WONDERFUL TOWN London run: Princes Theatre, February 25th (207 Performances) Music: Leonard Bernstein Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green Book: Joseph Fields & Jerome Chodorov Director: Richard Bird Choreographer: Donald Saddler (re-created by Edmund Balin) Musical Director: Cyril Ornadel Producer: Jack Hylton
Songs: Christopher Street, Ohio, Wrong Note Rag, Conga!, Pass that Football Story: Set in the 1930s, the story tells of the two Sherwood sisters from Ohio who have come to Greenwich Village, New York in the hope of launching Ruth’s journalism career and Eileen’s stage career. Robert Baker, associate editor of the “Manhatter” turns down Ruth’s writing, telling her she needs to write from her own experience. She attempts to interview some visiting over-amorous Brazilian naval Pat Kirkwood & Shani Wallis officers who know just three English words – American, Dance and Conga – and after a wild night on the town, they all end up in jail. Ruth’s article about this experience gets her a Press card (and a marriage with Robert), Eileen’s fame as the blonde bombshell who hijacked the Brazilian navy gets her a cabaret spot in a nightclub – and all ends happily. Notes: Based on the play “My Sister Eileen” by Joseph Fields & Jerome Chodorov which was adapted from stories by Ruth McKinney. The Broadway production was a great hit for Rosalind Russell (later Carol Channing). The London production had an entirely English cast in spite of its New York setting. The show was revived in London in August 1986 with Maureen Lipman.
THE BURNING BOAT London run: Royal Court, March 10th (12 performances) Music: Geoffrey Wright Book and lyrics: Nicholas Phipps and Geoffrey Wright Director: Murray MacDonald Musical Director: Leonard Hancock Cast: Bruce Trent (Hartman), Marion Grimaldi (Jane), David Rees (Marryat), Diane Todd , Michael Gough, Anthea Askey, Songs: Where Do We Go From Here?, Swimming Against the Tide, Running a Festival, A Quiet Part of the World, Twelve Tone Tune Notes: An imaginary seaside resort on the East Coast is having a musical festival in honour of their own resident famous composer. (Deliberate shades of Benjamin Britten and Aldeburgh!). The burning boat is part of the old folklore of the town. The love interest is a young American airman and the daughter of the Lady of the Manor. Although Geoffrey Wright had considerable success writing songs for a number of West End revues and composed the “Transatlantic Lullaby”, a popular success in the 1940s, this was his only staged West End musical. He died in 2010, aged 98.
Photo by Houston-Rogers
Cast: Pat Kirkwood (Ruth Sherwood), Shani Wallis (Eileen Sherwood), Dennis Bowen (Robert Baker), Sidney James (Wreck)
KISMET London run: Stoll Theatre April 20th (648 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Robert Wright & George Forrest Book: Charles Lederer & Luther Davis Director: Albert Marre Choreographer: Jack Cole Musical Director: Cyril Ornadel Producer: Jack Hylton
Cast: Alfred Drake (Hajj), Doretta Morrow (Marsinah), Joan Diener (Lalume), Peter Grant (Caliph), Juliet Prowse (Princess Samaris), Donald Eccles (Omar Khayyam), Paul Whitsun-Jones (Wazir) Songs: Not Since Nineveh, Baubles Bangles and Beads, Stranger in Paradise, And This is My Beloved
Photo by Houston-Rogers
Story: A “musical Arabian Night”, the story takes place within a dawn-to-dusk period in Ancient Baghdad. A public poet takes the place of Hajj, a beggar, and soon finds himself involved with the wicked Wazir and the Wazir’s seductive wife, Lalume. A second theme involves the poet’s daughter, Marsinah, and the Caliph, who fall in love and marry within the day.
Alfred Drake & Doretta Morrow
Notes: Three American stars from the original Broadway production – Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow and Joan Diener – scored a big hit with their London debuts. The book was based on the original play by Edward Knoblock, and the music used themes adapted from the works of Aleksandr Borodin – chiefly from his opera “Prince Igor”.
THE MERRY WIDOW (Revival) London run: Palace Theatre, May 3rd (63 Performances) Music: Frank Lehar Book & Lyrics: Victor Leon & Leo Stein Director: Horst Reday Choreographer: Dia Lucca
Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura were a husband and wife team – she was Hungarian and he was Polish – and they were enormously popular in the world of opera, concert-halls and cinema. They were much loved throughout Europe, the USA and Canada and were especially famous for their performances in “The Merry Widow”. They performed it more than 200 times in four different languages – English, French, German and Italian. This limited run season at the Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura Palace was part of a European tour. Jan Kiepura died prematurely in 1966 and, after several years retirement, Marta Eggerth resumed a solo career – which even included appearing in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” in Pittsburgh. In 1999, at the age of 87, she sang on the stage of the Vienna State Opera to mark the anniversary of the first production of “The Merry Widow” singing a medley in four languages and receiving a standing ovation.
Photo by Life Magazine
Cast: Marta Eggerth (Hanna Glawari), Jan Kiepura (Count Danilo), Fritz Diestel (Baron Zeta), Franzi Wachmann (Valencienne)
TWENTY MINUTES SOUTH London run: St Martin’s Theatre, July 13th (101 performances) Music: Peter Greenwell Book and lyrics: Maurice Browning Director: Hattie Jacques Choreographer: Ian Stuart Musical Director: Peter Greenwell/ Robert Probst Cast: Daphne Anderson (Kitty), George Woodbridge (George Bannister) , Joan Bailey (Jane Bannister), Louie Ramsay (Susan Bannister), Robin Hunter, John le Mesurier, Douglas Squires.
Songs: The 8.27, Typing Typing, One of the Family, Having Ourselves a Wonderful Time, The 5.27, The Addison Mambo
Photo by Bryan Brake
Notes: This began at the Players Theatre, and was a story of suburbia – ordinary people leading ordinary lives, commuting six days a week from suburban Addison Park to their jobs in Town. The Banister family are very happy out-of-town until the arrival of an interfering cousin, Kitty. However, it all ends happily with a group wedding.
WILD THYME London run: Duke of York’s, July 14th (52 performances) Music: Donald Swann Book and lyrics: Philip Guard Director-Choreographer: Wendy Toye Musical Director: Donald Swann Producer: Laurier Lister (Theatre Royal, Bath)
Cast: Betty Paul (Yvette Leroux), Denis Quilley (Geoff Morris) , Colin Gordon, Jane Wenham, Gwen Nelson, Julian Orchard, Ronald Ward Songs: Even for a Day, Lonely Day, Kiss Me Like That Again, I Can Remember, the Beetles and the Butterfly Story: Geoff Morris, a bored railway porter with ambitions to become a singer, meets Yvette Leroux, a French opera singer , unhappily married to her huband/manager. They run away to the Devonshire village of Wild Thyme, meeting goofy hikers and old yokels for some very old-fashioned comedy scenes. It was also written throughout in rhyming couplets! Notes: The critics claimed it was whimsical, charming, but very old-fashioned, and were especially disturbed by the strange scenery design – a series of black and white backcloths drawn by the cartoonist Ronald Searle. The show was produced at the Theatre Royal Bath and underwent a short tour before coming into town. It managed a seven week run before it was withdrawn. Colin Gordon, Betty Paul & Denis Quilley
THE WATER GIPSIES London run: Winter Garden Theatre, August 31st (239 Performances) Music: Vivian Ellis Book and Lyrics: A.P.Herbert Director: Charles Hickman Choreographer: Narice Allen Musical Director: Jack Coles Producer: Peter Saunders
Songs: Why Did You Call Me Lily?, Why Should Spring Have all the Flowers?, When I’m Washing Up, Castles and Hearts and Roses, It Would Cramp My Style
Cast: Jerry Verno (Albert Bell) , Dora Bryan (Lily), Pamela Charles (Jane), Roy Godfrey (Bunny Moss), Laurie Payne (Fred), Peter Graves (Mr Bryan), Doris Hare (Landlady)
Jerry Verno, Dora Bryan and Pamela Charles
Story: Albert Bell is an old music-hall musician living on a barge on the Thames with his two daughters, Lily and Jane. Lily is warm hearted and out for a good time, not too serious about her flashy boyfriend, Bunny Moss. Jane is more serious and gets engaged to the brash communist son of the pub landlady, thus disappointing her childhood sweetheart, the young bargee Fred, and the handsome artist Mr Bryan. In the end all turns out well, with Fred carrying Jane over the “threshold” onto his barge. Notes: A.P. Herbert’s 1930s successful novel “The Water Gipsies” had been turned into a film in 1931, and Herbert and Vivian Ellis had written one song for the film. 25 years later the pair got together again and decided to turn it into a full-scale musical. The show itself did not attract particularly good reviews, but the critics all raved about the brilliant performance of Dora Bryan, and the public flocked to see the former revue performer who had become an overnight star.
ROMANCE IN CANDLELIGHT London run : Piccadilly Theatre, September 15th (53 performances) Music and lyrics: Sam Coslow Book : Eric Maschwitz Director: Richard Bird Choreographer: Phyllis Blakston Musical Director: Alexander Faris Producer: Emile Littler
Cast: Sally Ann Howes (The Lady), Patricia Burke (The Maid), Jacques Pils (The Valet), Roger Dann (The Marquis) Songs: Toujour l’Amour, The Lady Was Made to Be Loved, Bonjour Finis, Fromage, My Heart Says Yes, Formidable (*) Story: A valet dressed up as his master entertains a high-born lady; at the same time the master, dressed as his valet, entertains the highborn lady’s maid.
