Me and My Girl

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Me and My Girl
Meandmygirl.jpg
1986 Broadway Cast Recording
Music Noel Gay
Lyrics Douglas Furber
L. Arthur Rose
Book Douglas Furber
L. Arthur Rose
Productions 1937 West End
1939 U.K. Television
1952 West End revival
1985 West End revival
1986 Broadway
2006 U.K. tour
Awards 1985 Olivier Award Musical of the Year

Me and My Girl is a musical with music by Noel Gay and its original book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose. The musical is set in the late 1930s and tells the story of an unapologetically unrefined cockney gentleman named Bill Snibson who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford with action set in Hampshire, Mayfair, and Lambeth.

The musical had a successful original run in the West End in 1937, and was turned into a film in 1939, titled The Lambeth Walk, named after one of the show's songs. "The Lambeth Walk" was also the subject of a news story in The Times of October 1938: "While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

After returning to the West End briefly in 1952, the musical's book received a revision by Stephen Fry with Mike Ockrent in the 1980s. This revised version of Me and My Girl opened in the West End in 1985 and received 2 Laurence Olivier Awards before transferring to Broadway in 1986 and winning 3 of its 11 Tony Award nominations.

Production history[edit]

It originally opened at the West End Victoria Palace Theatre on December 16, 1937, and starred Lupino Lane. Lane had previously played Bill Snibson in a horseracing comedy play, Twenty to One, that opened in 1935. Me and My Girl was conceived as a fresh vehicle for the character.[citation needed]

At first attracting little notice, the production gained immediate success after a matinee performance was broadcast live on BBC radio, following the cancellation of a sporting event. On May 1, 1939, a performance was televised from the theatre, one of the first times such was done. The original West End production ran for 1,646 performances.

It was revived in 1952.

In 1984, a revised production opened at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre with a revised script by Stephen Fry and contributions by Mike Ockrent. It transferred to the West End Adelphi Theatre on February 12, 1985 and closed on January 16, 1993 after an eight year run and 3,303 performances. It starred Robert Lindsay as Bill Snibson, Emma Thompson, and Frank Thornton. The production won two Olivier Awards: Musical of the Year and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Musical (Robert Lindsay).[1][2] Cast changes included : Enn Reitel (as Bill Snibson) and Su Pollard (as Sally Smith) in 1986; Gary Wilmot (as Bill Snibson) and Jessica Martin (as Sally Smith) in 1989. Thornton was succeeded by Nicholas Smith. The production subsequently toured throughout Britain.

The revised London production opened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on August 10, 1986, and closed on December 31, 1989, after 1,420 performances. Directed by Mike Ockrent with choreography by Gillian Gregory, the cast starred Robert Lindsay and Maryann Plunkett, with George S. Irving and Jane Connell. The production was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Choreographer. Jim Dale succeeded Lindsay in the lead role of Bill[3] and Ellen Foley succeeded Plunkett as Sally. Tim Curry played Bill Snibson in the extensive US Tour that followed the Broadway run. Lady Jacqueline Carstone was originated by Jane Summerhays, with subsequent performances in the role by Dee Hoty, Susan Cella, Lauren Mitchell and Janet Aldrich. Irving was succeeded on Broadway by Jay Garner in the role of Sir John Tremayne.

Numerous productions have been staged over the years all across the UK. In 1997 it even appeared at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for a limited run with Adam Schumacher as Bill Snibson.

A 70th anniversary production of Me and My Girl had an eight-month British tour during 2006-07.[4] It was directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle with a cast including Richard Frame (Bill Snibson), Faye Tozer (Sally Smith), Sylvester McCoy, Trevor Bannister and Dillie Keane.

The original star of Me And My Girl, Lupino Lane, was commemorated at The Actors Church, Covent Garden on Tuesday 10 November 2009 by The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America.

