Lolita, My Love

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Lolita, My Love
Unreleased Cast Album
Music John Barry
Lyrics Alan Jay Lerner
Book Alan Jay Lerner
Basis Vladimir Nabokov's novel
Lolita
Productions 1971 Philadelphia
1971 Boston
never opened on Broadway

Lolita, My Love was an unsuccessful musical by John Barry and Alan Jay Lerner, based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. It closed in Boston in 1971 while on a tour prior to Broadway.

Production history[edit]

Lolita, My Love was initiated by Lerner, the well-known lyricist of My Fair Lady and other major hits, who recruited Barry to write the score. Nabokov, who had several times refused to allow adaptations of his novel, stated that "Mr. Lerner is a most talented and excellent classicist. If you have to make a musical version of Lolita, he is the one to do it."[1] Like most musicals of the time, the production was scheduled for a multi-city "tryout" tour, during which rewrites could be done as needed, before opening on Broadway. The original director was opera impresario Tito Capobianco, and choreography was provided by Jack Cole, although Cole was fired during rehearsals and replaced by Danny Daniels.

Upon opening in Philadelphia on February 16, 1971, the show got savage reviews and immediately closed for more work. Capobianco was fired and replaced by Noel Willman, and Daniels was replaced as choreographer by Dan Siretta. Even the actress playing Lolita was let go.

The show reopened in Boston but did lukewarm business and received mixed reviews, although critics acknowledged good performances by John Neville as Humbert and Dorothy Loudon as Lolita's vulgar mother, Charlotte, and found the music and lyrics strong. Lolita was played by actress Denise Nickerson, and Oscar Nominee Leonard Frey was Claire Quilty. The production closed before its scheduled opening at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, the site of many previous Lerner triumphs; it lost $900,000.[1]

The show[edit]

Like the novel, Lolita, My Love focused on a European-born professor, Humbert Humbert, who lives in the U.S.; he foolishly falls in love with his landlady's teenaged daughter. While the plot is unpleasant, Humbert eventually emerges as a near-tragic figure, and there is much witty explication of the American culture that both encourages and condemns such behavior.

While the show was not officially recorded, a bootleg recording from the theater sound board has surfaced and is sold openly. A track listing on the recording gives the following list of songs:[2]

  1. Overture
  2. Going, Going, Gone - Quiltey and guests
  3. The Same Old Song - Lolita & Charlotte
  4. Saturday - Lolita
  5. In the Broken Promise Land of 15 - Humbert
  6. The Same Old Song (Reprise) - Humbert,Lolita,Charlotte
  7. Dante, Petrarch and Poe - Humbert
  8. Sur Les Quais - Charlotte
  9. Charlotte's Letter - Humbert & Charlotte
  10. Farewell, Little Dream - Humbert
  11. At the Bed-D-By Motel -Ensemble
  12. Tell Me, Tell Me - Quiltey & Humbert
  13. Buckin' for Beardsley/Beardsley School for Girls - Lolita & Humbert
  14. March Out of My Life
  15. The Same Old Song (Reprise) - Lolita
  16. All You Can Do is Tell Me You Love Me
  17. How Far is It to the Next Town - Lolita & Humbert
  18. How Far is It to the Next Town (Reprise) - Quiltey & Humbert
  19. Lolita - Humbert
  20. Finale

"Going, Going, Gone" was recorded by Shirley Bassey, and "In The Broken-Promise Land Of Fifteen" has been recorded several times, notably by Robert Goulet.

Reactions[edit]

In refusing many previous offers to adapt the novel, Nabokov insisted that the distasteful plot was acceptable because it existed only in his head; to make a real twelve-year-old girl play the part, particularly in person on stage night after night, "would be sinful and immoral."[1] The skeletal plot alone, without Nabokov's authorial voice, is indeed quite salacious, and critics and audiences reacted negatively to it.

Subsequent writers (notably Ken Mandelbaum and Frank Rich[3]) have found elements of the show worthy of praise, with Mandelbaum contending that it is unlikely anyone could produce a better musical version of what is probably fundamentally impossible material. In 1982, a non-musical adaptation of Lolita by Edward Albee opened to memorably negative reviews, and many critics specifically pointed out ways in which this version was lacking when compared to the earlier musical; Rich contended that Albee's version had a hideous set, pointing out that even the "flop musical version...got the scenery right."[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Mandelbaum, Ken. Not Since Carrie. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991
  2. ^ Available at the John Barry Resource website
  3. ^ a b Rich, Frank. The Hot Seat. New York: Random House, 1998.

External links[edit]