(*) The only praise in the show was for the song “Formidable” and this was not actually written by Sam Coslow but was an interpolated song by the French writer Gilbert Bécaud.
Notes: Based on the 1928 play “By Candlelight” by Siegfried Geyer and Carl Farkas, which in itself had been adapted from a German original, this was a small-scale show with a cast of just eight. The additional chorus of four backing singers worked entirely offstage. The critics hated it and it survived just two months.
Sally Ann Howes and Jacques Pils
THE PAJAMA GAME
Photo by Rimis
London run: Coliseum, October 13th (588 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Richard Adler & Jerry Ross Book: George Abbott & Richard Bissell Director: George Abbott & Jerome Robbins Re-staged by Robert E. Griffith Choreographer: Bob Fosse Re-created by Zoya Leporska Musical Director: Robert Lowe Producer: Prince Littler
Cast: Max Wall (Hines), Joy Nichols (Babe Williams), Edmund Hockridge (Sid Sorokin), Elizabeth Seal (Gladys), Joan Emney (Mabel), Frank Lawless (Prez)
Johnny Greenland, Elizabeth Seal and Ivor Meggido in “Steam Heat”
Story: The workers in the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are threatening to go on strike unless they get their 7½ cents pay rise. However, the new superintendant, Sid Sorokin, falls in love with Babe Williams (the leader of the workers’ Grievance Committee) and their romance is threatened by the Union dispute. All ends happily thanks to secretary Gladys obtaining some secret information for Sid, though this causes misunderstanding and jealousy with her own boyfriend, the time-and-motion-study man, Hines. Songs: Racing with the Clock, I’m Not at all in Love, I’ll Never Be Jealous Again, Hey There, Once a Year Day, Steam Heat, Hernando’s Hideaway, Seven-and-a-Half Cents Notes: Based on Richard Bissell’s novel “7½ Cents”, the Broadway production marked Bob Fosse’s debut as a choreographer. In the London production Elizabeth Seal scored a great hit in her first featured role thanks to the superbly staged “Steam Heat” number. Richard Bissell later wrote a novel about his experience in making and staging “The Pajama Game” and this novel was then adapted into a musical called “Say Darling” with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. In 1958 this “musical about the making of a musical” played 332 performances on Broadway.
Photo by Houston-Rogers
A GIRL CALLED JO London run: Piccadilly Theatre, December 15th (141 performances) Music: John Pritchett and Stanley Myers Book & Lyrics: Peter Myers, Alec Grahame & David Climie Director: Denis Carey Choreographer: Michael Charnley Musical Director: Mark Lubbock Producer: Linnet & Dunfee
Cast: Joan Heal (Jo), Diane Todd (Beth), Marion Grimaldi (Meg) , Denis Quilley (Laurie), Edward Woodward (John Brooke), Kenneth Edwards (Mr March), Noele Dyson (Mrs March) Songs: It’s a White World, Oh What a Party it will Be, When They Play the Polka, Returning from the Ball, Why Do I Feel Like This?, Bread and Cheese and Kisses, Whither You Go Love, Look to the Sun. Notes: The story stretches over fourteen scenes during the course of one year in New York, New England and Europe and tells the story of the tomboy Jo March and her sisters in a series of episodes remembered from the original book. Adapted from Louisa M Alcot’s “Little Women” ,the show contained 28 musical numbers including two principal ballets, one set in New York and the other in “old” Europe. By trying to encapsulate most of the original book in the show it was long, perfunctory and offered the characters little chance to develop or make much impact. However, Joan Heal in the title role scored a personal success.
PLAIN AND FANCY London run: Drury Lane, January 25th (315 Performances) Music: Albert Hague Lyrics: Arnold B. Horwitt Book: Joseph Stein & Will Glickman Director: Morton da Costa Choreographer: Helen Tamaris Cast: Shirl Conway (Ruth Winters), Richard Derr (Dan King), Malcolm Keen (Papa Yoder), Grace O’Connor (Katie), Reed de Rouen (Ezra Reber), Joan Hovis (Hilda Miller), Jack Drummond (Peter Reber) Songs: Young and Foolish, Follow Your Heart, Plenty of Pennsylvania, How do you Raise a Barn?, It’s a Helluva Way to Run a Love Affair. Story: New Yorkers Don King and his girlfriend Ruth Winters travel to the remote Amish community of Birdin-Hand, where Don has inherited a farm, and wants to sell it to an Amish farmer, Papa Yoder. Yoder’s daughter, Katie, is about to go through an arranged marriage to Ezra Reber, though she loves an old flame, Peter, Ezra’s brother. Peter has left the community and returns just before the wedding, only to be shunned by the townsfolk. When the barn burns down, Peter is accused of putting a hex on it. All is resolved when Peter’s bravery in a crisis gains him the respect of Papa Yoder, and the young couple are allowed to marry. Don and Ruth make it a double wedding. Notes: This was known as the show in which they built a barn onstage. The opening of Act 2 had a most spectacular three-minute song where the company constructed a complete barn in full sight of the audience. In the original Broadway production Barbara Cook became an overnight star in the role of Hilda Miller.
SHE SMILED AT ME London run: St Martin’s Theatre, February 2nd (4 performances) Book, music and lyrics: Allon Bacon Director: Jack Williams Choreographer: Thurza Rogers Musical Director: Harry Tait Producer: Melville Gillam
Cast: Peter Byrne (George D’Alroy), Jean Kent (Esther Eccles), Hugh Paddick (Sam Gerridge), Mercy Haystead (Polly), Linda Gray (Marquise de St Maur) Songs: Pity the Working Man, Stick T’Yer Class, Life is an Empty Thing, Marry for Love Story: Despite the warnings of his friend, Hawtree, about the importance of “caste” and social class, the Hon George D’Alroy woos and weds the beautiful dancer Esther Eccles, whose father is a drunkard. Esther’s sister, Polly, marries the honest plumber, Sam Gerridge. George is posted to India and a report comes back that he has been killed. Esther refuses to “sell” their child to George’s mother, the Marquise de St Maur, knowing they will survive with the help of Polly and Sam and her own earnings by returning to the stage. George reappears, having survived and escaped, and is delighted with Esther’s resourcefulness. Notes: Based on the play “Caste” by Tom Robertson, this had originated at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing. To make it more attractive for the West End, the original leading lady was replaced by film star Jean Kent. It was booed on the opening night, and came off the same week.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA London run: Royal Court, February 9th (141 Performances) Transferred to Aldwych March 21st Music: Kurt Weill Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht (translated Marc Blitzstein) Director: Sam Wanamaker Musical Director: Berthold Goldschmidt
Story: Macheath, also known as Mack the Knife, is a gangster who marries Polly Peachum, the daughter of Soho’s “Mr Big”. Mack is betrayed by his parents–in-law, and sent to Newgate Prison. There another flame, Lucy, the daughter of the police commissioner, helps him escape and he hides in his favourite brothel. However, Pirate Jenny, yet another flame, betrays him once more, and he is sentenced to hang. Mack receives a lastminute royal pardon, and in a mock-heroic ending he received a title, a pension and a castle.
Photo by Kevin MacDonnell
Cast: Ewan MacColl (Street Singer), Eric Pohlmann (Peachum), Lisa Lee (Mrs Peachum), Daphne Anderson (Polly), Maria Remusat (Jenny), Georgia Brown (Lucy), Bill Owen (Mack the Knife)
Daphne Anderson, Bill Owen and Georgia Brown
Notes: The play was given an Edwardian background and, unusually for the time, had the band onstage throughout, playing in a decorative bandstand at the back of the stage. It was based on John Gay’s “Beggar’s Opera” (1728) and had been a revolutionary production in Berlin in the late 1920s.
SUMMER SONG London run: Princes Theatre, February 16th (148 Performances) Music: Dvorak (arranged by Bernard Grun) Lyrics: Eric Maschwitz Book: Hy Craft & Eric Maschwitz Cast: Sally Ann Howes (Karolka), David Hughes (Shaun), Laurence Naismith (Dvorak), Mark Daly (Uncle Marek), Marjorie Rhodes (Ma Flannagan), Derek Sydney (Jake)
Photo by Baron
Songs: Once a Year is Not Enough, Just Around the Corner, One Boy Sends You a Rose, Deep Blue Evening, Small Town Sweetheart
Sally Ann Howes as Karolka at the Bohemian wedding
Story: Whilst on tour through the Middle West with his homesick orchestra, the composer Dvorak meets Karolka, en route to join her uncle in the Czech community in Willow Falls. He decides to go with her, pretending to be just a player in his own orchestra. They find Willow Falls is not the beautiful town described by Uncle Marek, and Dvorak is forced to take a job as a piano player in Ma Flannagan’s saloon. Karolka falls in love with Ma Flannagan’s son, Shaun, but Ma Flannagan through her wicked agent, Jake, intends to foreclose on Marek’s mortgage. Misunderstandings follow, all solved by Dvorak and there is, of course, a happy ending.
