Advertisement for 'Dick Whittington' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
When Sir Augustus Harris took over the management of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in November 1879, he introduced a series of spectacular shows, realistic melodramas and an annual pantomime. Associated with the Christmas season, these pantomimes opened on Boxing Day and ran until the following March.
The leading roles were given to stars of the music halls. Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) appeared as the young hero, or 'principal boy', at Drury Lane for three years from 1891, while the male comedians Dan Leno (1860-1904) and Herbert Campbell (1844-1904) appeared for many years as pantomime 'dames'. The introduction of music hall artistes into these lavish Drury Lane productions created a wonderfully varied entertainment. A single performance, which could last over five hours, would probably include slapstick, male and female impersonation, topical songs and acrobatics.
This advertising novelty features the music hall performer Ada Blanche as principal boy in 'Dick Whittington', the pantomime for Christmas 1894 at Drury Lane. She was such a success that she was given the part for the seven consecutive seasons from 1892 to 1898. The two great comics, Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell also starred in the 1894/95 production, playing Idle Jack and Eliza the Cook, the pantomime dame. Indeed, Dan Leno appeared in every Drury Lane pantomime from 1888 to 1903, in which year he made his final appearance as Queen Spritely in 'Humpty Dumpty'.