Me and My Girl
|Me and My Girl|
1986 Broadway Cast Recording
L. Arthur Rose
L. Arthur Rose
|Productions||1937 West End
1939 U.K. Television
1952 West End revival
1985 West End revival
2006 UK 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. The action is 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." The show also included the song "The Sun Has Got His Hat On".
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 also included the song "Leaning on a Lamp-post". The show was revised again and revived in the West End in 1984, where it received two Laurence Olivier Awards and ran for eight years. The same production was revived on Broadway in 1986 for a three-year run. The show won three of 11 Tony Award nominations.
Me and My Girl originally opened on the West End at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 16 December 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. At first attracting little notice, the production gained success after a matinee performance was broadcast live on BBC radio following the cancellation of a sporting event. On 1 May 1939 a performance was televised from the theatre, one of the first times such a broadcast was made. The original West End production ran for 1,646 performances.
The musical was revived in 1941, 1945 and 1949 on the West End. Lupino Lane starred and directed each of these productions, with choreography by Fred Leslie. In 1984, a revised production opened at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre with a revised script by Stephen Fry and contributions by director Mike Ockrent. It transferred to the Adelphi Theatre on 12 February 1985 and closed on 16 January 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). Cast changes included Enn Reitel as Bill and Su Pollard as Sally in 1986; Gary Wilmot as Bill and Jessica Martin as Sally in 1989. Thornton was succeeded by Nicholas Smith. The production subsequently toured throughout Britain.
The same production opened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on 10 August 1986 and closed on 31 December 1989, after 1,420 performances. Directed by 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 in 11 categories and won for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Choreographer. Jim Dale succeeded Lindsay in the lead role of Bill and Ellen Foley succeeded Plunkett as Sally. Tim Curry played Bill 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 and Janet Aldrich, among others. Irving was succeeded on Broadway by Jay Garner in the role of Sir John Tremayne.
Numerous productions have been staged over the years across the UK. In 1997, for example, it was staged at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for a limited run. A 70th anniversary production had an eight-month British tour, during 2006 and played at Sheffield Theatres in 2010
- 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 ("Once You Lose Your Heart").
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. 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.
Based on the 1986 Broadway production
- 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.
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.
Awards and nominations
London Revival 1984
|1985||Laurence Olivier Award||Musical of the Year||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Robert Lindsay||Won|
Original Broadway production
- Me and My Girl, Thisislondon.com, 29 May 2017
- Me and My Girl, Thisistheatre.com, accessed 29 May 2017
- Olivier Winners 1985, OlivierAwards.com, accessed 29 May 2017
- Rich, Frank. "Stage: Jim Dale in Me and My Girl", 'The 'New York Times, September 29, 1987, accessed 29 May 2015
- Merrifield, Nicola. "Me and My Girl set for 2014 West End revival", TheStage.com, 28 November 2013, accessed 29 May 2017
- Shenton, Mark. "Me and My Girl review at Crucible Sheffield", TheStage.com, 13 December 2010, accessed 29 May 2017
- Wren, Gayden (2006). A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press. p. 203.
- Shafer pp. 69–70