Lolita, My Love
|Lolita, My Love|
Unreleased Cast Album
|Lyrics||Alan Jay Lerner|
|Book||Alan Jay Lerner|
|Basis||Vladimir Nabokov's novel
never opened on Broadway
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." 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 Annette Ferra, 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.
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:
- Going, Going, Gone – Quiltey and guests
- The Same Old Song – Lolita & Charlotte
- Saturday – Lolita
- In the Broken Promise Land of 15 – Humbert
- The Same Old Song (Reprise) – Humbert, Lolita, Charlotte
- Dante, Petrarch and Poe – Humbert
- Sur Les Quais – Charlotte
- Charlotte's Letter – Humbert & Charlotte
- Farewell, Little Dream – Humbert
- At the Bed-D-By Motel – Ensemble
- Tell Me, Tell Me – Quiltey & Humbert
- Buckin' for Beardsley/Beardsley School for Girls – Lolita & Humbert
- March Out of My Life
- The Same Old Song (Reprise) – Lolita
- All You Can Do Is Tell Me You Love Me – Lolita
- How Far Is It to the Next Town – Lolita & Humbert
- How Far is It to the Next Town (Reprise) – Quiltey & Humbert
- Lolita – Humbert
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." 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) 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."
- Mandelbaum, Ken. Not Since Carrie. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991
- Available at the John Barry Resource website
- Rich, Frank. The Hot Seat. New York: Random House, 1998.