THE BUCCANEER London run: Apollo Theatre, February 22nd (29 Performances) Music, book and lyrics: Sandy Wilson Director: William Chappell Musical Director: Charles Zwar Producer: H.M.Tennent Ltd
Story: “The Buccaneer” is a long-established boys’ comic featuring Captain Fairbrother, the heroic old-British hero type. The comic is now run by the widowed Mrs Barraclough. Sales are falling, and the American Walter Maximus want to take it over and update it with sex-appeal and space-age adventures. The clash between the Old, the Middle-Aged and the Young forms the basis of a romantic and charming musical. Songs: Good Clean Fun, Unromantic Us, Just Pals, Oh What a Beautiful Brain, In the Good Old USA, Why Did it Have to Be Spring?
Photo by Angus McBean
Cast: Betty Warren (Mrs Barraclough), Kenneth Williams (Montgomery), Sally Bazeley (Mabel), John Faassen (Peter), Ronald Radd, Thelma Ruby, Pamela Tearle.
Sally Bazeley, Kenneth Williams, John Faassen
Notes: It had opened at the Lyric Hammersmith in September 1955 and after a successful run of 170 performances transferred to the Apollo, where, sadly, it failed to catch on.
TREVALLION London run: Palace Theatre, March 21st (4 performances) Music: Roy Phillips Lyrics: Philip Phillips Book: Philip Phillips & Malcolm Morley Director: Malcolm Morley Musical Director: Charles Brill Producer: Peter Daubeney
Cast: Jean Carrol (Prudence Haycorn), Dennis Noble (Farmer Haycorn), Richard Goolden (Gaffer Chickwidden), Edmund Donleavy (Joe Pink), Joan Wood (Flo Pink). Story: Set in Cornwall, this was a story of a romance, an escaped convict and a stolen necklace, all performed in the style of a comic opera. Notes: “The Stage” described it as “crude” and “undramatic” and “an amateurish concoction of clichés without wit and with music that never rises above the commonplace.” In the enormous Palace Theatre it closed after just 3 days. .
COMEDY OF ERRORS London run: Arts Theatre, March 28th (Season) Music: Julian Slade Book & Lyrics: Lionel Harris and Robert McNab Director: Lionel Harris Musical Director: Myer Fredman Cast: James Maxwell (Duke), Bernard Cribbins (Dromio), David Peel (Antipholus of Ephesus), Frederick Jaeger (Antipholus of Syracuse), Patricia Routledge (Adriana), Jane Wenham (Luciana) Songs: I Shall No More to Sea, When Woman Weeps, Come I Will Fasten, Get Thee From the Door, Who Would Be Jealous? Let’s Go Hand in Hand Notes: Originally created as a comic operetta for BBC-TV and broadcast on 16 May 1954. The production had a limited run at the Arts prior to a further television broadcast on 21 May 1956 for ITV
WILD GROWS THE HEATHER London run: London Hippodrome, May 3rd (28 performances) Music: “Robert Lindon” (Jack Waller & Joseph Tunbridge) Lyrics: “William Henry” (Ralph Reader) Book : Hugh Ross Williamson Director: Ralph Reader Choreographer: Gilbert Vernon Musical Director: Lew Stone Producer: Jack Waller
Cast: Bill O’Connor (Rev Dishart), Valerie Miller (Lady Babbie), Gerald Welch (Lord Rintoul) , Madeleine Christie, Peter Sinclair Songs: A Little Bit of Devil, I See Everything I Love in You, Walking to the Kirk, I Once Had a Wonderful Day. Story: Set among the weavers of rural Scotland, this is a story of class and labour problems and the new minister, the staid and upright Rev Gavin Dishart. Lord Rintoul is determined to get the local gipsies off his land, but his ward, the Lady Babbie , disguises herself as a gypsy girl to protect them from her guardian. Initially the conservative Dishart is appalled by the feisty girl, but he soon falls in love with this “gypsy”, and their romance causes the townspeople to ban him from the church until Babbie's true identity is revealed. Notes: Based on J.M.Barrie’s “The Little Minister”, this was a much hyped show, with nationwide auditions to find suitable and genuine Scottish performers (though the producer ended up with a Canadian in the lead!) The music was attributed to the fictitious Robert Lindon to hide the fact that the real composer, Joseph Tunbridge, was long dead, and all the songs came out of his trunk of old unused songs. The show even incorporated the Negro spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand” sung in Scottish accents. Because of Ralph Reader’s background the opening night was packed with Boy Scouts who cheered every song to the rafters. However, the critics hated it and it came off after two and a half weeks.
JUBILEE GIRL London run: Victoria Palace, June 14th (53 performances) Music: Alexander Kevin (A.K.Kaplan) Book & Lyrics: Robin Fordyce & David Rogers. Director: George Hall & Casper Wrede Choreographer : Peter Darrell Musical Director: Leonard Morris Cast: Maureen Quinney (Pauline Beam), John Morley (Lord Charles Graine), George Benson (Duke of Epping), Iris Tully (Mrs Pullar), Joyce Barbour (Dowager Lady Graine) Story: Set in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. In between the pomp and ceremony involving Lords, Ladies and assorted aristocrats, there is the story of Pauline Beam, a “new” woman from the feminist movement, and Lord Charles Graine, scion of the noblest kind, who in spite of social and family differences, end up as husband and wife by the final curtain. The show also offered great spectacle: scenes at Paddington Station, Royal Ascot, the Henley Regatta, and visual processionals of Siamese Princesses, Indian Rajahs, Russian Princes, Hawaiian chieftains. The whole thing was jaw-droppingly lavish and totally lacking in any real plot or music. Notes: The composer, wealthy Canadian, Alan Kaplan, and his wife, the Marks & Spencer heiress lavished great sums of money on their ideal cast : Lizabeth Webb (Pauline), Tom Criddle (Lord Charles), Marie Lohr (the Dowager Lady Graine), Irene Handl (as Mrs Pullar the Feminist) and the top star Leslie Henson (Percival, the Duke of Epping). The director/choreographer was Bert Stimmel. During rehearsals Leslie Henson walked out, and was replaced with George Benson. After the second week of the pre-London tour, the director was replaced with the joint team of Leslie Bricusse and Frederick Raphael, who rewrote the whole show. Then a new choreographer, Alfred Rodrigues, was engaged and he re-did all the dances. In the fourth week Irene Handl and Tom Criddle were replaced, and then the leading lady, Lizabeth Webb walked out. It was decided to cancel the whole show at the end of the Manchester run on May 12th. Suddenly the Victoria Palace was available provided the show would play twice-nightly. Incredibly, Mr and Mrs Kaplan (with more money than sense!) decided to pull the whole thing together again with yet further replacements of the directors and choreographer and the star, Marie Lohr, who refused to do twice nightly . The show limped through a few weeks and then disappeared.
London run: Drury Lane, November 15th (347 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Harold Rome Book: S.N.Behrman & Joshua Logan Director: William Hammerstein Choreographer: Onna White Musical Director: Michael Collins Producer: S.A.Gorlinsky
Cast: Ian Wallace (César), Robert Morley (Panisse), Janet Pavek (Fanny), Kevin Scott (Marius), Mona Washbourne (Honorine), Robert Passfield (Césario) Songs: Never Too Late for Love, Restless Heart, Why Be Afraid to Dance? Fanny, Love is a Very Light Thing. Story: Set on the waterfront in Marseilles, Césars’s son, Marius, loves Fanny, but goes away to sea. Fanny, who is pregnant, accepts the marriage proposal of César’s friend, the middle-aged Panisse, who brings up the boy, Césario, as his own. When Marius returns some years later Césario wants to get to know his real father, but César insists that he stays with Panisse, and so Marius refuses to meet him. Césario goes back to Panisse, who knowing that he is dying, pleads with Fanny to make a life together with Marius and the boy who means so much to them all. Notes: This was based on Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s film trilogy: “Marius”, “Fanny” and “César”. In the USA it marked the debut of one of Broadway’s most important post-war producers, David Merrick
GRAB ME A GONDOLA London run: Lyric Theatre, December 26th (673 performances) Music: James Gilbert Book and Lyrics: Julian More & James Gilbert Director: John Counsell Choreographer: Eleanor Fazan Musical Director: Stanley Myers Producer: Donald Albery & Neil Crawford
Cast: Joan Heal (Virginia Jones) , Denis Quilley (Tom Wilson), Jane Wenham(Margaret Kyle), Donald Hewlett (Alex Bryan), Guido Lorraine (Prince Luigi Bourbon), Joyce Blair (Marcia Grey) Songs: The Motor Car is Treacherous, Cravin’ for the Avon, Bid Him a Fond Goodbye, Lonely in a Crowd, Rockin’ at the Cannon Ball, When I Find That Girl.
