Top 5 Vintage St. Patrick’s Day Songs

Looking for some classic tunes to accompany tonight’s festivities? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our top five vintage songs that are perfect for a Patty’s Day celebration.

1. The Wearing of the Green

While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of renditions of this 1798 Irish ballad, we’re personally partial to this 1940 version by Judy Garland. The tune laments the oppression of the supporters of the Irish Rebellion, and as such is an important bit of history for anyone who wants a true understanding of the wearing of the green. The jazzy score and silky voice of Miss Garland keep the song from being too dreary, making it a perfect addition to our list.

2. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Originally published in 1912, it became famous during WWI when recorded by John McCormack. We like Bing’s sultry version, recorded in 1939.

3. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary 

You can’t have an Irish song list and not include one by John McCormack. This is another song that was first recorded during WWI, and became popular again during the second World War.

4. Danny Boy

While the lyrics to this ancient Irish melody also originate from the first World War, you would be hard-pressed to find someone today who isn’t familiar with it; more than maybe any other on this list, it has proven to have a lasting popularity, and has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash. We chose this Jim Reeves version as we think it incorporates the more modern (eg. mid century) style we like with the classic tune, beautifully.

5. My Wild Irish Rose

And finally, another Irish folk ballad, here sung by the charming Connie Francis.

Have a safe and happy St.Patrick’s Day!

 

Cast Spotlight: Elizabeth Rose Morris

elizabeth-rose-morriss-headshotElizabeth Rose Morriss plays uptight Gertrude Baldwin in His Girl Friday. You may remember Liz from her role as Miss Kentley in Rope and as a performer in our Vaudeville Revue, as well as numerous Retro Radio Hours. She is also currently on the Bygone Theatre Board of Directors.

Bio: Elizabeth Rose Morriss most recently performed as Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music (Confidential Musical Theatre Project), as Adella in The Little Mermaid (Lower Ossington Theatre), and as Margot Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (Plain Stage Theatre Company). Previous Bygone Theatre roles include Miss Kentley in Rope, singer in the Vaudeville Revue, and a regular performer in their Retro Radio Hour shows.
She has degrees in Music Theatre (Acadia University) and Education (Nipissing University), is currently on the Board of Directors of Bygone Theatre, and does Marketing for the Toronto Confidential Musical Theatre Project. Keep up with Elizabeth online: Twitter and Instagram @lizrosemorriss, and facebook.com/elizabethrosemorriss.

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How did you hear about Bygone Theatre and this production of His Girl Friday?

Emily Dix directed a play I was in with Newborn Theatre, and I’ve been happy to be involved since the beginning of Bygone Theatre! I’m currently on the Board of Directors, and was intrigued from the first time Emily announced His Girl Friday as the next mainstage play.

What made you want to be involved?/ what do you love about the story?

I love the snappy, very stylized 1940s dialogue. The whole script is so witty and fast-paced, it’s a lot of fun!

What’s your favourite old movie?

I love a lot of old movies, mostly musicals, but my favourite has to be Singin’ in the Rain.

Have you been in a show like this before? What else might people have seen you in recently?

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Ian McGarret as Mr. Kentley and Elizabeth Rose Morriss as Miss Kentley in Rope, 2014.

In 2014, I played Miss Kentley in Bygone Theatre’s production of Rope—different decade and not a comedy, but also a period piece, and also a play with a classic movie version. Most recently I played Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music (Confidential Musical Theatre Project), Adella in The Little Mermaid (Lower Ossington Theatre), and was a singer in Bygone’s Vaudeville Revue.

Why should people come and see the show?

For fun, entertaining vintage comedy!

See Liz live onstage this March in His Girl Friday – tickets available online.

His Girl Friday Costume Designs: Finding Vintage Fabric

As any of you who have seen one of our past shows knows, I care a lot about having costumes that are as authentic looking as possible. I’ve done past posts on how to fake a vintage style with more recent clothes or patterns, and on what types of fabric were common to a certain era – but where do you go to find that fabric? As I’ve been scouring the web looking for answers to that very question, I thought I’d share my best finds here.

