'Mod movement in Quality Street clothes': British popular music and pantomime, 1955-1975

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From the late 1950s onwards, young rock ‘n’ roll musicians and popular singers were introduced into commercial Christmas pantomime productions. While this practice, which constituted an extension of their involvement in the broader sphere of variety theatre, has been previously noted, it is seldom accorded much sustained attention. In this article Gillian Mitchell explores the impact which such performers made upon pantomime, while observing the ways in which involvement in pantomime productions affected their careers and aspirations. ‘Pop stars’ brought much-needed revenue to struggling theatres, and, while their presence onstage alongside experienced pantomime performers sometimes attracted criticism, they also contributed in many ways to a reinvigoration of the medium, whether by offering fresh scope for topical gags, or by giving ambitious producers the chance to more more experimental types of production. The article also questions the notion that, by the late 1960s, pantomime had become a ‘last refuge’ for those popular musicians who were apparently unable to maintain a foothold in the increasingly ‘serious’ world of rock music.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-276
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Variety theatre
  • London Palladium
  • Post-war Britain
  • Christmas entertainment


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