Photo by Houston-Rogers
Story: Tom Wilson, a reporter, has gone to Venice Film Festival to interview the starlet Virginia Jones – the latest hot property known for her daring mink bikini. Tom’s girl-friend, Margaret, is worried that Tom’s interest in Virginia is not entirely professional, and then Tom is worried when Margaret is flattered by the attentions of the wealthy Prince Luigi. However, Tom is not the cheating kind, and Virginia needs the Prince to finance her Shakespearean ambitions (“Cravin’ for the Avon”). So everyone is paired off appropriately and a happy ending ensues. Notes: Opened at the Theatre Royal Windsor in October, transferred to Lyric Hammersmith November 27th, then to the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue on Boxing Day for a long and successful run. Peter Brett, Ron Shaw, Roy Jameson, Terence Theobald with Joan Heal “Cravin’ for the Avon”
THE CRYSTAL HEART London Run: Saville Theatre, February 19th (7 performances) Music: Baldwin Bergersen Book & Lyrics: William Archibald Director: Bill Butler Choreographer: Ray Harrison Cast: Gladys Cooper (Phoebe Ricketts), Laurie Payne (Ted), Julia Shelley (Louisa Hatfield), Dilys Laye (Virtue) Songs: I Wanted to See the World, How Strange the Silence, Handsome Husbands, D-o-g spells Dog (So how does one spell Love), It’s so British, Madam I Beg You. Story: The story concerns Dame Phoebe Ricketts, a rich widow obliged by the terms of her late husband’s will to live out her life on a desolate island, attended by a retinue of just women. One day a boatload of handsome men are washed onto the island. Notes: The story was almost surreal, and Gladys Cooper in her 70th year was playing a role described as “ a portrait of an elderly romantic somewhere between one of Tennessee Williams’s Southern pretty-belles and the Madwoman of Chaillot. It was an enormous flop. The closing notice went up on the second night. Three years later the authors attempted to revive the show off-Broadway – but again it folded in its first week.
DAMN YANKEES London run: Coliseum, March 28th (258 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Richard Adler & Jerry Ross Book: George Abbott & Douglass Wallop Director: George Abbott (restaged by James Hammerstein) Choreographer: Bob Fosse (reproduced by Zoya Leporska) Musical Director: Robert Lowe Producer: Williamson Music Ltd
Cast: Belita (Lola), Ivor Emmanuel (Joe Hardy), Bill Kerr (Mr Applegate), Donald Stewart, Betty Paul, Robin Hunter Songs: You’ve Gotta Have Heart, Shoeless Jo from Hannibal Mo, Those Were the Good Old Days, Whatever Lola Wants, A Man Doesn’t Know
Photo by Rimis
Story: Joe Hardy, a middle-aged baseball enthusiast, sells his soul to the devil, in the guise of Mr Applegate, in return for the chance to play with the Washington Senators. After a sensationally successful season the pact is up, but fortunately Joe finds a loophole in the original contract. In spite of the efforts of Mr Applegate’s seductress, Lola, Joe is able to return to his long-suffering wife. Notes: Based on Douglass Wallop’s novel “The Day the Yankees Lost the Pennant”, the original Broadway production made an overnight star of Gwen Verdon in the role of Lola. In London Elizabeth Seal succeeded Belita soon after the opening.
ZULEIKA London run: Saville Theatre, April 11th (124 performances) Music: Peter Tranchell Book and Lyrics: James Ferman Director: Alfred Rodrigues & Peter Powell Choreographer: Eleanor Fazan Musical Director: Ron Grainer and later Charles Mackerras Producer: Donald Albery
Songs: City of Repose, Zuleika’s Travels, It’s My Doorstep Too, Anything Can Happen, Always Be Wary of Women, I Want a Man to Say No Story: Zuleika Dobson causes a sensation when she arrives at the all-male enclave of Judas College, Oxford where her grandfather is the warden. The first to fall in love with her is the Duke of Dorset, followed by Noaks, another student, and then by the entire student body. However, Zuleika rejects them all because she can only fall in Mildred Mayne and David Morton love with someone who does not love her in return. The rejected suitors one by one decide to drown themselves and leap into the River Isis. When there are no men left, Zuleika moves on to Cambridge University, where a scornful man – made of stronger stuff than the Oxfordians, finally brings her to heel.
Photo by David Sim
Cast: Mildred Mayne (Zuleika), David Morton (Duke of Dorset), Peter Woodthorpe (Noaks) , Patricia Routledge,, John Gower, Peter Murray.
Notes: This was based on the 1911 novel “Zuleika Dobson” by Max Beerbohm. The pre-London tour opened with the young Australian actress Diane Cilento in the title role. However, she failed to appear on the second night, and her understudy took over. Diane Cilento returned a few days later, but two weeks later there were rumours she had tried to slash her wrists during the Oxford week. She was replaced with Mildred Mayne, and eleven days later the show opened in the West End. It survived just over three months.
Cast: Zack Matalon (Jim Sinclair), Jo Ann Bayless (Jill Grant), James Raglan (Colonel Carruthers), Rose Hill (Dolly Gander), Colin Croft (Robin Webster), Barry Kent, Barbara Ferris, Bernard Cribbins
Photo by Denis de Marney
London run : Lyric, Hammersmith. April 17th (62 performances) Music: Ronald Cass & Charles Ross Book & lyrics: Charles Ross; Director: Charles Ross Choreographer: Ross Taylor Musical Director: Leonard Morris
Zack Matalon and Jo Ann Bayless
Songs: London is a Village, Nothing to do in London, Lovely Weather for Ducks, Exercising the Dog, I Go Round in a Whirl Story: Harmony Close is a series of mews that have been titivated for human occupation, and tenanted by the old-time retired Colonel Carruthers, Dolly Gander, a retired “Madam”, a business executive, Jim Sinclair, a young writer, and Jill Grant, a would-be young actress. The community is a mix of the old, the middle-aged and the young. The various love affairs and secrets are mixed with blackmail when Robin Webster tries to extort money as the price of his silence, but virtue triumphs in the final scene when everyone admits their indiscretions and harmony reigns. Notes: After seven weeks at Hammersmith, the show failed to come into the West End and seems not to have been performed again.
FREE AS AIR London run: Savoy Theatre, June 6th (417 performances) Music: Julian Slade Book and lyrics: Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds Director: Denis Carey Choreographer: Mark Stuart Musical Director: Philip Martell Producer: Linnit & Dunfee
Cast: Gillian Lewis (Geraldine Melford), John Trevor (Albert Postumous), Michael Aldridge (Lord Postumous), Gerald Harper (Jack Amersham), Josephine Tewson (Ivy Crush), Patricia Bredin, Dorothy Reynolds, Leonard Rossiter. Songs: The Time of My Life, We’re Holding Hands, Free as Air, I’d Like to Be Like You, Her Mummy Doesn’t Like Me Anymore, Holiday Island Story: The heroine, Geraldine Melford, is a wealthy young heiress who decides to move to the (fictitious) Channel Island of Terhou to escape the Press and to live an unsophisticated life. She falls under the spell of the Island, much helped by Albert, son of Lord Postumous, the Lord of the Manor, and is elected the island’s Queen of the Year. Her peace is disturbed when her fiancé, Jack Amersham, a racing driver with a roving eye, and a pushy woman reporter named Ivy Crush, arrive on the island in search of her. But Ivy too falls under the Island’s spell, and romance takes a hand all round in a happy ending.
Gillian Lewis and John Trevor
OH! MY PAPA! London run: Garrick Theatre, July 17th (45 performances) Music: Paul Burkhard Lyrics & Book: Juerg Amstein & Erik Charell Director: Warren Jenkins Musical Director: Cast: Paul Curran (Mr Oberholzer), Sonia Rees (Anna), Laurie Payne (Uncle Alex), Rachel Roberts (Iduna), Phyllida Law (Katie), Roy Skelton (Robert) , Peter O’Toole (Uncle Gustave). Songs: Oh my Papa, My Pony Johnny, Tiri-Lee Tiri-La, Cuircus Song, Lion Tamer’s Song, The Coughing Song
Photo by Houston-Rogers
Story: The celebration for Mr Oberholzer’s 60th birthday is interrupted with the unexpected arrival of the black sheep of the family – Uncle Alex and Iduna – a circus ringmaster and his equestrienne wife. The respectable family is threatened when Oberholzer’s daughter, Anna, and his three other brothers succumb to the glamour of the circus, and their captivating relative. Further comic complications are added by Katie, the family’s temperamental cook, and by Robert, the local gardener in love with Anna. The show ends happily with a big, spectacular circus scene .
Rachel Roberts surrounded by the three Oberholzer Uncles
Notes: The title song had already become a Number One hit as performed by the “man with the golden trumpet”, Eddie Calvert. However, the show was not a success.
MEET ME BY MOONLIGHT
Cast: Ellis Irving (Henry Mansfield), Sophie Stewart (Aunt Tabitha), Sonia Graham (Mary Ellen), Stephanie Voss (Sarah), Michael Denison (Charles Cuttinghame), Jeremy Brett (Roderick) Story: Henry Mansfield, a pompous Victorian Papa, has three daughters and a household run by his sister, Aunt Tabitha, who is anxious to marry Jeremy Brett and Sonia Graham off Mary Ellen, the eldest daughter as soon as possible. But Mary Ellen is carrying on a secret romance with the mysterious “Roderick”, but this changes with the arrival of Charles Cuttinghame, a legal friend of her father. A worried Roderick fakes an introduction into the household and is immediately considered by Aunt Tabitha as a suitor for the Sarah, the second daughter. However, his mystery is explained and by the end Roderick and Sarah, Mary Ellen and Charles are happily paired off. Notes: This was originally staged at the Playhouse Salisbury.