Reproduction Fabrics

Don’t be dissuaded by their dated looking website, reproductionfabrics.com is an amazing resource if you’re looking for vintage or antique styled patterned fabric. From the late 1700s through to the 1950s, they have a selection of fabric that covers nearly every style and colour, and for very reasonable prices. Some are actual reproductions of old patterns and some appear to be “in the style of”, either way, this should be one of your first stops if you need vintage, patterned, fabric.

American Folk and Fabric

Another good source for reproduction designs in americanfolkandfabric.com. I found they had “frillier” fabrics than Reproduction Fabrics – lots of florals in pink, that sort of thing – so depending on what you’re looking for this could be perfect, or may miss the boat.

Antique Fabric

Depending on the project, you may prefer actual vintage or antique fabric to a reproduction. In this case, you’re likely going to find smaller amounts and a higher price, and remember, the condition won’t compare to what you get from a reproduction. While for costumes I’d always opt for a modern-made fabric, I certainly see the appeal of the real thing. If you’re looking for variety, check out antiquefabric.com. Well indexed and with a wide-variety of fabrics from periods ranging from the 1800 through to the 1960s, you’re very likely to find something you’ll want. Sadly, most of the pieces I found drool-worthy were not big enough to make what I’d like. But if you want some authentic pillows or accessories, even a blouse that takes only a yard or two, this is your spot.

Spoonflower

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, you can try creating your own design and printing it through spoonflower.com. This site allows you to upload designs that you can print for yourself on a number of types of fabric (plus wallpaper and wrapping paper), and has the additional option of allowing you to sell your designs to others through the site (you get a commission). Try searching through what others have made, or upload your own!

Most quilting sites also offer a selection of vintage & antique styles, though I’ve found it isn’t necessarily as accurate as some of these other sites. But if you know what you’re looking for and have a particular style in mind, Equilter and Hancocks-Paducah can be great resources.

Happy searching!

-E.

Bygone Theatre Holiday Auction

Bygone Theatre’s Holiday Auction is just around the corner! We’ve got something for everyone, with some bids starting as low as $5. Wide range of items including theatre tickets to shows produced by Buddies in Bad Times, Scarborough Music Theatre, Hart House Theatre, Crow’s Theatre and Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre; vintage items from Tucked Away Antiques like signed photos of classic Hollywood stars and vintage movie posters; charming themed gift baskets; getaway packages to New York, Tuscany and Sonoma, and much more!

Proceeds go towards our upcoming production of His Girl Friday, running March 2-5, 2017. This is a big show with a big cast – 18 actors! – and so we have a lot of work to do. Help support local theatre while doing  your Christmas shopping from the comfort of your own home! Auction runs online from 9:00am Thursday December 8th to 2pm on Saturday December 10th – bid at bygonetheatre2016.eflea.ca.

 

Retro Radio Hour – Creature Feature

Kicking off our 2016/17 season is Retro Radio Hour – Creature Feature! Join us for an evening of vintage radio plays, oldies music, magic AND our season announcement – learn how you can get involved in our mainstage productions.

Show is on Monday October 24th at the Imperial Pub, 54 Dundas St. E. Doors open at 8pm, and as always tickets are only $5. Check out our Facebook event for more details.

Hope to see you there!

Performer Spotlight: Nicole Byblow

Today’s performer spotlight is on one of our Retro Radio Hour regulars, Nicole Byblow. A trained singer and huge Judy Garland fan, Byblow is performing two songs that (while written in the 1910s) Judy performed in her early films.

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Gene Kelly & Judy Garland performing a Vaudeville routine in For Me And My Gal

Bio: Nicole Byblow is a graduate of the Berklee affiliate Selkirk College Contemporary Music and Technology program in Nelson, British Columbia. She works in Toronto as a pianist and singer.

Among her career highlights Nicole counts performing at the Juno Awards Industry Gala and recording and performing with Juno award winner Buck 65.

