THE WAYWARD WAY
Photo by Houston Rogers
London run: Vaudeville Theatre, January 27th (36 Performances) Music: Lorne Huycke Lyrics; Bill Howe Director: Dan Eckley Musical Director: Ray Cook Cast: David Holliday (Edward Middleton), Roberta D'Esti (Mary Wilson) Jim Dale (William Dowton), Cheryl Kennedy (Agnes Dowton), John Gower (Squire Cribbs), Peter Sugden (Drover Stevens) Songs: Haven that is Graven on My Heart, It's Old to Some but New to Me, Oh Sweet Revenge
Cheryl Kennedy & Jim Dale
Story: The hero, Edward Middleton, is in love with Mary Wilson, and all looks fine until Squire Cribbs tempts him to partake of a whisky. The Squire's wicked intent towards Mary is thwarted by gangling William Dowton, who leaps onto the scene just in time to prevent an imminent rape. William's other problem is his insane sister, Mad Agnes. However, by the end, Mad Agnes is restored to sanity, Edward is restored to sobriety, and the Squire gets his come-uppance. Notes: Based on the famous 1844 temperance Victorian melodrama, “The Drunkard”, this musical version was originally staged at the Lyric Hammersmith as a Christmas 1964 attraction. The original play was revived in 1933 at Theater Mart - a 340 seat Los Angeles Theatre, where to everyone’s amazement, it kept selling out week after week. The production marked its first year, and then another and as the years passed, actors began a tradition of recording performances and events on the wall of one of the dressing rooms. On the date of the 2,245th performance, Hitler invaded Poland. On the 3,088th performance, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. By its 7,085th performance on July 6, 1952, “The Drunkard” had been seen by more than 2 million people. Finally, new fire regulations reduced the number of seats permitted in the theatre from 340 to 260 and the play was no longer financially viable. On Oct. 17th 1959, “The Drunkard” closed after 9,477 performances. It had run for some 26 years. This musical version of the play, however, was a flop.
DIVORCE ME DARLING
Photo by Flair Photography ltd
London run: Globe Theatre, February 1st (87 performances) Music, Lyrics & Book: Sandy Wilson Director: Steven Vinaver Choreographer: Buddy Bradley Musical Director: Ian MacPherson Cast: Violetta (Hortense), Jenny Wren (Nancy), Maria Charles (Dulcie), Cy Young (Bobby van Husen), Patricia Michael (Polly), Geoffrey Hibbert (Lord Brockhurst), Philip Gilbert (Tony), Joan Heal (Madame K) Songs: Here We Are in Nice Again, Whatever Happened to Love?, The Paradise Hotel, Here am I But Where’s the Guy? , Someone to Dance With, Swing-Time is Here to Stay Story: Hortense is now the receptionist at the Hotel du Paradis and welcomes Fay, Nancy and Dulcie back to the scene of their carefree life (as celebrated in Joan Heal as Madame K “The Boy Friend”!). Bobby van Husen is there, alone, without Maisie, and looking for someone to dance with; Polly Browne is there, also alone, since her husband, now Sir Tony, is back in England sorting out the estate. Lord Brockurst is back, as randy as ever, as are Marcel, Adolphe and Pierre – all wondering whatever happened to the girls they used to sigh over. Madame K, the famous cabaret singer arrives, and confides to Hortense that she is, in fact, Madame Dubonnet – she had secretly married Polly’s father, but he had fled to South America after the stock market crash, and she is short of money and has become a cabaret singer. Then Polly’s father arrives in disguise, and Tony turns up, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, all ends happily. Notes: This sequel to “The Boy Friend” carried the story into the 1930s, and dealt with the time when love’s first bloom has faded a little. It was nothing like the success of its predecessor – possibly because the 1930s did not respond quite so readily to parody and pastiche.
