REVIEW: Here's another nice show you've gotten me into!
Both adjectives apply to Doncaster Little Theatre's appreciation (here accompanied by timely quiz and top clips) of arguably greatest double act known to man. Woman. And child.
Such cross-generational appeal is surely among secrets of their enduring success with few immune to innocent slapstick scrapes and japes over almost a century since debut silent pairing, preceding partnership that would entertain millions and influence finest funnymen to follow.
Spiky-mopped stick man Stan - clumsy and charmingly childlike in equal measure - and tie-twiddling portly and pompous Babe - wizard of withering "slow burn" to camera - have become unrivalled hallmarks of humour, hailed "wonderfully funny" by Python icon John Cleese and "hard to top" by Steve Martin, lauded as "a constant joy" by Stephen Fry and "geniuses of comedy" by Steve Coogan.
The latter plays Cumbria-born Laurel, Ulverston's favourite son, in soon to be released film focusing on the droll duo's '50s final tour over here.
Fresh from the London set, in an advisory capacity, recently came to town "The Merry Wit" AJ Marriot ... writer, speaker, Laurel and Hardy Books author and overall authority on inimitable "Sons Of The Desert" - landmark movie that lends its name to official international appreciation society.
The former holiday camp entertainer illuminated and illustrated that same visit, evoking mirth-filled memories that saw side-splitting hilarity call at Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and York.
He expertly documented them being mobbed by pre-Beatlemania crowds among coverage, some as familiar to aficionados as Dance Of The Cuckoos trademark theme tune and Way Out West riotous dance routine, while liberally sprinkled with surprises aplenty such as Sheffield Grand Hotel bride's VIP guests.
"It is hard to believe these legendary Hollywood comedians actually stayed and played in Yorkshire on no less than four occasions," he said.
"They came to Sheffield and Leeds on a whistle-stop tour of England and Scotland in 1932 just before hitting their peak. Then, in the forties and fifties when their film career was over, they played in British variety theatres", explained AJ, whose 30-year labour of love research has sourced a selection of definitive books.
“Although I have spent half a lifetime tracing Stan and Ollie’s stage work, not only in this country but in Europe and the US, I still find it hard to believe it is the same two men we see in the films.
"Many times I have asked myself if it is just two lookalikes who did these tours. But it is all there in my presentation for fans to see and assure themselves it isn’t just yet another article from Fake News."
Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of stills, programmes, posters and actual footage, the show was a most satisfyingly enjoyable and edifying tour de force.
Only complaint could be low turn-out - causing a brow-furrowing frown long-time L&H antagonist James Finlayson would have been proud of - at our town's "little gem" of a theatrical venue, meriting many more bums on seats. The almost empty auditorium was as welcome as, well, hard-boiled eggs and nuts to a county hospital "nil by mouth" patient.
The show certainly brought home, if not the bacon, the achin' rib-tickle joy of many folks' favourite fez-wearers. To quote an immortal line, phone operator advising Stan, "It's a long distance from Atlanta, Georgia". Or, for that matter, Californian Culver City Hal Roach Studios were much of the timeless magic was conjured. It sure is!