She is thrilled to have had the opportunities, through her involvement with Bygone Theatre, to perform her favourite music from the golden era of show business.

Want to catch Nicole Byblow onstage? Get your tickets online now – only 2 shows left!

Performer Spotlight: Anuka

Early 20th century Americans (and Canadians) had a taste for the “exotic”, and so bellydancing was a popular act of the Vaudeville stage. While some performers were true bellydancers, hailing from the middle East and other foreign regions, many were simply flappers who realized the audience’s interest in revealing costumes and (at the time) scandalous dance moves. One of the most famous of the era was Margaretha Zelle, better known by her stage name, Mata Hari; she’s one to look up if you like scandal, mystery and intrigue.

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Mata Hari

As for our Vaudeville Revue, we are lucky to have the very talented, Anuka.

Anuka is a Toronto-based bellydancer. She performs as a soloist and is also the choreographer for her troupe Mirage, creating original dances every year for a variety of shows which have included the International Bellydance Conference of Canada, Ad Astra, Fan Expo, Steam on Queen, and her own productions (Moonlight Mirage in 2014, Twilight Mirage in 2011, Midnight Mirage in 2010 , and Winter Mirage in 2009). 

Tonight Anuka will perform Vintage Oriental Style bellydance. North America developed a unique style of bellydance which mixed influences from many different Middle Eastern countries and the dancers’ own creativity. This style, known as Vintage Oriental Stye or American Cabaret, includes movements drawn from variety of regional dances. The music was mix of popular and traditional melodies from different cultures, including Middle Eastern, Persian, Turkish, and Armenian songs. Some distinctive elements of a Vintage Oriental show are veil dances, floorwork, sword dances, and finger cymbals.

www.anukadance.net

Want to see Anuka onstage? Get your tickets to Vaudeville Revue today.

Toronto’s Top 10 Lost Vaudeville Theatres

In planning for Vaudeville Revue we’ve learned a lot about Toronto’s former Vaudeville theatres that have disappeared over the years. Whether they were converted into something for a new use or demolished altogether, the are very few Vaudeville palaces still standing in our city today.

Here’s a look at some of the greats that have been lost over the past century.

1. Shea’s Hippodrome

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Shea’s Hippodrome – 440 Bay St., Toronto

When Shea’s Hippodrome opened in 1914 it was Vaudeville theatre in Canada was was quickly deemed one of the top 4 in North America. Sadly, this colossal beauty had a short life;  the Hippodrome was demolished in 1957. For an interesting story about its very unique and very expensive Wurlitzer Organ, check this out.


2. The Standard (The Strand, The Victory, Victory Burlesque)

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The Standard – Corner of Spadina & Dundas, Toronto

The Standard opened in 1921 as a Yiddish theatre and remained a centre of Toronto’s Jewish community until it was converted to a cinema in 1934 and renamed The Strand. In 1941 it was rebranded again, this time as The Victory, part of the Twentieth Century Theatre chain. In 1961 it became the Victory Burlesque, one of only 3 burlesque houses in the city. While the building still remains, the theatre closed its doors permanently in 1975.

3. Shea’s Victoria

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Shea’s Victoria – 83 Victoria St., Toronto

 

The Shea Brothers opened their second theatre, Shea’s Victoria, on the corner of Richmond and Victoria in 1910. This 1800 seat theatre included a projector so that films could be screened in addition to live theatre performances.

4. The Uptown

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The Uptown Theatre – Corner of Yonge & Bloor

Loew’s Uptown Theatre opened in 1920, a 3000 seat sister theatre to The Pantages (currently the Ed Mirvish Theatre). This one as well was created for both cinema and Vaudeville. In 2001, new regulations required the theatre to become wheelchair accessible, something that would have cost about $700 000. Despite community outcries, the theatre was demolished in 2003. Sadly, the ill-advised removal of a structural beam lead to its accidental collapse and resulted in the death of a 27 year old man.

