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Congratulations to my very good friend Brian Conley, star of the stage musical "Jolson" who tonight survived a dance-off
on prime time UK BBC television programme competition "Strictly Come Dancing" against strong opposition to get through
to next week's round. Best wishes for the rest of the competition and to keep the Jolson name in the news.
How is Conley keeping the Jolson name in the news? My understanding is that he has distanced himself from the Jolson Show that he appeared in about 20 years ago. Has he been talking about Jolson on the TV show, if so I’ve missed it.
You're quite right. Some years ago, when he was appearing in "The Music Man" at a theatre in Chichester, I approached him requesting an interview about his role in Jolson: The Musical ?for a planned article in the Jolson Journal but he declined on the basis that he was trying to distance himself from his role in that show. Interestingly. I got a similar response to approaches I made to other leading members of the cast.
I saw that show several times in Toronto with Brian Conley and with his understudy. How disappointing that he is distancing himself from that role. Is it the usual misguided political correctness? I'm sorry to hear that. It was a great show.
I saw the show in London a couple of times and once in Philadelphia and I agree that it was a great show; Brian Conley was outstanding in London but wasn't in the Philadelphia show. I strongly suspect that misguided political correctness was at least partly responsible for the decision to distance himself. As you may know, Brian Conley was absent from showbiz for a long period due to depression and so I'm glad to see him back, although I won't see him in fact because Strictly Come Dancing is not on my tele-viewing agenda! Harry Rhinehart and I met him in his dressing room after a show at London's Victoria Palace, and he couldn't have been nicer in talking about his role and signing our programmes.
It’s sad that Brian Conley no longer wants to talk about Jolson The Musical, he got a lot of good press out of the show at the time which I think helped his career. Allan Stewart who understudied for Brian and did a very nice job, is the opposite to Brian. Allan was happy to talk to me about the show, phoning me up for a long chat about Al Jolson. He was also happy to talk to Andrea about his Jolson performances and I understand that part of his interview will be played in Bromley later this month. A few years back he sent me a taped chat to play at the Al Jolson UK Festival. If that were not enough he also toured the UK as Jolson in Jolson & Co.
As I said, it’s a great shame that Brian has distanced himself from the role of Jolson but at least the other UK performer in that show was more than happy to discuss the show - including his thoughts on the blackface issue.
You're absolutely right about Allan Stewart, David. I didn't catch his performance as understudy in Jolson: The Musical, but I saw him in Jolson & Co at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. It was an excellent show and a great performance By Allan; he was gracious in signing a couple of programs for me and later sent me an autographed photo.
It's a personal choice of course Reg but I preferred Allan Stewart to Brian Conley in Jolson the Musical. In my opinion he has a much better voice than Brian. I was in contact with Allan recently and he tells me that he still includes a Jolson 'bit' in his one man shows and it goes down well. Thoroughly nice guy.
I saw Brian Conley perform as Jolson at London's Victoria Palace. Would have preferred to see a 'real' Jolson singer like Clive Baldwin in the show. Why didn't they have Clive do the show?