BELLS ARE RINGING London run: Coliseum, November 14th (292 Performances) Music: Jule Styne Lyrics & Book: Betty Comden & Adolph Green Director: Jerome Robbins (restaged by Gerald Freedman) Choreographer: Jerome Robbins & Bob Fosse (restaged by Robert Tucker) Musical Director: Reginald Burston Producer: S.A.Gorlinsky
Cast: Janet Blair (Ella Peterson), George Gaynes (Jeff Moss), Allyn McLerie , Eddie Molloy, Songs: Just in Time, Long Before I Knew You, The Party’s Over, Hello Hello There, Mu-Cha-Cha, Drop That Name, I’m Going Back.
Story: Ella Peterson is a meddlesome switchboard operator at Susanwerphone answering service. She falls in love with would-be playwright, Jeff Moss, even though they have never met. Jeff thinks she’s just a motherly old lady. Ella’s identity is kept from him as she tries to help his writer’s block as the scene moves from the subway, to Central Park, to a penthouse and several nightclubs. All ends happily and romantically. Notes: The show was specially written for Judy Holliday, exploiting her particular talents and comic skills and, indeed, she became a star as a result of the Broadway production.
Photo by Roger Wood
London run: Aldwych Theatre, August 1st ( 148 Performances) Music: Various Victorian composers Lyrics & Book: Anthony Lesser and Joy Whitby. Director: Terence Dudley
KEEP YOUR HAIR ON London run: Apollo Theatre, February 13th (20 performances) Music: John Addison Lyrics & Book: John Cranko Director: John Cranko Musical Director: Anthony Bowles Cast: Rachel Roberts (Mabel), Erik Mork (Olaf), Betty Marsden (Lady ffloyte-Bowen), Eric Thompson (Sir William Jumbleby), Barbara Windsor. Songs: True Party Song, Just a Misfit, Toniâ€™s a Phoney, Patent Leather Pumps, Never Be a Bore, Oh I Do I Do Story: A series of love-affairs and business-affairs get muddled as a result of goings-on and gossip in a hairdressing salon. Red-headed hairdresser Mabel has a romance with the refugee Olaf, with his case full of butterflies. Lady ffloyte-Bowen is a society butterfly who gives her patronage to the leader of the Truth Party rather than the party itself. The comic highlight is the final appearance of Mabel with a bald head having accidentally had her red hair completely shaved away. Notes: The scenery was a set of full-size photographic blow-ups by the society photographer Tony ArmstrongJones (later the husband of Princess Margaret and ennobled as Lord Snowdon.) On the opening night the last fifteen minutes were drowned out by non-stop booing from the audience. After the show an angry crowd gathered at the stage door, and some of the cast decided to leave via front-of-house doors rather than face the abuse. John Cranko did a lot of re-writing and changes but to no avail and the show came off after two weeks.
LADY AT THE WHEEL London run: Westminster Theatre, February 19th (37 performances) Music & Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse & Robin Beaumont. Book: Frederick Raphael & Lucienne Hill; Director: Wendy Toye Musical Director: Louis Voss Producer: Andrew Broughton & Edward Kassner
Cast: Vivienne Bennett (Lady Isabel Haines) , Peter Gilmore (Peter Haines), Bernard Cribbins (Fernando Fernandez), Lucille Mapp (Tuesday), Maggie Fitzgibbon (Jinx Abbott) Songs: Siesta, Pete, Y'Know, Love Is
Notes: Opened at the Lyric Hammersmith in January for 28 performances and then transferred to the Westminster. (Originally produced in Cambridge in 1953 as a University Club production)
Photo by Getty Images
Story: Set in Monte Carlo with the racing car rally as its background, Lady Isabel Haines and her five accompanying debutantes are respectively engaged on gambling in the casino and in searching for eligible young men. Her coloured maid, Tuesday, provides much comic amusement. Her son, Peter,a racing driver, has to compete with Fernando Fernandez, a rascally Italian rival, not just on the race track but for the love of the young American, Jinx Abbott.
Bernard Cribbins and the girls
1958 WHERE’S CHARLEY?
London run: Palace Theatre, February 20th (404 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser Book: George Abbott Director: William Chappell Choreographer: Hanya Holm Musical Director: Michael Collins Producer: H.M.Tennent Ltd
Cast: Norman Wisdom (Charley), Pip Hinton (Amy Spettigue), Terence Cooper (Jack Chesney), Pamela Gale (Kitty), Marion Grimaldi (Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez), Jerry Desmonde (Sir Francis Chesney), Felix Felton (Mr Spettigue) Songs: My Darling My Darling, Once in Love with Amy, Make a Miracle, Lovelier than Ever, Pernambuco Story: Charley and Jack, undergraduates at Oxford in 1892, wish to entertain their lady friends, Amy and Kitty, but to do so Charley must play chaperone by disguising himself as his own aunt. Further complications arise when the girls’ guardian, Mr Spettigue, proposes marriage to the “aunt” and when the real aunt eventually shows up. Notes: The main difference between the original play and the musical version is that in the play a third character, Lord Fancourt-Babberly, was used to impersonate Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, the aunt from Brazil (where the nuts come from!) This was Norman Wisdom’s first book musical and was a great personal success.
SCHOOL London run: Prince’s Theatre, March 4th (22 performances) Music: Christopher Whelen Book and lyrics: Redmond Phillips Director: Douglas Seale Choreographer: Margaret Maxwell Musical Director: Robert Probst Producer: Jack Hylton
Cast: Jean Bayless (Bella), Eleanor Drew (Naomi Tighe), James Maxwell (Lord Beaufoy), Michael Blakemore (Jack Poyntz), Geoffrey Taylor (Mr Crooks) Songs: A Prince for a Cinderella, We’re Men of the World, Teach Them Latin, Mignonette and Marigold, Can a Shadow Say Goodbye?, I Hang on Your Lips, Letter Song Story: Like the original Victorian farce, there is a villain, Mr Crooks; a hero, Lord Beaufoy; his fortune hunting friend, Jack Poyntz; and inside the school, a dull and mousy charity pupil, the orphan Bella; and a rich girl, Naomi Tighe. The lightweight story accompanied by just piano and drums was not strong enough to survive. Notes: This was an adaptation of Tom Robertson's 1869 play.
EXPRESSO BONGO London run: Saville Theatre, April 23rd (316 Performances) Music: David Heneker & Monty Norman Lyrics: Julian More, Monty Norman & David Heneker. Book: Wolf Mankowitz and Julian More. Director/Choreographer: William Chappel Musical Director: Burt Rhodes Producer: Oscar Lewenstein & Neil Crawford Cast: Paul Scofield (Johnnie), James Kenney (Bongo), Millicent Martin (Maisie), Hy Hazell (Dixie), Elizabeth Ashley (Lady Rosemary), Meier Tzelniker, Barry Cryer, Hilda Fenemore, Victor Spinetti Susan Hampshire Songs: The Shrine on the Second Floor, Time, Seriously, Nothing is for Nothing, I Am, He’s Got Something for the Public, There’s Nothing Wrong with British Youth Today.
Notes: Later filmed in 1959 with Cliff Richard, but it was much cleaned up and nearly all the songs were jettisoned.
Photo by Julie Hamilton
Story: This is the story of a teenage rock’n’roll singer, his seedy agent, and the even seedier world of cheap success. Herbert Rudge, from a bug-ridden slum with a slatternly mother and a wastrel father, is transformed into pop-singer, Bongo Herbert thanks to the Soho chancer, Johnnie. Maisie, a stripper, is in love with Johnnie. Dixie, an older woman, is happy to help a handsome young man at the start of his career, as long as he is prepared to “do his bit” for the free lodging and food she provides. All in all, a gritty, sordid view of the 1950s pop scene
Hy Hazell, James Kenney & Elizabeth Ashley
MY FAIR LADY London run: Drury Lane, April 30th (2,281 Performances) Music: Frederick Loewe Lyrics & Book: Alan Jay Lerner Director: Moss Hart Choreographer: Hanya Holm Musical Director: Cyril Ornadel Producer: H.M.Tennent Ltd
Cast: Rex Harrison (Henry Higgins), Julie Andrews (Eliza Doolittle), Stanley Holloway (Alfred P. Doolittle), Robert Coote (Colonel Pickering), Zena Dare (Mrs Higgins), Leonard Wier (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) Songs: Wouldn’t it be Luverly?, With a Little Bit of Luck, The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live, Get Me to the Church on Time, I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face. Story: Henry Higgins, a Professor of Linguistics, accepts a bet that he could fool high society into accepting a common cockney flower girl as a grand Society Lady. All he has to do is to change her speech patterns, teach her to speak “proper” English and give her a few lessons in “proper” behaviour. His “victim” is a Covent Garden flower-girl called Eliza Doolittle. Thanks to joint hard work he wins his bet, and then assumes she will leave and find her way in the world. However, he discovers that he misses her, he has “grown accustomed to her face”. Does she return his love or will she marry the love-smitten suitor, Freddy Eynsford Hill?
