FROM the moment it first burst on to the stage in Glasgow, the Five Past Eight Show was something special.

Sixty-six years ago this week, a handful of stars lit up the Alhambra Theatre in what was to become a city institution.

The Evening Times review was suitably glowing the next day, on May 27, 1955.

Queues for the Five Past Eight Show

Queues for the Five Past Eight Show

“Having seen most of the brightest and best shows at the Alhambra since it first opened its doors I never have left the theatre more satisfied than last night, when Five Past Eight had a sky’s-the-limit first performance,” enthused the reviewer.

“It is a brilliantly, Michael-Mills-built musical jigsaw, with calculated comedy, perfect singing and dancing, a bevy of feminine loveliness and all the delicate toning of an expensive watercolour fitting perfectly.”

Our sister title, the then Glasgow Herald, was equally over the moon with this new addition to the city’s entertainment scene.

“Five Past Eight opened Glasgow eyes at the Alhambra Theatre last night on a new world of light, colour, music and irrepressible laughter on a plane not seen or expected in a ‘local’ show and rarely in a London visitation,” it reported.

“Jack Radcliffe and Jimmy Logan, playing excellently together and displaying individually quite unsuspected recessions of their familiar talents, are the mainmasts of the ship, but with Alistair McHarg, Kenneth McKellar, Margaret Miles and Katherine Feather in the forefront the crew are crisp, shining, ready for anything.”

The debut show was directed by Michael Mills; the choreographer, who also had a key role, was Lionel Blair.

Olga Gwynne, Joanna Rigby, Katherine Feather and Margaret Miles, with Jack Radcliffe and Jimmy Logan in 1955

Olga Gwynne, Joanna Rigby, Katherine Feather and Margaret Miles, with Jack Radcliffe and Jimmy Logan in 1955

Our reporter said the whole thing was ‘stirring and exquisite’ with everything from uncanny Churchill impersonations to a comedy sketch involving Logan and Radcliffe as window cleaners arriving to take their seats in the stalls, ladders, pails and all.

Billed as ‘the fast-moving song, dance and laughter show’ in the adverts running up to opening night, organisers also added the first performance would be a ‘Grand Election Night Opening’ as it coincided with General Election night – eventually won by Anthony Eden’s Conservatives.

The Five Past Eight show, which ran for five months each year, was variety at its best. Featuring a host of Scottish comedians from Rikki Fulton to Stanley Baxter, elaborate sketches and lavish sets, it was the hottest ticket in town.

Jimmy Logan loved to appear in Five Past Eight. In his autobiography It’s a Funny Life, he described the shows as “magnificent, glamorous affairs full of great comedy, and lively singing and dancing ...

“The cost of producing the shows was phenomenal but the standard was superb. People came from London to see what on earth this wonderful spectacle was about.”

Logan did Five Past Eight every year until 1961, he added, “and I had a ball.”

He also talks about the cast of ‘dancing girls’ who were, he says, the hardest working members of the cast, rehearsing for hours each day before the evening show, with no spare time in which to buy food and other essentials.

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On one Saturday morning, he recalls, the women were rehearsing, dressed in their old clothes with curlers in their hair, when out of the darkened stalls stepped a suave, handsome figure. He had dropped by merely to see a theatre where he had played, years earlier. It was Cary Grant.

“The girls almost collapsed. They couldn’t believe their eyes,” writes Logan. “The white-faced girls stood open-mouthed in their curlers staring at the elegant gent before them.”

After the initial shock, however, Grant invited them all to join him for coffee in his hotel.

Our photographs show Olga Gwynne, Joanna Rigby, Katherine Feather and Margaret Miles, with Radcliffe and Logan in 1955 and, in 1958, Baxter and Fulton with other cast members.

*Do you remember Five Past Eight? Get in touch to share your memories and photos.