A while ago, I wrote about Llandudno and her Grand Theatre. What a wonderful place that was and how it captured the delight – and sombreness – of Novello’s “The Dancing Years” back in about 1965. Not one microphone either. A true theatrical experience.
I thought to look for some kind reference to the near-neighbour to the Grand Theatre. I found a few references – including the inevitable disparaging remark made unkindly – so now it is time to write affectionately about the Arcadia.
Llandudno trams and the Arcadia went together. For was it not on each end of them was pasted an advertisement for the “Catlin Follies” – nightly at 7.45? The company even laid some extra track in the 1950s to cater for the crowds coming out of the shows.
The thing about the Arcadia was that you could see it from each end of the promenade – even if it was dwarfed by the Little Orme and the Great Orme – because the word “Arcadia” was painted on its roof in huge sky-blue letters.
As a child I longed to visit.
Myself best remembering the Arcadia in 1970 and subsequently, we went to see “Showtime”, produced by H. Robinson Cleaver, a onetime theatre organist.
The show was good. There was a pit band of four or five musicians and a good cast who worked well together with a resident group of dancers.
The seats were comfortable; the theatre was really vast and this seemed at odds with the exterior. There were seats in two banks at right angles to the proscenium; raked seating in the stalls and high banked seating to the back of the auditorium. The stage was wide if not too deep. There was gas lighting still as the emergency lights.
Happy To Meet
Of course, Showtime at the Arcadia was really why we were there. It was a variety show. There was an opening number with dancers and singers. They opened with “On With The Show, This Is It” – (The Bugs Bunny Show theme, written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston). This morphed into a good dance routine and out of this stepped the season’s resident funny man, Bryan Burdon.
Sketches and songs followed, Jackie Allen and Barbara were “Xylophonically Yours”; Gwen Overton and Clive Stock sang from the world of operetta; WIllie Wyse, Syd Marx, Jeannie and Barry McQueen, Norman Caley (a singer whose arms got longer and longer) originally of the Fol de Rols and many others joined, including over the years, Wyn Calvin, Aubrey Budd as choreographer and the Cherry Willoughby dancers, Les Brown and musicians in the pit. He had to be great – had he not once deputised for Charlie Kunz at the Casani Club? The quality was really high and everybody who went seemed to enjoy the fun and laugh at the funny bits in the right places, for after all, this was a seaside show for seaside visitors. Even the theatre staff seemed happy in their work.
The Show – Not The Building
If you went to the Grand for the whole theatrical thing, then you went to the Arcadia for the whole entertainment thing. The Arcadia did not bear comparison with the Grand. The Arcadia embodied the spirit of “The Show’s The Thing”. You went for the energy; the verve of the performers; you stepped into variety with each turn numbered in the programme and described in a few words. And what a programme it was – three different shows in a week.
Of course it was sad when we got to “Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part, Happy May We Meet Again” and the company bid us “Good Night”. It was part of the magic of our holiday. The tunes – and the jokes – stayed with us until next year.
Sorry To Part
In the inevitable development that makes towns what they are, Llandudno was no exception and the Arcadia became superfluous to requirements. Bereft of its fond audiences and happy performers, the music, laughter and dancing were no more and it closed its doors for the last time. I for one treasure the memories (and I don’t think that I am alone).
Happy May We Meet Again
The Arcadia, Llandudno – 1894-2004