|THE OPENING NIGHT|
|It’s grand opening was held on 29th September
1930. Its pre-opening posters boasted “The Theatre you have been waiting
for”. Talkies and super vaudeville, The Theatre beautiful with 4,000
luxury seats. And an advertisement in the local paper stated “Finsbury
Park Astoria have made elaborate arrangements for the reception of patrons
at the gala performance, Monday 29th September at 7:45pm but the observation
of the following points will ensure greater comfort for all.
1. All reserved seats are sold
2. 2,500 seats are unreserved and can be purchased at the door
3. Prices are 1/-, 1/6 and 2/4d. Please tender the correct money
4. Please don’t push
5. Queueing spaces will be plainly marked on the pavements outside the theatre: please stand inside the lines facing in the direction of the main entrance
6. Doors open at 7pm, the show starts at 7:45pm
7. If you arrive by car from Holloway Road please approach the theatre from Isledon Road. Don’t turn into the main road traffic and cause obstruction
8. Don’t stand in the road, Seven Sisters Road is a busy thoroughfare
9. Please don’t push
10. Once inside the building please pass straight through to your seats
11. Please assist the police in every way
12. If you are amongst those who cannot be seated, please realise that we shall be as sorry as you. Don’t blame us! “Your co-operation, PLEASE”
So on that chilly September evening, 4,000 people packed into what was to be on of North London’s most ornate buildings to witness it’s Gala opening night.
The evening commenced, of course with The National Anthem, sung by Miss Evelyn Arden, who was accompanied by The Astoria Orchestra. A fanfare by The Trumpets of His Majesty’s Life Guards signalled the showing of the first film, Distributed by United Artist Talking Production, “Condemned” starring Ronald Colman and Anne Harding.
The souvenir programme of the evening goes on to describe the next item on the bill as, Autumn, “a silly symphony”. The directors of the picture House Trust Ltd. Present Charles Penley's forth Astoria ensemble, a gala stage spectacular, introducing to Astorians the mass orchestras, Corps de Ballet, and dancing troupes of The Astorias, together with vaudeville artists appearing throughout the week”. (With a note that, with the exception of the vaudeville and concert artists every person appearing upon the stage is in permanent employ of the management)
The programme ran, an orchestral overture “Cleopatra”, the high kicking Astoria Girls, Renee & Godfrey “In steps & tunes”, The O’Gorman Bros “Interrogating Patterers”, Fiddlers Four with all four organists from the four Astorias, The Victoria Girls, Clarkson Rose, a comedian and singer, accompanied by Olive Fox on the piano, Hershel Henlere, a well-known comedian at the time performing “The Last Cord” a musical comedy sketch, Another Overture called “Oberon” followed by “Those Four Chaps” in song, a dance and a joke, featuring Bobbie Comber, Paul England, Eddie Childs and George Neil, Teddy Brown and her Xylophone. Then May Blythe, the principle soprano with The British National Opera Company, and Francis Russell, the principle tenor with The Royal Opera at Covent Garden, performing the love duet from Madame Butterfly. Finally The Astoria Girls dressed up in national costumes of fourteen countries of the British Empire, to perform the finale “Spectacular of the Empire”
In all, there were a ballet corps of eighty plus ten Astoria Girls, eight Victoria Girls and the massed orchestras of 66 from the four Astoria theatres. The conductors, who were: Finsbury Park – “Anton”, Brixton – Fred Kitchen, Old Kent Road – Godowsky and Streatham – Michael Dore. And of course Pattman at the Compton Organ!
A local reporter with The Hornsey Journal summed up the evening very well.
“ On the stage which is as wide as that of Dury Lane Theatre, was a huge structure in the form of a stepped pyramid. The orchestra of over sixty instrumentalists were seated on the front steps of this massive “poop”, and in the concluding items in the programme the sides of the pyramid were lined with exquisitely dressed maidens, representing all the nations of the British Empire.” “ One’s first impression of The Finsbury Park Astoria is of its vastness. It seems that the theatre has a universe all of itself, and it is difficult to convince oneself that the rolling clouds and the twinkling stars above you are not in the sky, but actually very skilfully executed effects in the plaster ceiling. That one is in an elaborately built, open-air theatre in Spain, on a very mild summer evening, might be easily imagined.”
“ Above stretches the Mediterranean blue sky, in which the stars twinkle or the sun shines, according to the will of the chief electrician. And when the fire curtain, which is part of the landscape effect is lowered, the illusion is complete.”
“ To the right and left of the proscenium arch, there straggle away in uneven line, the brilliant roofs of quaint old-fashioned houses. Miniature courtyards and fountains and trailing flowering plants and sun-kissed trees, all help to create the illusion.”
“At the back of the circle is another little house with brilliantly illuminated windows, the operating box, the apertures of which have been cleverly blended into the unusual decorative scheme.”
………………………………A bit over the top, but I think he was impressed!
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