Photo by Cecil Beaton
Notes: Alan Jay Lerner used copious amounts of Shaw’s original dialogue, but his major change was in the ending of the play. Originally Shaw had left it open – the audience could make its own mind up whether she would marry Higgins or Freddy. In a later Epilogue, Shaw insisted she should marry Freddy. For the musical this was ignored, and in the last scene Liza returns to Higgins. Gabriel Pascal, the Hungarian film producer, had the rights to turn Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” into a musical, and approached in turn Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Yip Harburg, Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz and Rodgers and Hammerstein – all of whom turned it down, saying it couldn’t be done. Lerner and Loewe agreed to give it try and ended up creating one of the most highly esteemed musicals of all time. For the Broadway premiere the producers wanted Rex Harrison as Higgins, but he was under contract to “Binkie” Beaumont of H. M. Tennent Ltd. Beaumont struck a deal: he would release Harrison as long as he was given the rights to present the show in London. He managed also to get the London rights to “West Side Story” and accordingly, the two greatest musicals of the 1950s were both presented by the Tennent management in 1958. Hugh “Binkie” Beaumont was the most successful producer of the era.
Photo by Matthews
London run: Adelphi, May 20th (16 Performances) Music: David Martin Lyrics & Book: Langston Hughes Director: Laurence Harvey Choreographer: Malcolm Clare Cast: Bertice Reading (Miss Mamie) , Ilene Day (Zara), Melvin Stewart (Simple), Marpessa Dawn (Joyce Lane) Songs: I'm a Good Girl, Let's Ball Away, Miss Mamie Melvin Stewart and Marpessa Dawn with director Laurence Harvey
Story: An American negro musical, set in Harlem, with the thinnest of stories used as an excuse for a series of blues and jazz songs, it was described as having three or four good songs, a small amount of excellent dancing and two dominant actresses with personality. Apart from Bertice Reading and Ilene Day as Zarita, the local vamp, generally the critics felt the best thing in the show was Daisy, a real dog. Notes: The problem with a poor show called “Simply Heavenly” is that it clearly invited critical headlines like “It Simply Isn't” and “Simply Awful”. It duly received such a press.
IRMA LA DOUCE
Photo by Tpny Armstrong-Jones
London run: Lyric Theatre, July 17th (1,512 Performances) Music: Marguerite Monnot English lyrics & Book: Julian More, David Heneker & Monty Norman Director: Peter Brook Choreographer: John Heawood Musical Director: Alexander Faris Producer: Donald Albery & H.M.Tennent Ltd
Cast: Elizabeth Seal (Irma la Douce) , Keith Michell (Nestor), Clive Revill, John East, Julian Orchard, Gary Raymond Songs: Our Language of Love, Dis-Donc Dis-Donc, There is Only One Paris for That, Le Grisbi is le Root of le Evil in Men
Keith Michell & Elizabeth Seal
Story: In a dingy quarter of Paris a pure-at-heart prostitute, Irma, loves a poor student named Nestor. To have Irma all to himself, Nestor disguises himself as “Oscar”, a man rich enough to be her only provider. But Nestor grown jealous of Oscar and “kills” him. However, he is sent to Devil’s Island for the crime he never committed. Eventually he escapes, proves his innocence and they have a Christmas reunion. Notes: The show was adapted from a French musical with book and lyrics by Alexandre Breffort. The production was re-created on Broadway in 1960 with most of its original British cast and managed a good run of 524 performances. A film version was made in 1963 with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon – but all the songs were cut!
WALLY PONE London run: Unity Theatre, July 18th (10 weeks) Music & Lyrics: Lionel Bart Director: Bernard Sarron Musical Director: Frank Wagland Cast: Bernard Goldman, (Wally Pone), Morris Perry (Mossy White), Laurence Davis. Lys Streeter Notes: Based on Ben Jonson's “Volpone, it was staged as a “profit-share” venture and ran for ten weeks to almost empty houses. It is notable only because it was the first stage musical by the young Cockney-Jewish songwriter, Lionel Bart, who, up to this point, had only written pop songs for Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard, including “Rock with the Caveman” and “Living Doll”.
THE HEART’S A WONDER
Cast: Una Collins (Pegeen Mike), Milo O’Shea (Shawn Keogh), Joe Lynch (Christy Mahon), Ann O’Dwyer (Widow Quin), Dermot Kelly, Charlie Byrne Story: Pegeen Mike and her father Michael James live in a rough Irish country pub. She is engaged to local farmer Shawn Keogh, but life turns upside down when Christy Mahon arrives. Soon in the village sports Christy becomes the Playboy of the Western World. The Widow Quin and Pegeen Mike are both infatuated with him, even though he is alleged to be on the run having murdered his own father. Michael James, worried about his daughter's love for Christy, insists Pegeen Mike marries Shawn Una Collins and Joe Lynch that very day, but Shawn runs away when challenged to a fight by Christy. Then Christy's real father turns up, very much alive, and all gets sorted out. Christy and his father leave together and it's back to normal, for Pegeen Mike and Shawn. Notes: Based on the play “The Playboy of the Western World” by J.M.Synge
VALMOUTH London run: Lyric Hammersmith, October 2nd (84 Performances) Transferred to Saville Theatre January 27th 1959 (102 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Sandy Wilson Director: Vida Hope Choreographer: Harry Naughton Musical Director: Neville Meale Producer: Michael Codron
Cast: Cleo Laine (Mrs Yajnavalkya), Doris Hare (Grannie Took), Patsy Rowlands (Thetis), Alan Edwards (Captain Dick Thoroughfare), Maxine Daniels (Niri-Esther), Fenella Fielding (Lady Parvula de Panzoust) , Peter Gilmore, Marcia Ashton Songs: My Big Best Shoes, Magic Gingers, the Cry of the Peacock, Little Girl Baby, Where the Trees are Green with Parrots Story: Valmouth is a spa town where visitors and residents can receive some life-enhancing benefits. The residents are mostly centenarians, and the main benefits seem to be an abnormally long and active sex-life. The inhabitants include Mrs Yajnavalkya, a black masseuse with magic fingers whose clients include Grannie Took and her grand-daughter Thetis. Thetis imagines she is the bride of Captain Dick Thoroughfare, although he is already married to Niri-Esther. The visitors include Lady Parvula de Panzoust, an ageing nymphomaniac. Notes: Adapted from the works of Ronald Firbank, the show developed something of a cult following, with all sorts of theories as to the “real meaning” of the show. In the production at Hammersmith the role of Mrs Yajnavalkya was played with great success by Bertice Reading. However, she had commitments in the USA and she was replaced by Cleo Laine when the show transferred. The show was re-created in New York and flopped after two weeks. Fenella Fielding, Geoffrey Dunn, Barbara Couper and Betty Hardy
Photo by David Sim
Photo by Angus McBean
London run: Westminster Theatre, September 18th (44 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Nuala & Mairin O’Farrell Director: Denis Carey Choreographer: Josie MacAvin & Patricia Ryan
MISTER VENUS London run: Prince of Wales, October 23rd (16 performances). Music: Trevor H. Stanford and Norman Newell. Lyrics: Norman Newell; Book: Ray Galton & Johnny Speight Director: Charles Reading Choreographer: Paddy Stone & Irving Davies Musical Director: Bob Lowe Producer: Sandor Gorlinsky
Cast: Frankie Howerd (Alister), Sunny Rogers, Anton Diffring (Mr Venus), Bill Owen (Mr Brown) , Judith Bruce (Sally) Songs: Time to Celebrate, Stepping out in Society, Good Neigbours Ballet, Every Little Minute. Story: A visitor from outer-space (Anton Diffring) comes to earth with a message of Universal Peace. He uses the simple postman (Frankie Howerd) as his means of spreading the message. Notes: Originally a work created by Alan Melville, who walked out when others were brought in to try and salvage the piece. There were rows throughout the pre-London try-outs. Frankie Howerd insisted on Judith Bruce as leading lady in spite of the director wanting someone else. Then Frankie Howerd had a major quarrel with one of the composers, Trevor Stanford (who would later have a separate career as the pianist/entertainer, Russ Conway.) The show was roundly booed on its opening night.
CHRYSANTHEMUM London run: Prince of Wales, November 13th (111 performances) Transferred Apollo Theatre , Feb 18th 1959 (37 Performances) Music: Rob Stewart Book and lyrics: Neville Phillips & Robin Chancellor Director: Eleanor Fazan Choreographer: Alfred Rodrigues Musical Director: Roy Lowe Producer: Sandor Gorlinsky
Songs: Ships at Sea, Watch Your Step, Sorry You’ve Been Troubled, Is This Love?, Thanks to the Weather, Shanghai Lil, I Like My Saturday Night. Story: Chrysanthemum Brown went out one morning to get the milk and vanished. Three years later she returns, complete with milk filled cans, but unable to answer her father's accusation that she has been seen in (gasp!) Buenos Aires! She is turned out of her home and forced to wander the Pat Kirkwood as “Chrysanthemum” streets. The secret she cannot tell is that she was White-Slaved by the vile Ma Carroty. Then Mary Ann is whisked away by the same harridan whilst she was with her boyfriend, Bob in the park. Chrysanthemum rushes to the rescue . Disguised as a Chinese strip-dancer, she enters Ma Carroty's den “Skull and Chopsticks”, and after many tribulations manages to bring about a happy ending, a joint wedding and to reveal the true identity of Ma Carroty is (. . . gasp!) Notes: Originally opened for a fixed run at the New Lindsey in March 1956, it was revived for a pre-West End tour in September 1958. During the run, business suffered from several temporary absences of Pat Kirkwood, due to ill health. In an attempt to re-capture the falling box office sales, Pat Kirkwood and Hubert Gregg performed an extract on television. Without the costumes, scenery and the context of the original show, the extract fell flat on its face in front of a mystified audience. Sadly the show closed very soon after. A Broadway transfer failed to happen, but nine years later the Hollywood movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie” appeared. The resemblance was so close that the British authors tried to sue but failed.