5. The Belsize (Regent, Crest)

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The Belsize – 551 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto

The Belsize Theatre opened in 1927, another venue for theatre and film. Unlike many on this list, The Belsize didn’t turn from live theatre to film, but the other way around. In the 1950s the only theatre of note showing live theatre was The Royal Alexandra (who showed primarily American shows and tours) and many felt that a place was needed to showcase Canadian theatre. In 1953 the venue ceased showing films and was renovated and reopened as The Crest, a live theatre venue. In 1971 films began showing again and in 1988 it was again renovated and reopened, this time as The Regent, a movie theatre that still stands today.

6. The Runneymede

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The Runnymede – 2225 Bloor St. West, Toronto

The Runnymede Theatre opened in 1927 as an “atmospheric Vaudeville”house, the first of its kind in Toronto. The venue was meant to make you feel as though you were transported to somewhere magical and exotic; the ceiling was painted blue and bulbs were lit up like stars, silver and blue lights were projected to give the feeling of clouds. By 1999, the theatre was no longer profitable, even as a 2-screen cinema. The building was purchased by a Chapters Bookstore, and in the conversion they kept and maintained much of the interior. Today, it is the location of a Shoppers Drug Mart, and while it still features much of the original trim and interior facade, there’s something very sad looking about its current appearance.

7. Capitol Theatre

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The Capitol Theatre – 2492 Yonge St., Toronto

The Capitol opened in 1918 and showed Vaudeville acts and silent films. By 1933, the theatre was converted to show only films. The theatre closed its doors in 1998 and remained empty for several years, before finally being purchased, undergoing major renovations and reopening as The Capitol Event Theatre. While the seats were removed and a bar installed, much of the original ornate interior remains, much like it does at the Runnymede.

8. Academy Theatre

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The Academy – 1286 Bloor St. W, Toronto

The Academy opened in 1914, a smaller venue than most on the list with only 410 seats. It’s not known when exactly the theatre stopped showing Vaudeville acts, or when it stopped operating as a cinema, but it is likely to have occurred sometime after the 1960s. The venue still stands, though has not operated as a theatre in years.

9. Variety (Arcadian) Theatre

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The Arcadian (formerly Variety) Theatre – 8-10 Queen St. East

I have significantly less information on this theatre, but it housed in a building built in the late 1880s, and was likely built before the 1920s. In the late 1920s its name was changed to The Arcadian, and it seems that by the 30s it was a cinema and no longer live venue. The theatre closed in 1954 and for some time had a retail show that used the old sign. However, it has since been demolished.

10. Madison Theatre (The Midtown, The Capri, The Eden, Bloor Cinema, Hot Docs Cinema)

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The Madison Theatre – 506 Bloor St. W, Toronto

The Madison has had more renos and new names than most on this list. It originally opened in 1913, an early Picture Palace that also featured Vaudeville acts. In 1940 it was demolished and rebuilt as The Midtown, a cinema; all that remained of the original building were the two side walls. Movie attendance declined in the second half of the 20th century, and in the 1960s it was under the new management of the Famous Players chain and renamed the Capri. In 1973 it was again re-branded, this time as The Eden, and the theatre switched from playing mostly double-bills to a heavily censored “adult”films. Come 1979, Famous Players closed The Eden and re-opened it as The Bloor Cinema, now offering first-run, family-friendly entertainment. Soon the theatre introduced memberships and classic theatre runs, and eventually became a part of the Festival Theatre circuit. In the late 2000s the theatre had a bit of an uncertain future (read more here), but eventually it was bought, renovated, and re-opened as what it stands as today; The Hot Docs Cinema.

Think we missed some important former Vaudeville theatres? Tweet us your suggestions; @BygoneTheatre #VaudevilleRevue

Want to learn more about Toronto’s theatre history? Check out this amazing blog, where I sourced a lot of our material; Historic Toronto.

We may not have a Vaudeville house to perform in, but we’ll have historic acts on our stage and artifacts and more history like this in our lobby; join us for Vaudeville Revue, June 22-24th, Alumnae Theatre. Tickets on sale now.

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Vaudeville Revue – June 22-24, 2016