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Gaiety days

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The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, plays host to The Allan Stewart Show this summer, continuing a long-standing connection between the performer and the venue, writes John Moore

The star of the 2004 main summer show at Ayr’s Gaiety Theatre is Scottish performer Allan Stewart. Coached at an early age by a Gaiety star of the time, later in his career he became a loyal regular on the theatre’s stage.

Long famed as a comedy impressionist and singer, Stewart had an early start in the entertainment business. His father Alex taught him guitar and then “literally went round the doors to get me little gigs”. When he was 12, the famous character comedian Jack Radcliffe, a great Gaiety favourite in his time, took him under his wing.

“He was very good to me and taught me many little tricks of the trade,” says Stewart.

At the age of 16 he had a regular gig in a fairly tough club and was even warned off by the police for being underage. Before leaving school in his native Glasgow he had cut his first record.

Then came a change in emphasis. His father advised him to work more comedy into his act in the interests of extending his career and so, from being a singer doing comedy songs, he became a comedy impressionist who sang.

In 1971 he went to Blackpool, was spotted by Norman Teal – the famous agent who once had been in a double act with Roy Castle – and finished up appearing on the television show Sunday Night at the Palladium. From this point on he featured in a run of television shows, such as STV’s Hello, Good Evening, and Welcome and The Allan Stewart Show, followed by LWT’s Copy Cats and Chain Letters, a game show which he hosted.

Then in 1976 he starred in his first pantomime. “For a long time I was still thought of as a club act and then the Glasgow Pavilion wanted me for panto. And I had never ever seen a pantomime before.” In recent years he has been star of several pantomimes at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.

Stewart had four summer seasons starring at the Gaiety – in 1992, 1993-94 and 1998. The gap from 1994-98 covered the period of the 1995 theatre closure for building the new wing and his time in Jolson – The Musical. Stewart had great success after taking over the eponymous lead role in the major London West End production about the legendary American singing star. But even after West End plaudits, he returned to co-star in one of the shows celebrating the Gaiety’s centenary in September 2002.

His first starring show at the Gaiety was as long ago as 1980 when, for a week in May, he was the headline act. He was supported by Juniper Green (singing duo Vic and Diana Peterson), magician John Shearer, accordionist Ian Muir, the Bruce McClure dancers and the Ken Flower Orchestra.

Among the recent highlights of an long career are a TV appearance on stage at the Royal Variety Performance of 1995, co-starring with Petula Clark in Canada, his revue in Australia, starring in cabaret on the Queen Elizabeth II and producing his own show, entitled Allan Stewart – 40 Years On at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, which celebrated his 40th anniversary in show business.

“Things have changed in theatre entertainment but everything goes round in a circle and there will always be a market for a good live entertainment show. I firmly believe theatre is not dead. And long may the Gaiety flourish,” Stewart says.

Stewart’s wife, who appeared with him in the 1992 summer show under her stage name of song-and-dance artist Jane Danielle, also has special memories of the Gaiety. She first played the Gaiety in the key role of Narrator in Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the show which precedes the Allan Stewart Show this summer.

In the guest star spot of the Allan Stewart Show is comedy magician and singer Martin Daniels. He has played the Gaiety before, appearing in a show of his father, star magician Paul Daniels.

Daniels made his performing debut in a Newquay summer season at the age of 17. Since then he has developed his own routines – involving stand-up comedy, singing and dancing – and has gone on to play various comedy clubs and cruise ships.

To date he has 18 pantomimes under his belt, along with a season in The Magic Man at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End and an appearance in the VE Day anniversary concert in Hyde Park. TV appearances are numerous and include two series presenting LWT’s Game for a Laugh and a Thames TV game show called Lingo. Daniels is also author of a book entitled Cunning Stunts – The Best 50 Pub Tricks and Brain Teasers.

Appearing alongside Allan Stewart this Gaiety summer season are ever-popular Gaiety stalwarts – violinist Karen Hunter, singing newcomer Maureen McMullan, the Front Page Dancers and the Richard Anderson Orchestra.

* The Allan Stewart Show at the Gaiety, Ayr runs until September 4.

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