Photo by Michael Boys
Cast: Pat Kirkwood (Chrysanthemum), Freda Wigson (Ma Carroty), Patricia Moore (Mary-Ann Blessington-Briggs), Hubert Gregg (John Blessington-Briggs), Roger Gage (Bob Brown)
WEST SIDE STORY London run: Her Majesty’s, December 12th (1,039 Performances) Music: Leonard Bernstein Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim Book: Arthur Laurents Director & Choreographer: Jerome Robbins Musical Director: Lawrence Leonard Producer: H.M.Tennent Ltd
Photo by Angus McBean
Cast: Marlys Watters (Maria), Don McKay (Tony), Chita Rivera (Anita), Ken LeRoy (Bernardo), George Chakiris (Riff) Songs: Something’s Coming, Tonight, Maria, America, One Hand One Heart, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere, Gee Officer Krupke
Don McKay and Marlys Watters
Story: The Romeo and Juliet story is reset in New York City with the conflict now between the native-born whites and the recently arrived Puerto Ricans. Tony, who falls in love with Puerto Rican Maria, tries to keep the peace between the Jets and the Sharks, rival street gangs, only to end up being killed when he attempts to break up a rumble.
Notes: Originally the show was conceived as a romance between a Jewish boy and an Italian Catholic girl, and was called “East Side Story”. The show had a longer run in London than Broadway’s 734 performances. Along with “My Fair Lady” it is considered one of the great classics of the 1950s musicals.
London run: Coliseum, Dec 18th (101 Performances) Music: Richard Rodgers Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II Director: Freddie Carpenter Choreographer: Tommy Linden Musical Director: Bobby Howell Cast: Yana (Cinderella), Tommy Steele (Buttons), Bruce Trent (Prince), Jimmy Edwards (King), Graham Squire (Baron). Kenneth Williams & Ted Durante (Portia & Joy, the Sisters), Betty Marsden (Fairy Godmother) Songs: No Other Love, Ten Minutes Ago, Do I Love You Jimmy Edwards and Tommy Steele Because You're Beautiful?, In My Own Little Corner, A Lovely Night, Impossible. (The song “You and Me” was written by Tommy Steele and interpolated into the score.), Notes: Originally written for an American TV Special starring Julie Andrews, it was created as a 90 minute show in six sections to allow for six commercial breaks. This first stage version was much expanded and altered to suit the requirements of British pantomime. The character of Buttons did not appear in the original, and was specially written for Tommy Steele. Several extra songs were interpolated – songs not by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The “sisters” were re-created as pantomime Dames. Inevitably the two kinds of shows – the original elegant and delicate fairy-tale, and the rowdier knock-about British Pantomime – did not really fit together , and the show came over as a bit of mish-mash. The following year Rodgers & Hammerstein allowed an American stage version to go ahead, using some additional songs which had been cut out of “Oklahoma” and “Me and Juliet”. Their USA stage version reverted to the original “musical fairy-tale” without the extra British pantomime bits. However, as part of the original contract deal, the pantomime version would be revived in London in 1960 in spite of Rodgers & Hammerstein hating it.
Photo by David Sim
CANDIDE London run: Saville Theatre, April 30th (60 Performances) Music: Leonard Bernstein Lyrics: Richard Wilbur & others Book: Lillian Hellman Director: Robert Lewis Choreographer: Jack Cole Musical Director: Alexander Faris Producer: Linnitt & Dunfee
Cast: Laurence Naismith (Dr Pangloss), Denis Quilley (Candide), Mary Costa (Cunegonde), Edith Coates (Old Lady), Dennis Stephenson (Maximillian), Victor Spinetti (Marquis), Ron Moody (Governor of Buenos Aires) Songs: The Best of all Possible Worlds, It Must Be So, Glitter and Be Gay, You Were Dead You Know, Make Our Garden Grow Story: Billed as “a comic operetta” this was the story of the multiple adventures of Candide and his beloved Cunegonde, who under the tutelage of their philosophy professor, Dr Pangloss, believe this to be the “best of all possible worlds”. Their gullible idealism is maintained despite banishment, rape, the Spanish Inquisition and betrayal in cities such as Lisbon, Paris, Buenos Aires, Venice and back home in Westphalia. Eventually they accept the fact that wisdom is not to be found in seeking perfection but in making the best of reality. Notes: Based on Voltaire’s novel “Candide”, this was highly praised for its score and presentation but failed to attract the public in New York or London. It would be subject to several re-writings over future years.
THE WORLD OF PAUL SLICKEY London run: Palace Theatre, May 5th (47 performances) Music: Christopher Whelan Lyrics and Book: John Osborne; Director: John Osborne Musical Director: Anthony Bowles Producer: David Pelham
Cast: Dennis Lotis (Jack Oakham) , Harry Welchman (Lord Mortlake), Marie Lohr (Lady Mortlake) , Janet Hamilton-Smith (Mrs Giltedge-Whyte), Roy Sone (Terry Maroon), Maureen Quinney (Deirdre), Adrienne Corri (Lesley Oakham)
Story: Jack Oakham (pseudonym “Paul Slickey”) is the gossip columnist of the “Daily Racket”, under constant pressure from his boss to find more and more sensational stories to sell the newspaper. Yet his own life is sensational enough: he is the son of Lord Mortlake, and the family is anxious his father lives another 48 hours to be able to escape heavy death-duties. The ailing Lord receives a surprise visit from Mrs Giltedge-Whyte, a former mistress, and the shock kills him too early! Mrs Giltedge-Whyte is “sponsoring” a young pop-singer, Terry Maroon – though her motives may not be entirely musical. Jack himself is having an affair with his sister-in-law, Deirdre, while his real wife, Lesley, is undergoing a sex-change and at the same time being pursued by young Michael Rawley. All this is material for his column. Notes: The show was an excuse for John Osborne to hit out at everything from sex changes to income tax, and to attack the church, army, parliament and marriage. The audience hated it - the show was severely booed on its opening night and trashed by the critics. It survived six weeks before the backers' money ran out.
Photo by Alec Murray
Songs: Don’t Think you Can Fool a Guy Like Me, It’s a Consideration We’d do Well to Keep in Mind, I Want to Hear About Beautiful Things.
Photo by Angus McBean
London run: Savoy Theatre, May 27th (77 performances) Transfer -Saville Theatre, July 13th Music: Charles Zwar Book and lyrics: Alan Melville Director: Murray MacDonald Choreographer: Malcolm Goddard Musical Director: Robert Probst Producer: Stephen Mitchell
Cast: Jean Kent (Madam Marly), Sally Smith (Marigold), Jeremy Brett (Captain Archie ), Sophie Stewart (Mrs Pringle), Stephen Hancock (Peter Gloag), William Dickie (James Payton) Songs: Romance at the Manse, Love Can’t Be Learned, The New Bohemian Polka, Her Majesty’s Health, Love Can't be Learned .
Sally Smith, Jeremy Brett and Stephen Hancock
Story: Madame Marly, the famous French actress, lives in a Highland manse, caring for her “secret” daughter, Marigold, who believes she is an orphan. Marigold goes absent, forsaking the wasp-ridden raspberry garden to see Queen Victoria's Edinburgh visit and to see a certain handsome Captain Archie Forsyth. With a comic Scottish aunt, Mrs Pringle, a text-quoting divinity student, Peter Gloag, and James Payton, a turnip loving suitor, the show features such delights as the whole company executing an elaborate Scottish Reel, and a scene where Captain Forsyth and his fellow officers get progressively more and more tipsy as they sample different liquors drinking a heath to Her Majesty. Notes: Based on the play by F.R.Pryor and L.Allen Harker, the show was moved from the Savoy after seven weeks, because the sudden collapse of “Candide” allowed it to transfer to the Saville and fill the gap. However, it survived just another three weeks.
