William Sydney Penley

(1852—1912) actor and theatre manager

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(1852–1912), English actor-manager, who made his first appearance on the stage at the Royal Court Theatre in 1871 in farce, and then toured in light and comic opera. He was for some years at the Strand Theatre playing burlesque. The first outstanding success of his career came when he succeeded Tree in the title-role of Hawtrey's The Private Secretary (1884), a part with which he became so identified that he is usually believed to have been the first to play it. He was also closely connected with Brandon Thomas's Charley's Aunt (1892), playing Lord Fancourt Babberley during its run of 1,466 performances, a record for the period. In 1900 he opened the former Novelty Theatre (later the Kingsway) as the Great Queen Street Theatre and appeared there in revivals of his most successful parts, retiring a year later. Much of his success as a comedian lay in his dry humour, his serious, rather pathetic, face, and the solemnity of his voice and manner contrasted with the farcical lines of his part.

From The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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