Sheffield Theatres, United Kingdom produced a revival of 'Me and My Girl' at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield with previews beginning 2 December 2010 until 29 January 2011. An expected transfer to London's West End was scrapped due to there not being a venue available.[5]

A forthcoming return to the West End is spearheaded by producers Alex Armitage, the grandson of Noel Gay and Chief Executive of Noel Gay, for the Noel Gay Organisation, Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd. and Tripp Hornick for Quince Street Productions.[6]

Plot[edit]

Act I

In the 1930s, the Harefords, a family of haughty aristocrats, are seeking the legitimate heir to the title of Earl of Hareford. Bill Snibson, a Cockney from Lambeth is found and named as the long-lost “Earl of Hareford”. It seems that the 13th Earl had secretly and briefly wed a girl from a bad neighborhood. But Bill's rough Cockney ways do not satisfy the Will of the last Earl: In order to gain his inheritance of the title and estate, Bill must satisfy the very proper executors (Maria, Duchess of Dene, and Sir John Tremayne) by learning gentlemanly manners. The Duchess thinks that she can make Bill “fit and proper” but not his Cockney girlfriend, Sally Smith. The Duchess plans a party in Bill's honour, but Sally is not to be invited. Sir John tells Sally that she and Bill ought to return to Lambeth, but he is moved by Sally's heartfelt declaration of love for Bill.

At the party, Bill puts on airs and tries to please his new-found upper-class lawyers, family and servants, but his everyman roots quickly begin to show. Sally shows up in inappropriate garb, with her Lambeth friends, saying that she is going back to where she belongs. Bill seconds this at first but then teaches the nobility The Lambeth Walk.

Act II

Bill must make a speech in the House of Lords in coronet and “vermin”-trimmed peer's robes. Sally leaves, telling him to marry someone with good blood, and, in a scene inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, the portraits of Bill's ancestors awaken to remind him of his noblesse oblige.[7] Bill and Sally have gained an ally in Sir John, who offers to help them by engaging a speech professor (implied to be Henry Higgins from Pygmalion) to help Sally impress the Duchess.

Bill constantly bemoans his separation from Sally. Preparing another party for Bill, the Duchess realises how much Sally means to him. This puts her in a romantic mood, and she accepts an offer of marriage from Sir John. Bill, dressed in his old outrageous Cockney clothes, declares that he's going home and goes upstairs to pack. Just then, Sally astonishes everyone by arriving in an elegant gown and tiara and speaking with a perfect upper-crust accent. When Bill returns downstairs, Sally conceals her identity. When she reveals it, Bill is relieved and the couple gain the acceptance of the family.

Musical numbers[edit]

Based on the 1986 Broadway production

Characters[edit]

  • Bill Snibson - a cockney costermonger who inherits Lord Hareford's land and titles.
  • Sally Smith - Bill's sweetheart.
  • Sir John Tremayne - an older gentleman, who is kind to Sally and Bill. He is in love with the Duchess.
  • The Duchess of Dene - an intimidating aristocrat. Bill's Aunt.
  • Gerald Bolingbroke - an attractive young man. He is in love with Jackie.
  • Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Carstone - breaks off her engagement to Gerald to pursue Bill.
  • Herbert Parchester - the family solicitor.
  • Lord Jasper Tring - an elderly and hard-of-hearing nobleman.
  • Charles - a manservant
  • Lord and Lady Battersby, Lady Brighton, The Honourable Margaret Aikington, Charles Boulting-Smythe - other members of the family who are mostly interchangeable.
  • Mrs Brown - Sally's landlady.
  • Bob Barking - a friend of Bill and Sally.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1939, the play was turned into a film directed by Albert de Courville. Lane reprised his stage role of Snibson. The film took its name from the well-known song and dance. The film was a largely faithful adaptation of the musical and was commercially successful and popular with critics.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

London Revival 1984[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1985 Laurence Olivier Award Musical of the Year Won
Best Actor in a Musical Robert Lindsay Won

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1987 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose Nominated
Best Original Score Noel Gay, Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Robert Lindsay Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Maryann Plunkett Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical George S. Irving Nominated
Timothy Jerome Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Jane Connell Nominated
Jane Summerhays Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Mike Ockrent Nominated
Best Choreography Gillian Gregory Won
Best Scenic Design Martin Johns Nominated
Best Costume Design Ann Curtis Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Robert Lindsay Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Maryann Plunkett Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Timothy Jerome Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Jane Summerhays Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Mike Ockrent Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Chris Walker Nominated
Outstanding Music Noel Gay Won
Outstanding Set Design Martin Johns Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Ann Curtis Nominated
Theatre World Award Robert Lindsay Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Adelphi Theatre listing thisistheatre.com
  2. ^ Olivier Awards listing
  3. ^ Rich, Frank.“Stage: Jim Dale in 'Me and My Girl'”,New York Times, September 29, 1987
  4. ^ Tour listing
  5. ^ Listing sheffieldtheatres.co.uk, accessed July 25, 2010
  6. ^ [1] [2]
  7. ^ Wren, Gayden (2006). A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press. p. 203. 
  8. ^ Shafer pp. 69–70

External links[edit]