HAPPY END London Run: Royal Court Theatre, March 11th (27 Performances) Music: Kurt Weill Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht Book: “Dorothy Lane” (Bertolt Brecht & Elizabeth Hauptmann) Director: Michael Geliot
Cast: Bettina Jonic (Lillian Holliday), David Bauer (Bill Cracker), Joe Melia (Sam Aulitzer), Thick Wilson (Rev. Jimmy Dexter), Ros Drinkwater, Marcella Markham, Chuck Julian, Declan Mulholland Songs: Sailors’s Tango, Surabaya Johnny, The Bilbao Song, The Mandalay Song Story: Chicago, 1919, where a group from the Salvation Army mission, headed by the passionate young Lieutenant Lillian Holly, decides to launch a moral crusade against a group of gangsters headed by Bill Cracker and based in his Beer Hall. Before the inevitable romance between Holly and Bill leads to the title of the show, there is a Keystone Cops bank robbery, a power struggle for the gang’s leadership and Lilian Holly’s exile from the Army, as well as the saints and sinners joining forces against the evils of Capitalism. Notes: The original 1929 Berlin production was a 7 day flop, and Brecht removed his name from the credits – although most of it was written by Elisabeth Hauptmann anyway. They substituted the pseudonym “Dorothy Lane” on the work and for the rest of his life it did not appear in Brecht’s own list of his works. This production had originated at the 1964 Edinburgh Festival.
FOUR THOUSAND BRASS HALFPENNIES London run: Mermaid, July 8th (repertoire) Music: Kenny Graham Lyrics: Gerald Frow Book: Bernard Miles Director: Denys Palmer Musical Director: Denny Wright Cast: James Bolam (Mercury), Freddie Jones (Jupiter), Jennifer Clulow (Alcema), Denise Coffey (Phaedra), Timothy Bateman (Sosia), Esmond Knight (Amphytrion) Songs: What’s He Got?
Story: The god, Jupiter, disguises himself as the mortal Amphytrion, so that he can seduce Amphytrion’s wife. As a result he fathers the halfhuman, half-god, Hercules. The story is presented in a state of “modern undress”, with a group of pop-singers, the Alphabeats, popping on every now and again to comment on the action.
James Bolam, Timothy Bateson and Denise Coffey
Notes: Adapted from John Dryden’s “Amphytrion”, the show was torn to pieces by the critics: it was described “like something from a poor fifth form revue. . . the singing is appalling and the acting a little better”. The music was described as “suggestive of the sounds made by a rat in trying to extricate itself from a bedspring”.
PASSION FLOWER HOTEL London run: Prince of Wales Theatre, August 24th (148 Performances) Music: John Barry Lyrics: Trevor Peacock Book: Wolf Mankowitz Director: William Chappell Choreographer: Peter Gordeno Musical Director: Richard Holmes Producer: Gene Gutowski
Cast: Pauline Collins (Lady Janet Wigton), Francesca Annis (Hon. Melissa Bristow), Jane Birkin (Mary Rose Byng-Bentall), Nicky Henson , Jeremy Clyde, Bill Kenwright, Bunny May Songs: What Does This Country Need Today? Tick Which Applies, How Much of the Dream Comes True, I Love my Love, Naughty-Naughty, The Syndicate, Something Different Story: It’s the “Swinging Sixties” and the upper-class girls of the Bryant House Finishing School decide to open up their dormitories to the boys of the nearby Longcombe School – after all, the girls need to be “finished”! It was a titillating story, featuring five young leading ladies in various states of undress. Naturally enough in the age of stage censorship, the show promised more permissiveness than it actually delivered. Notes: Based on the 1962 novel by Rosalind Erkine (which was the pen-name for Roger Erkine Longrigg), it ran just four months. Much later – in 1978 – the novel was adapted into a German-language film, minus the songs, shown in the UK under the same title.`
HELLO DOLLY London run: Drury Lane, December 2nd (794 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman Book: Michael Stewart Director-Choreographer: Gower Champion Musical Director: Alyn Ainsworth Producer: H. M. Tennent Ltd
Cast: Mary Martin (Dolly Levi), Loring Smith (Horace Vandergelder), Marilyn Lovell (Irene Molloy), Coco Ramirez (Minnie Fay), Garret Lewis (Cornelius Hackl), Johnny Beecher (Barnaby Tucker) Songs: It Takes A Woman, Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Before the Parade Passes By, Elegance, It Only Takes a Moment, So Long Dearie Story: Dolly Levi, a New York matchmaker in the 1890s, is successful in helping two young couples get together and at the same time manages to match herself with Horace Vandergelder, a rich Yonkers merchant. Two young shop-assistants in Vandergelder’s store, Cornelius and Barnaby, are finally matched with Irene and Minnie, who work in Irene Molly’s hat shop. Dolly’s big moment occurs in the second scene in Act II when she makes a grand reappearance at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.
