The Good Companions (musical)
|The Good Companions|
Poster for the 1974 West End production
|Basis||The Good Companions by J. B. Priestley|
2000 San Francisco
The plot focuses on the trials and tribulations of a touring concert party known as the Dinky-Doos who are stranded in the English countryside when their manager absconds with the most recent box office revenue and the lady pianist. Jess Oakroyd, an amiable man who has abandoned his shrewish wife, endears himself to the company with his homespun advice, and they invite him to join them as a carpenter, baggage handler, and dogsbody. Elizabeth Trant comes to their rescue when she decides to use her inheritance to finance the troupe and escape from her boring life in the Cotswolds.
Because of his habit of playing the piano late at night, songwriter Inigo Jollifant has been fired from his position at the Washbury Manor School in East Anglia, and he replaces the concert party's recently departed pianist, bringing with him banjo player and illusionist Morton Mitcham. As Miss Trant slowly achieves managerial authority, she encourages the troupe – which includes comedian Susie Dean and singer Jerry Jerningham – to change its name to The Good Companions.
They continue their tour and eventually arrive at the Sandybay Pavilion, where they play to a full house when a storm forces passersby to seek shelter in the theatre. Their success leads Inigo to contact a music publisher, who buys his songs and arranges for an impresario to see The Good Companions in Sandybay. The producer signs Susie and Jerry for his new revue, and he secures the remaining members of the company bookings in high class towns like Bournemouth.
After a tryout in Manchester, The Good Companions opened on July 11, 1974 at Her Majesty's Theatre in London and ran for 252 performances. The cast included John Mills as Jess Oakroyd, Judi Dench as Elizabeth Trant, Christopher Gable as Inigo Jollifant, Marti Webb as Susie Dean, Malcolm Rennie as Morton Mitcham, and Ray C. Davis as Jerry Jerningham. Webb replaced Celia Bannerman at short notice during the Manchester tryout when it was decided that Bannerman's singing voice wasn't up to the part. The score was orchestrated by Herbert W. Spencer and Angela Morley. An original cast album was released on compact disc by DRG in September 1992.
The concept of a concert party was foreign to American audiences, and a non-musical stage adaptation of the Priestly novel had closed on Broadway after only 68 performances in 1931 so, despite the popularity of the Previn/Mercer score, it was decided not to open a production in New York City. When a proposed West End revival failed to materialize, Warner-Chappell London granted 42nd Street Moon, a San Francisco company whose mission is to present staged concert revivals of "lost" musicals, the rights to present the American premiere of The Good Companions, which it did in August 2000.