John Le Hay
Life and career
Le Hay was born in Dublin, Ireland.
As a young actor, Le Hay traveled with a minstrel troupe, where his gift for ventriloquism was soon evident. He was engaged by Edgar Bruce in 1879 for the Royalty Theatre, where he worked as an understudy and appeared in the chorus of a revival of Stephenson and Sullivan's The Zoo. Later that year he joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, serving in the chorus on tour. He appeared in the single copyright performance of The Pirates of Penzance in Paignton on 30 December 1879, as James, a role that was included in the libretto only for that performance. During 1880 and 1881, he also appeared as Mr. Liverby in In the Sulks, a curtain raiser that accompanied H.M.S. Pinafore.
From 1881 to 1883, Le Hay toured as the principal comedian with a D'Oyly Carte touring company, playing J. W. Wells in The Sorcerer, Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Major General Stanley in Pirates. He also appeared briefly in the tenor role of Ralph Rackstraw in Pinafore and filled in as Frederic in Pirates on one occasion.
Le Hay then left the D'Oyly Carte organisation and played in pantomime, in low comedies with Cooper Cole's Strand Company, and for several years with Edward Terry. In 1886, he created the part of Tom Strutt in Alfred Cellier's Dorothy at the Gaiety Theatre and the role of Crook in Cellier's Doris (1889). He then played Private Smith in The Red Hussar (1889), Jacob in The Red Rover (1890), Prince Bulbo in The Rose and the Ring (1890), and Sir Guy of Gisborne in Maid Marian (1891).
In 1891 Le Hay rejoined D'Oyly Carte, appearing as Punka on tour in The Nautch Girl. He then played Master Guillot in La Basoche at Richard D'Oyly Carte's Royal English Opera House. He then rejoined the tour as Punka in 1882. Later that year, he appeared in a comic opera called The Wedding Eve, and in 1893 he was in a drama called The Black Domino, where he also performed a comic entertainment of his own creation. Le Hay rejoined D'Oyly Carte for the last time in late 1893, creating the part of Phantis in Utopia, Limited at the Savoy Theatre, through the end of the run in June 1894.
Later in 1894 he appeared with Lillian Russell in The Queen of Brilliants, and then as Mats Munck in Gilbert and Carr's His Excellency. He would later play the same part in New York, with a George Edwardes touring company. In 1896, he played Alexander McGregor in the musical comedy My Girl. He appeared in New York as Hassan in Hood and Sullivan's The Rose of Persia (1900, opposite Ruth Vincent as the Sultana) and as Coquenard in Veronique.
He toured America three times and South Africa once. His talents as a ventriloquist were in demand, and he appeared on several occasions before King Edward VII to perform this skill. Le Hay's stage career continued until his death in 1926. One of his last roles was in Thomas Hardy's Tess in 1925-1926. On 1 November 1926, Le Hay was struck by a car after leaving the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he had been appearing as Florent, the butler, in The Padre.
Le Hay died the next day at the age of 77. He was married to D'Oyly Carte performer Marian May.
- Hollingshead (1903), p. 74
- Ayre, Leslie (1972). The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion. London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd. Introduction by Martyn Green.
- Hollingshead, John. Good Old Gaiety: An Historiette & Remembrance (1903) London:Gaity Theatre Co