Evening dress, worn by Gladys Moncrieff, cotton/glass/diamantes, New Zealand/Australia, 1961
Gladys Moncrieff was one of the great stars of the Australian musical stage for more than 35 years. The theatrical impresario J C Williamson described her as 'Australia's Queen of Musical Comedy'. To her fellow Australians she was affectionately known as 'our Glad'.
Although most remembered as a performer, she was also a recording artist, cutting 84 titles for the Columbia Gramophone Co at Homebush in Sydney. Moncrieff had a rich soprano voice and her recordings of musical comedy favourites sold far better than similar recordings by overseas artists.
In 1959 she joined forces with the promoter Harry Wren for a farewell tour of Australia and New Zealand in a variety show called 'Many Happy Returns'. The tour's length (1959-1961) indicates the degree of her popularity even at the end of her performing career. It opened at Sydney's Empire Theatre on 28 January 1959 before touring to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and on to New Zealand.
Moncrieff had a longstanding affection for New Zealand, where she had played her first starring role in 'Katinka' at Wellington in 1918. During the 1930s she toured with great success for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service. When she arrived with 'Many Happy Returns' in 1961 she again attracted rave reviews. The show played in Auckland, Wanganui, Wellington, Dunedin, Invercargill, Christchurch and a number of smaller towns, reaching its conclusion at Hamilton, where she was given a rousing send-off by the cast and audience.
This evening gown was one of her costumes for 'Many Happy Returns' on the farewell tour. She wore it during that final stage performance in Hamilton in 1961. As she wrote in her autobiography 'The Hamilton finale was my absolute farewell to the stage - and what an emotional occasion it was!'
This evening dress has a 'Lucele' label attached. It was probably made in Australia.
Moncrieff's farewell performance started in Sydney and ended in New Zealand two years later.
This dress was worn by Gladys Moncrieff (1892-1976) for the last performance of her stage career in Hamilton, New Zealand, in 1961.
Born in Queensland, her mother was a soprano who had sung professionally as Ada Lambell and her father was an early motion picture presenter in outback Queensland. After an early career as a child performer, Gladys and her mother moved to Sydney where she was taken on by J C Williamson in 1911. Her starring role was as the lead in 'Maid of the Mountains' which opened in Melbourne in 1921, a role she performed for the next 30 years. Gladys Moncrieff was described by J C Williamson's as 'Australia's Queen of Musical Comedy as well as a truly great Australian'. This dress was worn on her farewell tour('Many Happy Returns') which began in Sydney on 28 January 1959 and closed in Hamilton, New Zealand in 1961. A contemporary review in a New Zealand newspaper referred to it as 'one of the brightest variety shows in thirty years ... There are few who can sing as well the songs from down the lanes of memory as Gladys Moncrieff'. The final song in her performance was 'Love will find a way'. Moncrieff wrote in her memoirs, 'It was rather sad that I finished my career in variety rather than in my first love, musical comedy, but in the theatre you take what comes and view these things philosophically.'
Donated to the Sydney Opera House Trust by Gladys Moncrieff.