The curtain fell for the last time on Dublin’s Theatre Royal sixty years ago. Thomas Myler shares the story of the demolished building and some of the renowned artists that treaded its boards, as well as some that didn’t!
When the gold-tasselled red curtain followed by the heavy safety curtain came down on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Dublin for the last time at 10.40 pm on the night of June 30th, 1962, it was the end of an era.
A link was cut on that night sixty years ago for generations of fans who attended the Hawkins Street cine-variety venue where they could watch a movie, enjoy a stage show and have a meal, all for the price of a single ticket. The Palace of Dreams was no more, and soon the bulldozers would move in.
With a seating capacity of almost 4,000, making it the largest entertainment venue in Europe with the sole exception of one in Germany, a visit to the Royal not only for Dubliners, but country folk and many visitors from abroad was essential.
Stars who appeared at the Royal reads like the index to a who’s who of entertainment. There were the popular singers of the day, the crooners, the rock ’n’ rollers, the classical singers, the operatic stars, the comedians, the big orchestras.…the list goes on and on.
It was said in the entertainment business, not only here but abroad, that if you hadn’t appeared on the Royal, then you hadn’t made it internationally. Some even had visits built into their contracts.
One of the most popular visiting artistes was Danny Kaye, who was on a British tour, culminating in shows at the London Palladium. Royal manager Louis Elliman had met him on a visit to Hollywood and he had given Elliman a promise that the Theatre Roya would definitely be on his list when he came to Europe.
With his idiosyncratic style of delivery and pleasant voice, with hit records to his name, Kaye agreed to appear for one week, with two shows daily. It seemed a punishing schedule but Kaye took it all in his stride.
There was a huge demand for tickets, with long queues in Hawkins Street and adjoining Poolbeg Street. Postal bookings were so heavy that the management had to employ extra staff to cope with the demand.
During rehearsals Kaye seemed genuinely nervous of the theatre’s vast size, and hoped he would be heard at the back and in the balconies. But his worries proved unjustified. From the moment he walked out on stage to thunderous applause, he had conquered his audiences.
Several of his shows went on until nearly midnight, bringing wide smiles to the faces of taxi drivers who did a roaring trade. With the buses off the road, taxis ferried customers not only across the city but down the country as well.
The tenor, Richard Tauber, also did a short season. Contrary to popular belief, Tauber was not a German but an Austrian from Linz.
He won over his audiences from the outset, with warm applause for his renditions of songs he was associated with, including My Heart and I, You Are My Heart’s Delight and Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss.
George Formby, the Lancashire entertainer with his saucy songs while strumming his ukulele, played the Royal several times to much acclaim. Formby’s manager was his domineering wife, Beryl, who was always hovering in the wings, making sure her husband did not get too close to any of the chorus girls, the Royalettes. In his retirement, he lived for some years in Foxrock, Co. Dublin. The house was called Beryldene.