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Grand Theatre at 125: Les Dawson’s tubby dancing troupe

By Marion Brennan | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

When comedy genius Les Dawson came up with the idea of a tubby, tap-dancing troupe, not even he could have known how much the nation would take the Roly Polys to their hearts.

Roly Poly dancer Sue Cadman, from Wolverhampton, with comedian Les Dawson in Cinderella at the Grand in 1983

And they were the perfect combination to launch the first pantomime at The Grand Theatre after it re-opened in 1983 following a three-year closure.

Les and the girls starred in the two-month run of Cinderella, with Les playing Baron Hardup and up-and-coming comedian Michael Barrymore in the part of Buttons.

The Roly Polys' line-up included Sue Cadman, from Goldthorn Park, Wolverhampton, an original member of the group who worked with Les Dawson for the next 28 years.

Her chance of fame came thanks to her mum who answered a 'large ladies wanted' ad in a show business magazine on her daughter's behalf – and Wolverhampton Police.

The Roly Polys arrive at The Grand in 1983 to appear in Cinderella with Les Dawson. Standing, extreme right, is Wolverhampton-born Sue Cadman with 'Mighty' Mo Moreland seated front

When Sue beat off competition from 300 other dancers to win a place in the Roly Polys, the BBC was unable to tell her because her phone was out of order.

So TV bosses contacted the boys in blue for help and within minutes a patrol car was on its way to break the good news to Sue and tell her to call the Beeb as a matter of urgency.

Chief Inspector Ralph Crofts, of the former Birmingham Road police station, told the Express & Star at the time: "We were delighted to be of assistance."

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The Roly Polys, including Might Atom Mo Moreland, became household names after winning a regular spot on Les's Saturday night TV show.

Roly Poly dancer Mighty Mo(right) gets a helping hand from actress Karen West in Cinderella at the Grand in 1983

Sue went on to open her own dance school and today is popular on the after-dinner and public speaking circuit.

The 1983 panto earned rave reviews, as did the Grand which was arguably one of the best-equipped theatres in the country after a wholesale revamp during its shutdown. Stage, seating, electronics, dressing rooms – all received a major makeover.

Word got round that the much-loved theatre was back on its feet and looking better than ever and audiences duly returned in big numbers.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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