The Stage Commandos & Popular Entertainers
The Stage Commandos
The theatrical group Stage Commandos was born during World War II within the dockyards in the Cottonera locality. This theatrical group was formed purely to entertain the dock workers, keeping their morale high and positive. The workers themselves built a stage out of wooden boxes and soon the performances attracted audiences from the areas around the docks.
During the War, the Grand Harbour and its Cottonera hinterland were a specific target, suffering continuous aerial bombing. The Stage Commandos introduced an innovative style of comedy and laughter which helped the workers cope with the intense bombardments and related psychological pressure. This was the birth of the Stage Commandos - a name inspired by the war experience.
Once hostilities were over, the group moved beyond the walls of the dockyards as the Stage Commandos had become very popular, filling to capacity Malta's theatres almost every weekend.
The names, Charles Clews, Johnny Catania and Laurie Bellizzi nostalgically remain in the minds of many and this set of postage stamps seeks to pay tribute to these three much-loved personalities who are gone but to be remembered for many years to come.
The stamps were hand- drawn by cardio thoracic surgeon, Alex Manché.
Source: Joe Julian Farrugia
Charles Clews 1919 - 2009
Charles Clews was a comic actor and script writer born in Senglea. Clews started his working life as a marine surveyor at the Malta dockyards. He eventually left to pursue a career in journalism - yet his greatest love was undoubtedly the stage and radio. In December 1996 Clews received the Qadi tar-Repubblika medal, and two years later he was awarded the Trophy for a lifetime entertainment to the nation.
Johnny Catania 1925 - 1991
Johnny Catania was a classic entertainer born in Msida. He was one of the founders of the Stage Commandos and together with his life-long friend Charles Clews, of the programme Radju Muskettieri. In 1964 Catania emigrated to Canada with his sister and her family where he worked for nearly three decades with the Maltese communities both in Canada and the United States.
Laurie Bellizzi 1922 -1993
Laurie Bellizzi was an actor and singer from and worked at the dockyard's flag section. He was one of the founders of the Stage Commandos and wrote comedy lyrics. Bellizzi introduced acrobatics to Malta and worked hard to promote local talent. He was also active in politics.
This set of postage stamps seeks to pay tribute to three much-loved personalities who entertained the nation for many years; Armando Urso, Johnny Navarro and Nosi Ghirlando.
These popular personalities together with many others entertained the nation for decades with musicals, sketches, farces and one-act plays. They were major contributors Radju Muskettieri (Radio Musketeers) which was a multi-programme comedy radio production for Rediffusion starting in 1948 and ran into the early 1970s and that kept the nation laughing from one programme to another.
The stamps were hand - drawn by cardio thoracic surgeon, Alex Manché.
Armando Urso 1918 - 1976
Armando Urso was a comic actor born in Valletta. At 4 years of age he made his stage debut at the Royal Opera House. As he grew older, he was a regular with the theatrical companies Goldoni, Ribalta, Indipendenza and Maleth at the Manoel Theatre. Urso was one of the pioneers of the programme Radju Muskettieri and is the author of the renowned song 'Lanu osejra.'
Johnny Navarro 1912 - 1997
Johnny Navarro was a comic actor born in Valletta. Navarro started his career in the civil service where he worked within War Damage Commission. He then worked as auditor until his retirement. Navarro was a versatile actor who was equally competent in both comedy and drama roles. In 1959 he received the Malta Drama League Oscar for his performance in the play Sibtha I-Mummy, Sur akkin?'
In the early 1960s Johnny Navarro and Charles Clews were invited to entertain the Maltese emigrant community in Australia.
Nosi Ghirlando 1908 - 1964
Nosi Ghirlando was born in Sliema and studied at the Lyceum. Ghirlando, a civil servant had a brilliant career as an amateur actor. In 1954 he joined the Radju Muskettieri where he remained until his death. His vocal capabilities and sharp memory put him at the forefront of Maltese comedy. His role as Karmena in the comedy It-Tieta' Karmena Abdilla (Karmena Abdilla's Wedding) endeared him to the nation as it ran throughout the theatres of Malta and Gozo.
Ghirlando brought up a large family single-handedly following the death of his wife who died at a young age.