Adam Leslie (1916-1979). Designer, couturier, restaurateur, columnist and performer of socio-political satire.
Born Leslie Jacobson in Salisbury on 22nd May, 1916, He died in Johannesburg on 25th April 1979.
He was trained in Paris and London as a designer, lyric writer and actor.
He worked as a designer and writer in England for a number of years, returning to South Africa in 1956. During the run of Cage me Peacock by Noel Langley, for which he was writing the lyrics, he met Joan Blake, with whom he would do many shows later in South Africa.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
Leslie established intimate revue as a popular theatrical form in South Africa.
Between 1956 and 1977 he contributed to, devised and/or directed more than 30 revues, cabarets and music-hall productions, most notably Sextet (with Anthony Farmer and Ralph Trewhela, 1957), Let Your Hair Down (1958), Two’s Company (1960-1961), Two's Company Again and Hair Hair (1970-1972), many in his own theatre, The Adam Leslie Theatre in Johannesburg. Leslie promoted many performers, including Joan Blake, Heather Lloyd-Jones, Diane Wilson, Richard Loring and Shelagh Holliday. Costume and other designs include Auntie Mame (1965). Don't Stop the Carnival; Excuse Me; You Can't Fool Mrs Levene; Musical Hall Revue; Strike It Rich and Strike It Richer. Musical version of Moliere's The Miser.
He was the author and creator of Adam's Rib. He wrote the lyrics for Noel Langley's Cage Me a Peacock and the additional lyrics for the stage version of the The Wizard of Oz and, among many other activities, played character parts in films for M.G.M., Warner Bros., Associated British and Ealing Films. He has played cabaret in London's Savoy and Berkeley Hotels, the Bagatelle and Ciro's. In South Africa he was also known as a dress designer and for his vitriolic column in the Sunday Express, Eavesdrop With Adam. His London shows were Take a Peep, The Gaieties and he wrote for Audrey Hepburn's first London show Sauce Piquante. In South Africa he wrote and appeared in Adam's Apple, Snake in the Grass, the sensationally successful Let Your Hair Down, Tongue in Aspic and Nothing Sacred. ' (Programme of a run of Adam's Rib directed by Ricky Arden and starring Diane Wilson in July 1963)
He starred in the cabaret Adam and Joan at Cicero's, the fashionable nightclub in Johannesburg with Joan Blake in 1957. This lead to a series of revues which took the town by storm. The biginning of 1959 saw the continuing success of Leslie’s smash hit revue, Let Your Hair Down. It was staged at the Intimate Theatre (formerly the YMCA) as 1958 drew to its close, starring Leslie himself, Joan Blake, Hilda Kriseman, visiting American Eric Micklewood, and a three-girl chorus. He joined forces with Anthony Farmer and composer Ralph Trewhela to create the satirical revue I Spy in 1959. He wrote and starred in For Love or Money which was the inaugural production of the Playhouse in October 1960. Michael Finlayson directed this show also starring Joan Blake, Olive King, and comedian Garth Meade. He staged Anthony Newley’s revue Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, starring Anna Quayle and Michael McGovern for the Reps in 1964. Albert Ninio directed this production which ran for fourteen weeks and formed part of the Johannesburg Festival.
He did costumes for Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Auntie Mame which Taubie Kushlick directed at the Brooke Theatre in 1965. Shirley Hepburn starred in the title role. He presented The Merry Minstrel Show at the Intimate in September 1966. Circa 1967 he had been presenting shows almost continuously for roughly a year, including Adam Leslie Repeats. He staged the revue Strike it Rich in 1967, starring himself, Joan Blake, George Korelin and Judy Layne.
Together with his partner, Bill Hudson, he restored the old College of Music of Johannesburg, and so The Adam Leslie Theatre opened its doors on 27 August 1967 with the show Music Hall Revue, starring Adam Leslie and Joan Blake. It was directed and designed by Anthony Farmer. Marjorie Gordon replaced Joan during the run.
Hair Hair programme notes, 19**.
Various entries in the NELM catalogue.
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