dumas’s The Three Musketeers with music by Rudolf Friml, book by William Anthony McGuire, and lyrics by P. G Wodehouse and Clifford Grey, opened at the Theatre Royal on Friday 28 March 1930. The show was directed by Sir Alfred.
Dennis King as D'Artagnan

Dennis King, was born in Birmingham, but had risen to stardom in the States, and returned to England to play the leading role of D’Artagnan. He had already played the role with great success in New York.  Others in the cast included Lilian Davies, Arthur Wostner, Marie Ney, Adrienne Brune and Raymond Newell. Webster Booth made his West End debut in the show, playing the role of the Duke of Buckingham.  A critic remarked on, “the romantic Buckingham of Mr Webster Booth, singing suavely in a solo, Queen of my Heart”.

Adrienne Brune & Dennis King sing "Your Eyes" from "The Three Musketeers"

Webster Booth and Lilian Davies in "The Three Musketeers"

Scene from "The Three Musketeers"

Unfortunately Webster only played this role for three months because Sir Alfred Butt could not obtain his release from a previously signed Blackpool summer show contract for Ernest Butcher and Muriel George.  His part was taken over by Yorkshire tenor, Robert Naylor and, regretfully, Webster went to Blackpool to fulfill his contract on the Central Pier. All was not entirely wasted as he took the hit from the show with him, and a critic observed, “Webster Booth delights with his fine rendering of A Wand’ring Minstrel and Queen of My Heart…”

Webster Booth (Duke of Buckingham), Marie Ney (Milady) in The Three Musketeers.

Robert Naylor and his wife, Cecilia. Robert Naylor took over the role of the Duke of Buckingham when Webster left the show.

After The Three Musketeers closed, Richard Tauber appeared in Lehar’s The Land of Smiles, and the thirties continued with Noel Coward’s Cavalcade, and a string of Ivor Novello musicals. The theatre became the headquarters of ENSA during WW2, and suffered considerable bombing damage during the war. It was restored after the war and opened again on 19 December 1946.
Oklahoma! opened following the post-war demand of audiences for all things American, and was followed by other Rogers & Hammerstein musicals.  My Fair Lady and Camelot played here and in 1989 Miss Saigon became the theatre’s longest running musical. 

Collage by Charles S.P. Jenkins

The Winter Garden Theatre stood on Drury Lane and was surrounded by many streets bearing the names of thespians of the past.  Eventually the site was redeveloped and the new complex included a theatre, The New London, which opened in January 1973, so although there is still a theatre in that spot, the New London Theatre has little to do with the Winter Garden.
Since Elizabethan times, the site of the Winter Gardens had seen numerous taverns and Music Halls, such as the Great Mogul, which was frequented by Nell Gwynn, Charles II’s favourite. In 1847, the Mogul Saloon, also known as the Turkish Saloon or Mogul Music Hall was built on the site and in 1851 the building was renamed the Middlesex Music Hall, affectionately known as The Old Mo.  In 1911, Oswald Stoll asked Frank Matcham to rebuild the theatre and renamed it the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties.  In 1919, Stoll sold the theatre to George Grossmith Junior (son of the D’Oyly Carte artiste, George Grossmith) and Edward Laurillard. Grossmith and Laurillard built their own theatre on this site and named it the Winter Garden Theatre.
        The first production at the new theatre was Kissing Time, a musical play by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton.  This was followed by a number of musical comedies including Sally, The Cabaret Girl and Vivian Ellis’ Follow a star with Sophie Tucker.  In 1927, Rudolf Friml’s operetta, The Vagabond King was presented at the theatre and in 1932.  
The Winter Garden was closed for most of the 1930s and reopened in 1942 with Peter Pan with Alastair Sim as Captain Hook. 
Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth as Katherine and Francois Villon in the revival of The Vagabond King (1943). A duet from The Vagabond King:


Webster Booth pointed out in his joint autobiography with Anne Ziegler, Duet, that the Winter Garden had been in the hub of theatre land in the 1920s, but by the time the revival of Tom Arnold’s production of The Vagabond King opened there in 1943, theatre land had moved west and not many people (including taxi drivers) knew where the theatre was any more.
The production had been on an extensive tour of the United Kingdom before it opened at the Winter Garden on 22 April 1942. Unfortunately, on the first night of the tour in Blackpool, Webster was struck on the throat during a sword fight on stage  with John Oliver. He lost his voice and his part was taken temporarily by Derek Oldham, who had played Villon originally in the original production in 1927. The following song became the Booths' signature tune:
The show received excellent notices, but Webster complained about the theatre being very uncomfortable. Anne was so concerned with the sanitation that she called in a sanitary inspector! Despite the success of the show it closed in July. Webster was sure that the show closed prematurely because the Winter Garden Theatre was no longer in theatre land. He realised that the role was too heavy for his light tenor voice and thought the early closure was a blessing in disguise as he might have ruined his voice had he continued singing it for a longer time.

In 1946, the play No Room at the Inn, which dealt with the evacuation of children during the war, was presented at the theatre.  In 1953, one of the three Agatha Christie plays showing in London was Witness for the Prosecution.  In 1956, Tyrone Power appeared in George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil Disciple, but in 1959, the theatre was when the Rank Organisation sold the building to developers.  The interior was gutted and the building remained empty until 1965.  
        A building complex designed by Michael Percival, which included shops, flats, restaurants and an entirely new theatre, called the New London Theatre was built on the site.  It opened in January 1973. It was different from the playhouses of yesteryear. One third of the auditorium floor can revolve, while the walls are composed of moveable panels, so that the very shape of the amphitheatre can be changed.
Other productions at the Winter Garden Theatre.
Collage by Charles S.P. Jenkins       
The New Theatre has been home to numerous successful productions, including The Unknown Soldier and His Wife, Grease, and Cats (1981-2002). The National Theatre’s production of War Horse currently plays there to capacity audiences.
Charles S.P. Jenkins

Bergan Ronald, The Great Theatres of London, revised edition, Andre Deutsch, 2004'Oyly_Carte_Opera_Company