Notes: This show has a very long pedigree beginning with John Oxenford’s English play “A Day Well Spent” (1835) , adapted into German as “Einen Jux Will Er Sich Machen” (1842). The German version was he basis of Thornton Wilder’s American play “The Merchant of Yonkers” (1938), which he later re-wrote as “The Matchmaker” (1955). This last version, “The Matchmaker”, was turned into the musical. Originally rejected by Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and Ginger Rogers, it was finally accepted by Carol Channing, and became the greatest role of her career. (In subsequent tours and revivals Ginger Rogers, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman along with Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Eve Arden and Dorothy Lamour all played the role. (In the UK the role was played by Ginger Rogers, succeeded by Dora Bryan, and was even once played by Danny la Rue!) Mary Martin
CHARLIE GIRL London run: Adelphi Theatre, December 15th (2,202 Performances) Music & Lyrics: David Heneker & John Taylor Book: Hugh & Margaret Williams with Ray Cooney Director: Wallace Douglas Choreographer: Alfred Rodrigues Musical Director: Kenneth Alwyn Cast: Anna Neagle (Lady Hadwell), Joe Brown (Joe Studholme), Derek Nimmo (Nicholas Wainwright), Christine Holmes (Charlie), Hy Hazell (Kay Connor), Stuart Damon (Jack Connor). Songs: Charlie Girl, Fish and Chips, Bells Will Ring, The Scooter Ballet, I Hates Money, You Never Know What You Can Do Story: Lady Hadwell has been forced to open her stately home as a tourist attraction. Her Anna Neagle as Lady Hadwell daughter, Lady Charlotte (Charlie) is a tomboy having a brief fling with a rich American playboy, Jack Connor. By the time the show ends, Charlie is happy to settle down with a local lad, Joe Studholme. Notes: This show was expected to have wide appeal, with Anna Neagle making a musical come-back to the West End after 12 years, and the stage debut of the young pop-star, Joe Brown. The critics hated it, and it opened to what were described as “the worst notices since Judas Iscariot”. In spite of universal damnation, the show caught on with the public, and went on to run for over 2,000 triumphant performances. Except for holiday cover, when Evelyn Laye took over temporarily, Anna Neagle stayed with the show throughout its long run.
TWANG London run: Shaftesbury Theatre, December 20th (43 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Lionel Bart Book: Lionel Bart & Harvey Orkin Director: Joan Littlewood, then Burt Shevelove Choreographer: Paddy Stone Musical Director: Gareth Davies Producer: Bernard Delfont & John Bryan
Cast: James Booth (Robin Hood), Toni Eden (Maid Marian), Barbara Windsor (Delphina), Howard Goorney (Guy of Gisborne), Bernard Bresslaw (Little John), Ronnie Corbett (Will Scarlett), Bob Grant (Sheriff of Nottingham), Maxwell Shaw (Prince John) Songs: May a Man be Merry, Welcome to Sherwood, Roger the Ugly, With Bells On, Writing on the Wall. Story: A send-up of the Robin Hood/Maid Marion story, with all the traditional characters. Notes: A hugely expensive show, its pedigree was impeccable: music by Lionel Bart, whose “Oliver”, “Blitz” and “Maggie May” had been big hits; designed by Oliver Messell, possibly the best English stage designer of the time; choreographed by Paddy Stone, the brilliant young dance director; and directed by Joan Littlewood, the legendary “Theatre Workshop” innovator. However, on the pre-London try-outs Lionel Bart demanded his name be taken off the posters, claiming Joan Littlewood had ruined his show; Joan Littlewood walked out; the Birmingham opening was cancelled; Joan Littlewood returned. The Manchester opening was a disaster. Joan Littlewood blamed everyone else; everyone else blamed Joan. She walked out again. She returned. Then she was fired by Bernard Delfont, and the American Burt Shevelove was rushed in to try and save the show. It was a hopeless task. The show opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre to the worst notices anyone could ever recall. It is said to be the biggest theatrical disaster of modern times. The reputations of Bart and Littlewood were in tatters, and the only praise anyone heard was for Barbara Windsor, said to be the only decent thing in the show.
Photo by Tom Hustler
Producer: Harold Fielding
Published on May 19, 2011