West End hit shows of 1945 - like now the war closed many theatres but they soon bounced back

As the nation prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday May 8, take a look at what was in the West End all those years ago.

Then as now many of London's theatres closed - but bounced back as soon as it could.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

1 Windmill TheatreGreat Windmill Theatre, Soho, London‘Never closed, never clothed’ was the motto of the famous revue theatre.The Windmill is famous for the fact that it was the only theatre in London which never closed during the war, except for the 12 compulsory days between September 4 September 16 during the Blitz.The theatre was owned by Laura Henderson who hired a new theatre manager, Vivian Van Damm, to run it.Their story is retold in Mrs Henderson Presents starring Dame Judi Dench and the late Bob Hoskins.The venue was bombed in October 1940, singer and dancer Joan Jay was badly injured and spent four months in hospital. But as soon as she was discharged, she returned to the stageMany prominent British comedians of the post-war years started their careers working at this theatre.These include Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine, George Martin, Bruce Forsyth, Arthur English, Tommy Cooper, and Barry Cryer.Mrs Henderson Presents available on DVD

2 Ivy Benson Big BandThe London PalladiumFirst all-female swing band was led by Leeds-born Ivy Benson.It became the BBC’s resident dance band in 1943, and were top of the bill at the London Palladium for six months in 1944.In 1945 the band were the first entertainers invited to perform at the VE Day celebrations in Berlin at the request of Field Marshal Montgomery, and on Christmas Day that year they performed for a live BBC Radio broadcast from Hamburg immediately after the King’s speech.During World War Two she received 300 letters a week from British servicemen stationed overseas.Recordings available on CD

Internationally renowned Leader of Ivy Benson and her All Girls Dance BandInternationally renowned Leader of Ivy Benson and her All Girls Dance Band
Internationally renowned Leader of Ivy Benson and her All Girls Dance Band

3 Perchance to DreamHippodrome , opened April 21, 1945Most shows shipped out of the West End and toured te UK during the Second World War – with many returning once the worst of the bombing was over.Perchance to Dream was written and starred the great Ivor Novello.Set in a Georgian stately home. InRegency days Sir Graham Rodney, a highwayman, falls in love with his cousin much to thechagrin of his mistress. Songs include We’ll Gather Lilacs – a favourite wartime tune – and the Glo Glo.Available on DVD

Ivor NovelloIvor Novello
Ivor Novello

4 Me and My GirlVictoria Palace from August 6, 1945This was the second revival of the Noel Gay musical about a Cockney barrow boy who finds out he is lord of the manor. It has been revived many times. Songs include Lambeth Walk and Leaning on a Lamppost.

Recordings available.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Noel GayNoel Gay
Noel Gay

5 Follow the GirlsHis Majesty’s October 25, 1945British sailor Goofy Gale is posted toLong Island USA. It starred Arthur Askey.  Songs included You’re Perf, I Wanna Get Married.Watch Askey on Youtube

Related topics: