Jennifer Haley in the Fols: a personal history
My first encounter with "The Fols" was in May 1966 at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.
I was appearing in "The Harry Worth Show" at the Coventry Theatre, dancing for Pauline Grant.
I went to a matinee because Jimmy Bailey [the pianist to Ted Hockridge] also in the show told me that he was joining the Fols in another company that was going to Southsea for the summer season.
"Its a cracking show," he said, "do go and see it. You will love it."
I did and ... I did.
The show was touring prior to a summer season at Worthing and starred Freddie Sales [and a poon!!!], Pat and Howell Evans and Ken Wilson and company, including my now great friend Sue Cole
The show was enchanting. From the opening chorus chant "the fol de rols, the fol de rols, the fol de rols the fol... de... rols", to the finale with large puppets that the company worked: "time for us to say goodnight, say goodnight, say goodnight". I loved it all.
Funny [clean] sketches, musical parodies, pointe ballets, and charming items such as bookshelf ballet, black shadows, plume de ma tante; to name but a few. All beautifully costumed. I just wanted to be a "fol".
I wrote to Hugh Charles as requested and was told to come and audition at the theatre on 10th May - my 18th birthday.
I went along and auditioned and I remember Charlie Tovey played for me. Three rather imposing men Hugh Charles, John Russell and Peter Felgate along with the choreographer Cherry Willoughby, sat and watched.
At the end when I had sung and danced my socks off, Peter said "How old are you?"
"18 today," I replied. Upon which they all sang happy birthday to me!
"Well Jennifer, we think you look very pretty on your birthday (I was all in pink). Where would you like the contract sent?"
I was in!
Loving Every Minute
I was in and I did the summer season at the South Parade Pavilion Theatre at Southsea with Laurie Lupino Lane, George Bolton, Ann Emery and supporting cast. I loved every minute of it and the next year I was at the Congress Theatre as head girl again, which I also loved and was a wonderful show.The cast included Jack Tripp, Joan Mann, Charlie Stewart, Allen Christie, Marietta Migley and Brett Stevens.
I also met my future husband Phillip Charles (Hugh Charles' son) who was playing piano in the pit with Harry Tait.
Later in 1971 I was to direct and choreograph the show in a down-sized version at Babbacombe in Devon from 1971-1974, then a full show at Bexhill in 1975, a tour in 1976 and then a mini version with two companies swapping over each week at two holiday camps in Burnham-on-sea and Newquay in South Wales.
After The Fols
In 1974 Phillip and I formed "The Jenny Set" and "Charles Haley Productions", and we had first troupes of girls and then our own summer shows and tours and pantomimes. We were able to use scenery and costumes from the Fols, although we did have lots of new costumes made as those from the Fols were mostly period items.
So, my involvement with the Fols went from 1966 to 1976 although there were two amateur productions by the Hinkley Tin Hatters in Leicestershire which I set some numbers for in the 80's and 90's. We also used some of the sketches and musical parodies in our Minehead and Paignton shows.
When I opened my stage school in 1984 I used quite a lot of material and musical numbers as I did a show every year until 2002.
I was so glad to have been associated with the Fols.