Rivalry ends with two summer shows

Recently this page outlined the rivalry between music publishers Lawrence Wright and Bert Feldman in the Blackpool entertainment scene of the 1920s.

Friday, 13th May 2016, 4:59 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2016, 6:01 pm
Feldman's Theatre

The resort was the main source of the fortunes made by Wright and Feldman in selling sheet music of popular songs.

It led to some conspicuous one-upmanship. In 1923, Feldman built Feldman’s Arcade, the finest song-plugging venue in the resort.

In 1926, Wright went one better by launching the first modern summer season show, titled On With the Show, in the North Pier Pavilion. It was a success and was repeated seasonally until 1956.

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So the ball was back in Bert Feldman’s court. How could he respond? Simple. He opened two summer stage shows!

But the story of how he achieved it is being told here for the first time.

The only venue that Feldman could find in 1927 was Bannister’s Bazaar at the south end of Bank Hey Street, where the TK Maxx story now stands.

The Bannister family retired after 41 years’ retailing and sold the building, which had opened in 1877 as the Borough Bazaar and Theatre.

The first entertainment in the first floor theatre was opera. Then in the 1880s it was briefly the Criterion Theatre of Varieties, and then the Alpine Hall, where Professor Andre and his Alpine Ladies Choir performed regularly.

In 1927-28 Feldman did not purchase the building for £70,000, as previously written. He leased it and set about the huge task of building a stage and auditorium on the ground floor and basement.

There was no way it could be completed in time for the 1928 summer season for a show he had developed from an American success called Blackbirds.

This all-black song and dance show starring Florence Mills had run for eight months at the London Pavilion before visiting the Blackpool Opera House in June, 1927.

Feldman just happened to have the British publishing rights to most of the songs!

Timing would have been important so Feldman leased the Central Pier Pavilion for the 1928 season and opened White Blackbirds on May 26.

It wasn’t an early Black and White Minstrel Show! The singers and dancers were established Blackpool artists, principally Elsie Bower, Barbara Bartle and Norman Savage, and the only concession to the original Blackbirds show was an on-stage band called the Swanee Minstrels. It was hailed a success.

As work on the new Feldman’s Theatre neared completion, Bert lined up a second punch to his old adversary, Lawrence Wright.

He signed a well known Blackpool comedian, Jimmy Pullin, to head a summer variety show and opened it in the new theatre in mid-July.

The rivalry between Feldman and Lawrence Wright had left Feldman with the best hand. His White Blackbird’s show was repeated for the 1929 season in the new theatre and he still had another card to play.

The upper floor of Feldman’s lay empty. The was no internal staircase to the ground floor.

He solved the problem by creating Feldman’s Repertory Theatre, with separate entrance, on the top floor and engaged the Fred D’Albert Players to present plays on a weekly basis.

The story of Feldman’s Theatre and it’s successor the Queen’s will be told next week.