When the VV wrote The Somnambulist, her very first Victorian novel, she featured Wilton's music hall and one of the great performers who had entertained the audience when striding that historic stage.

George Leybourne (1842-1884), was a Victorian Lion Comique who went on to become more generally known as Champagne Charlie: a persona described in his famous song.

George was the very first 'superstar' of the Victorian variety stage, with a repertoire of over 200 songs, most of which required him to take on the unique guises of particular dramatic characters - along with full make-up and costume.

And now, Christopher Beeching, the talented performer, writer and director (who featured in Michael Grade's documentary The Story of the Music Hall, which was first screened on BBC4 - and who has had a glittering theatrical career, appearing on the West End stage in performances of Sondheim's A Little Night Music, and also Lloyd Webber's musicals Cats, and Starlight Express) is starring in a brand new film recorded at Wilton's hall last year to celebrate George Leybourne's life and work.

A photograph of the young George Leybourne

Not only is Beeching more than adept at playing the part of George Leybourne, he has spent many years researching his life and has written The Heaviest of Swells, a comprehensive biography with many glorious illustrations, in which  hardly a stone has been left unturned to tell the facts of Leybourne's life: a life around which many rumours were spread which Beeching has now proved to be untrue.

And, for any scholars of music hall - or simply those wishing to be entertained - the VV thoroughly recommends Champagne Charlie: A Music Hall Entertainment - directed by Glyn Jones and starring Beeching's Leybourne act, and which, with the setting of Wilton's Hall, will transport you back to a bygone age - an age when the East End London halls provided a glamour and fun for all - whatever the hardships and tragedies kept hidden behind the stage curtains.


  1. Great post. I wish music halls were still around. They carry an ambience with them when I read about them. The trailer really captures it.

  2. Thank you, Elizabeth. And Chris really captures that era in his performances.