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Thursday, March 4, 1999 Published at 19:50 GMT


Girls greet Duke on theatre tour

The Duke says hello to a few of the leggy showgirls

The Duke of Edinburgh encountered scantily-clad chorus girls during a whistle-stop tour of London theatres.

The BBC's Jennie Bond follows a hectic royal schedule in London's Theatreland
He met the actresses, wearing fishnet stockings, high heels and bra tops, when he went behind the scenes of the 1920s jazz musical Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre.

The 40-minute visit was part of a hectic tour of 11 theatres, in which Prince Philip and the Queen have been highlighting the importance of the UK's theatre industry.

[ image: Duke chats to chorus girls]
Duke chats to chorus girls
The Duke started the day at the Royal National Theatre's Cottlesloe auditorium, by triggering claps of thunder and storm effects when he tried out the theatre's sound effects system.

As part of a separate schedule, the Queen met Oscar-nominated Australian actress Cate Blanchett - who played her royal namesake and predecessor Elizabeth I in the hit film Elizabeth - at the Almeida Theatre pre-production meeting of David Hare's play Plenty.

[ image: Cate Blanchett starring in Elizabeth]
Cate Blanchett starring in Elizabeth
The Queen also looked in on rehearsals for musical Oklahoma! at the Lyceum, where she met the show's producer, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and star Maureen Lipman.

She was presented with complementary tickets in the Royal Circle for Thursday night's performance of the show, which she first saw in 1947 with her sister Princess Margaret.

'Great fun'

She said that she recalled her last visit as "great fun". Princess Margaret has now seen the play 27 times.

The theatre tour was organised by the Society of London Theatre. The West End, with its 51 major theatres, has a combined annual economic impact of more than £1bn.

The tour is to highlight that it is one of the UK's biggest international tourist attractions and is the largest theatre industry anywhere else in the world, including New York's Broadway.

[ image:  ]
The Queen also attended a rehearsal of Hamlet at the Young Vic, where she watched a cast of schoolchildren act out the final scene of Shakespeare's tragedy.

The Duke of Edinburgh observed a drama class at the Royal Court Youth Theatre.

Fast Show and Shakespeare In Love star Mark Williams then entertained the Duke with three short monologues, written by 11-year-olds Akaisha Billy, David Sampson, Noor Miah.

Akaisha, bubbling with excitement after meeting the Duke said: "He said to me that my play was lovely and said it was nice to meet young playwrights."

Welcomed with daffodils

The Queen and Duke met up for a visit to costumiers Angels and Bermans where they were greeted by hundreds of youngsters holding daffodils.

The Queen was shown the costume worn by Dame Judi Dench as Elizabeth I in the film Shakespeare In Love, and expressed interest in a sewing room in which a seamstress was making a "pregnancy pad" for the TV series Heartbeat.

The Royals lunched at The Ivy with a cast of theatrical celebrities, including Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Sir Peter Hall, Jonathan Miller, Maureen Lipman, David Suchet, Felicity Kendall and Trevor Nunn.

Miss Lipman said: "I think that it is terrific that she is interested and asking so many questions especially since she is not known as being a great theatre-lover."

It was not the first such "theme" day for the Queen. Last November, she and the Duke visited the various financial venues in the city.

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