Bruce Forsyth had great success in pantomime in Oxford – and was always a favourite with the young Vera Legge dancers.

He is pictured above playing on a pin table with the girls who appeared with him in Babes in the Wood at the New Theatre in 1968/9.

The other pictures show him with the team nine years earlier when he was the star in Puss in Boots. They come from one of the dancers that year, Diane Sutton, of Wootton, near Abingdon.

The critic in our sister paper, The Oxford Times, was full of praise for the 1959/60 show, describing it as “radiantly funny”.

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He or she wrote: “Bruce Forsyth, a natural entertainer, who learned his craft at the seaside summer shows and made his name recently in TV’s Sunday Night at the Palladium, is, as Jolly the Jester, the mainspring of the pantomime.

Oxford Mail:

“To watch him in action is to watch a new spirit abroad in vaudeville. He dances gracefully, he sings agreeably, clowns amusingly and gives a performance of the first comic order.”

There is also a mention of the Vera Legge Moonbean Babes – they are “pure delight”, the critic said.

Oxford Mail critic Michael Hand was equally impressed with the show, writing: “Oxford has a high reputation for its Christmas entertainment and this year’s pantomime has all that is best in a long tradition.

“In the space of a few minutes, one is transported from a world of winter to one of warmth, gaiety, music and mirth – a real-life transformation scene.

“Good triumphs over evil; Colin, the miller’s son, aided by his cat and a pair of magic boots, wins his princess, puts one over on his wicked brothers and defeats his enemy, Blackheart the witch.

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“Puss in Boots has enough magic, merriment and music to brighten a winter evening for all those who are young at heart.”

There was plenty of praise when Forsyth returned to lead the cast in Babes in the Wood in 1968/9.

Oxford Mail theatre critic Don Chapman wrote: “It doesn’t have any fairy spectacles to speak of. There is hardly any melodrama or romance. And only the slenderest thread of a plot.

“But as a variety show, it is one long laugh from start to finish and in an age when audiences – ranging from children to pensioners – are more sophisticated in their taste, I am sure this formula produces a far more acceptable family show.

“With Bruce Forsyth jollying the show along as a sort of unconventional master of ceremonies in his role as Bruce, the Sheriff’s Page, the 2½-hour entertainment never flags.”

Bruce Forsyth’s entertainment career spanned more than 70 years.

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He was a popular presenter on television for many years, with numerous shows including The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price Is Right and You Bet! He co-presented Strictly Come Dancing from 2004 to 2013, and stepped down from hosting the regular live show in 2014. A decision was made to reduce his workload. In 2012, Guinness World Records recognised Bruce Forsyth as having the longest television career for a male entertainer. He died aged 89 in 2017.