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Source: Australian Variety Theatre Archive
Nat Phillips's Whirligigs Nat Phillips's Whirligigs i(A98512 works by) (a.k.a. Nat Phillips' Revue Company)
Gender: Male
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Following his split with Roy 'Mo' Rene in 1925, Nat Phillips put together The Whirligigs Revue Company. He initially established an onstage partnershipe with Harry Huley as Oscar the Aussie (Phillips) and Percy the Pom (Huley), before teaming up with Jack Kellaway as Stiffy and 'Erb. The troupe presented mostly old Stiffy and Mo revusicals, with a few new works inserted into the repertoire. Stiffy and 'Erb would also appear in one or more sketches staged during each evening's first-half vaudeville programme, with other members of the company performing the usual fare of songs, dances, and specialty acts. The Brisbane Courier writes of their debut performance at the Empire Theatre in 1926 (in At the Grand), 'Mr Nat Phillips was the central figure in the many and varied comedy scenes, but able assistance was lent by Ern [sic] (Mr Jack Kellaway). Both comedians proved more than equal to the task of sustaining a liberal flow of laughter' (18 October 1926, p.17).

In 1931, Phillips engaged young comedian Joe Lawman to co-star opposite him in the Nat Phillips' Revue Company (the troupe's last line-up before its leader's death in 1932). Phillips and his ensemble played a ten-month season at the Grand Opera House, breaking that venue's box office record in the process. (They later returned to play a short season in early 1932). Phillips's repertoire at this time appears to be a combination of new revues (including Back Again, Joy Spots, Heads Off, and Au Revoir) and revivals of some classic Stiffy and Mo revusicals, notably All Aboard and At the Grand. Following the Grand Opera House season, Phillips, Lawman, and Dan Weldon briefly appeared in The Follies of 1932, a 'vaudeville stars of the past' show staged at the Theatre Royal (Sydney), beginning 28 March. Among their fellow veterans were Minnie Love, Stan Foley, Maurice Barling (ex-Barling and Dale), and Winnie Edgerton.

While very little has been written about Nat Phillips's and Roy Rene's time apart from each other, an historical consensus has been maintained since at least the late 1970s, proposing that Phillips's career suffered markedly (see, for example, Victoria Chance's entry in the Companion to Theatre in Australia, 1995, p.441). Accordingly, it has been implied that the reunion was undertaken in order to reignite his flagging career. Research into Phillips's movements between late 1925 and February 1927 indicates, however, that while subsequent partnerships such as Stiffy and 'Erb may not have reached to the same level of affinity he and Rene enjoyed, this period was far from unsuccessful. Indeed, following a nine-month season in Perth (ca. February to October 1926), the Whirligigs travelled to Brisbane, where they remained for over four months (16 October 1926 - 18 February 1927). The length of both seasons was comparable to any of his rivals at that time, including George Wallace and Jim Gerald. An analysis of the Whirligigs's Brisbane season shows that the troupe maintained a strong and high-profile presence in the city over that period, with the season also including a four-week run of Phillips's popular Robinson Crusoe pantomime (beginning Boxing Day 1926). As the Brisbane Courier notes during the company's final week prior to the return of Stiffy and Mo, 'The Empire Theatre once again proved the Mecca of vaudeville lovers on Saturday night when as usual every seat was filled before the curtain went up. Nor were patrons disappointed with the fare provided, for it was of that bright and racy variety for which this theatre has become justly famous, and the audiences was kept simmering with amusement almost from beginning to end' (14 February 1927, p.22).

Most Referenced Works



    1.1 Principal members of the troupe were Nita Carr (1932), Harry Cash (1927), Tom Collins (1928-1929), Keith Connelly (1932), Mike Connors (1926), Hal Cooper (1926-1927), Dan M. Dunbar (1926-1928), Winnie Edgerton (1928-1929), Elsie Hoskins (1926, 1932), Alec Kellaway (1926), Jack Kellaway (1926-1929), Betty Lambert (1932), Stella Lamond (1932), Hilda Laurence (1927), May Laurence (1927), Joe Lawman (1932), Al Mack (1929), Dorothy Manning (1926-1927), Marie Marlow (1932), Daisy Merritt (1926-1929), Angela Parselles (1932), Queenie Paul (1926), Polly Power (1926-1927), [Master] Dick Ryan (1932), Jack Scott (1928-1929), Grace Savieri (1928-1929), Keith Stewart (1928), Kitty Stewart (1929), Irene Vando (1926), Les Warton (1932), Dan Weldon (1926-1927, 1932).

      • Kitty Stewart's first name is believed to have been Catherine.

    1.2. Musicians included Charleston Super Six Symphonists (1926-1927 ; Frank Wilson, 'Tiny' Douglas, Art Dewar, Frank Morton, Les Clements), Tiny Douglas and His Varsity Boys (1928-1929), Will Osborne and His Orchestra (1932).

    1.3. Special guest or occasional performers included La Fredas (1932, three female acrobats), Lewola Brothers (1932), Eric Masters (1926), Betty Weldon (1932).


  • Entries connected with this record have been sourced from on-going historical research into Australian-written music theatre and film being conducted by Dr Clay Djubal.
Last amended 10 Feb 2014 08:35:27
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