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS London run: Mermaid Theatre, May 28th (330 Performances) Music: Laurie Johnson Lyrics: Lionel Bart Book: Bernard Miles Director: Peter Coe Choreographer: Gilbert Vernon Musical Director: Colin Beaton Cast: Stephanie Voss (Hilaret Politic), Richard Wordsworth (Squeezum), Hy Hazell (Mrs Squeezum), Frederick Jaeger (Ramble) Songs: When Does the Ravishing Begin?, Red Wine and a Wench, A Proper Man, On a Sunny Sunday Morning
Photo by Michael Boys
Story: Set in London in 1730, it’s the story of Miss Hilaret Politic accusing the roguish Ramble of rape, then fending off the advances of Justice Squeezum, whose wife is also gambolling with Ramble. All ends happily when Hilaret teams up with her faithful Captain Constant. Notes: It was the first production at the new Mermaid Theatre, and ran from May – December 1959. A Broadway production was planned for 1960 with Alfred Drake directing and several of the original English cast. However, this production closed in Boston and never made it to New York. Stephanie Voss, Madeleine Newbury and John Sharp
THE QUIZ KID London run: Lyric Hammersmith, September 8th (31 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Jimmy & Nina Thompson Additional Music: John Pritchett Director-Choreographer: Alfred Rodrigues Musical Director: John Pritchett Cast: Jimmy Thompson (Simon Merridrew), Diana Decker (Gloria Maine), Patricia Lancaster (Jane Wetherby), Doris Hare, Tristram Jellinek Story: Simon Merridrew, a young architect is tricked by his fiancée into taking part in a TV quiz. As a result he gains overnight fame and fortune because of his unexpected successes. His fame attracts the devastating Gloria, who tries hard to vamp him away from his long-time beloved Jane Wetherby, and then he has to face a professional quiz contestant with an encyclopaedic knowledge of women's fashions. As part of a fast-moving and knockabout plot, most of the rest of the large cast played three or four parts each. The scenes move from London Airport to New York as the show makes fun of TV programmes and personalities. Notes: Originally announced for a limited season, the run was shortened even further when Jimmy Thompson was rushed into hospital. Since the whole show was written for the comedian Thompson himself, no one really considered having an understudy. However, with an audience already admitted, Kim Grant went on to fill the gap. He did well enough to play the next night as well, though at this point the closing notice was posted. Just before his third and final performance Mrs Thompson came to the theatre and asked Kim Grant if she could take away Jimmy's things. He naturally agreed, and then had a tremendous shock when he went to get ready, only to find she had removed all the costumes and props! The final performance must have been one of the strangest ever!
THE CROOKED MILE London run: Cambridge Theatre, September 10th (164 Performances) Music: Peter Greenwell Book & Lyrics: Peter Wildeblood Director: Jean Meyer Choreographer: John Heawood Musical Director: Kenneth Alwyn Cast: Jack MacGowran (Jug Ears) , Elisabeth Welch (Sweet Ginger), Millicent Martin (Cora), John Larsen (Mortiss Garrity), Elwyn Brook-Jones (The Carver) Songs: Free, Street Scene, If I Ever Fall in Love Again, The Simple Life
Photo by Angus McBean
Story: This was a Soho musical peopled with small time gangsters and prostitutes telling the story of their loves and quarrels. Jug Ears, a petty gangster, has a long-term lady, Sweet Ginger, who runs an ironmonger's. Tired of waiting for them to get properly married, Ginger considers marrying Mortiss Garrity, a wealthy American business-man, but finally decides to stick with Jug-Ears, following an incident where her shop is burned down by The Carver, as part of a mini-gang war. Mixed up in the story is an effort to raise some money for the child of a dead chum, and the deeds of Cora, a tart with a heart of gold with a passion for gardening and her bubble-car. Notes: Peter Wildeblood adapted his own novel “West End People, into a musical attempting a “real” portrait of Soho in the same style as Kurt Weill's “Street Scene” . Some critics felt he had succeeded and praised the work for its originality. Others felt the sentiment and the poor lyrics let the show down. It closed after four and a half months.
THE LOVE DOCTOR London run: Piccadilly Theatre, October 12th (16 performances) Music & Lyrics: Robert Wright & George Forrest Director: Albert Marre
Cast: Douglas Byng (Monsieur Argan), Joan Heal (Toinette), Ian Carmichael (The Tramp), Eleanor Drew (Beline), Richard Wordsworth (Dr Diafoirus), Peter Gilmore (Leander) Songs: The Carefree Heart, Rich Man Poor Man, I Would Love You Still, Promised, Formula Formulae Formulorum . Notes: Based on the comedies of Molière, this was originally staged in America under the title “The Carefree Heart” but it never made it to Broadway and closed on the road. It was hoped that the re-written version would be a hit in London. However, it was clear the show was in trouble during its pre-London run, when Michael Stewart was brought in from America as a show doctor. His alterations caused the composers Wright and Forrest to walk out, and they never returned to the show. It was a two-week flop.
KOOKABURRA London run: Prince’s Theatre, November 26th (42 Performances) Music: Eric Spear Book : Charles Macarthur Hardy Director: John Forbes-Sempill Musical Director: Arthur Tatler Producer: John Forbes-Sempill
Cast: Gordon Boyd (George Grant), Julia Shelley (Stella), Maggie Fitzgibbon (Emmie Dalziel), Harry H.Corbett (Mervyn Dalziel) Songs: God’s Own Country, The Right Kind of Man, Grandmother’s Piano, It’s a Tough Life, The Wowsers of the District
Notes: Adapted from the novel by Joyce Denys and billed (inaccurately) as the first Australian musical to be seen in London, the show managed six weeks and no more.
Photo by Rimis
Story: Young Australian farmer George Grant takes Stella, his new English wife, to his farm in the outback, where the local women throw a tea-party to welcome the new bride. However, this welcome only makes her worry, and gradually she finds the work, the women and the mocking kookaburra of Queensland too much for her. There is an additional problem with Emmie Dalziel, a local girl who had expected to marry George herself – and still hankers after him – though she is now partnered with Mervyn, a down-and-out Englishman who suddenly gets news that he has inherited an English earldom. However, even though Stella has left George, she returns in time for Christmas and for a happy ending. Maggie Fitzgibbon, Brenda Tai, Julia Shelley and Gordon Boyd
THE DEMON BARBER London run: Lyric Hammersmith, December 10th (39 Performances) Music : Brian Burke Lyrics & Book: Donald Cotton Director: Colin Graham Musical Director: Anthony Bowles Producer: J.Baxter-Somerville
Cast: Roy Godfrey (Sweeney Todd), Barbara Howett (Mrs Lovett), Leighton Camden (Tobias), Maureen Hartley (Johanna), James Maxwell (Colonel Jeffrey), Barrie Humphries (Jonas Fogg) Notes: This musical version was quickly dismissed as being neither a good old melodrama, not a decent musical show, and for failing to decide whether it was meant to be funny or serious. The love story was between Johanna and Colonel Jeffrey, a sub-plot has Sweeney Todd committing his apprentice, Tobias, to the “tender” care of Jonas Fogg and his two vile Myrmidons. However, the main plot was the story of the Barber, his victims, and the pies made by Mrs Lovett.
MAKE ME AN OFFER London run: New Theatre, December 16th (267 Performances) Music & Lyrics: David Heneker & Monty Norman Book: Wolf Mankowitz Director: Joan Littlewood Musical Director: Gareth Davies Cast: Daniel Massey (Charlie), Diana Coupland (Sally) , Dilys Laye (Redhead), Sheila Hancock (Gwen) Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear, Wally Patch Songs: I Want a Lock-Up, Portobello Road, Business is Business, Dog Eat Dog, You’ve Gotta Have Capital, The Pram Song
Notes: Originally created at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in October 1959 for a limited run of 36 performances, the show contained some 20 musical numbers which were skilfully incorporated into what was basically a play with songs. It won the 1959 Evening Standard Award for the Best Musical of the Year. Diana Coupland and Daniel Massey
Photo by Alec Murray
Story: Set in the world of small-time antique dealers in Portobello Road, Charlie, an expert in Wedgewood china, longs to own a beautiful piece for himself. His chance comes when he is involved in an auction for a complete (but fake) Wedgewood room – and he ends up with valuable (genuine) vase. Charlie’s main rival is the woman known as Redhead. Charlie’s wife, Sally, features in a number of incidents which are amusing character studies of a host of minor characters.
ALADDIN London run: Coliseum, December 17th (145 Performances) Music & Lyrics: Cole Porter Book: Peter Coke & Dennis Goodwin Director & Choreographer: Robert Helpman Producer: Harold Fielding
Cast: Bob Monkhouse (Aladdin), Doretta Morrow (Princess), Ronald Shiner (Widow Twankey), Ian Wallace (Emperor), Alan Wheatley (Abanazar) Songs: Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking, Riding High, I am Loved, There Must Be Someone for Me Notes: Presumably inspired by the Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Cinderella”, Cole Porter was persuaded to write an American television version of “Aladdin” to a screenplay by S.J.Perelman. As before, this version was “adapted” into a British pantomime and, as before, didn't quite fit into the two traditions – musical theatre and pantomime. It seems as if some of the songs were too good for the staging, and some of them too weak for the knockabout comedy.
WHEN IN ROME London run: Adelphi Theatre, December 26th (298 performances) Music: “Kramer” Lyrics: Pietro Garinei & Sandro Giovannini (translated by Eric Shaw) Book: Ted Willis & Ken Ferrey Director: Harold French Cast: Dickie Henderson (Andy Persichetti), June Laverick (Nicky), Frank Leighton (Andy’s Father), Eleanor Summerfield (Nicky’s Mother) Songs: Call it Primavera, A Certain Something, It's So Nice to Sleep with No One, Ballarello, Wise Guy. Story: Andy and Nicky, a newly-married young bank clerk and his wife, find their marital bliss threatened by a daring novel written by Nicky which becomes a sensational best-seller. The novel is about a he-man, Joe and his conquests, which arouses Andy’s jealousy and he refuses to believe that his young wife can have imagined it all. Before all ends happily, Andy finds himself for various reasons trying to emulate the hero of the book, with hilarious results. Notes: Described as entertainment for the tired businessman it managed a ten month run
June Laverick and Chorus Boys