At The Barbican

Reviewed by Emma Shane

© 1998


With rumours of a new venue for the next season of Lost Musicals, it seems like an ideal time to reflect on the last year at Barbican Cinema 1. 1998 found one of Ian Marshall Fisher’s brightest stars, Louise Gold, regrettably absent, due to filming commitments -  she is in Mike Leigh’s Gilbert and Sullivan film, Untitledfilm98. The remaining regulars: Barry Cryer, Harry Landis, Jessica Martin, Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands, and James Vaughan did their best to see, as far as individual shows, she was not missed too greatly. Her absence gave other performers: Lisa Pulman, Mandy More and Paula Wilcox a chance to step from the shadows, and for once well and truly shine.



The season got off to a rousing start with Irving Berlin’s As Thousands Cheer. Eight talented performers did it proud, two really stood out. Mandy More at last getting a chance to really star, and ever versatile James Vaughan. The Show’s was book by the amazingly underrated Moss Hart. He had a real talent to amuse. It is very sad that in heyday of 1980’s satire, no one paid tribute to their real forefather.

                The Revue’s theme is it is a Newspaper! It kicked off in A Dinning Room In Park Avenue with A Man Biting a dog,  starring   James Vaughan as the Man. Followed by Editor’s Office, where Man Bites Dog brilliantly sung by Mandy More and  reporters John Berlyne and Danielle Carson.

                 Frankiln D Roosevelt Inaugurated Tomorrow - Ex-President Hoover And first Lady Prepare To Leave White House. Had the President suitably played by John Rogan, the real star was Vivienne Martin as Mrs Hoover, I truly began to appreciate her comic talent.

                Barbara Hutton To Wed Prince Mdivani featured How’s Chances charmingly dueted by John Berlyne and Danielle Carson.

                Heatwave Hits New York brought us Earlene Bentley giving the weather report in Heatwave. Her diction is truly excellent. But it served as an example of one thing really lacking from 1998’s Lost Musicals. Earlene Bentley sings well, but is no Merman.

                Joan Crawford To Divorce Douglas Fairbanks Jr  fine performances by Paula Wilcox and James Vaughan as the  couple, an even better one by John Rogan as Will Hays supervising it, so  it had to be clean, and done for  publicity. Then it was announced Mary Pickford and Douglass Fairbanks Snr are also divorcing, everyone went rushing after that story.

                The International Debts Conference Ends, with Debts, sung by Danielle Carson, Mandy More and John Berlyne as representatives of various countries, saluting Vivienne Martin’s Statue Of Liberty

                Lonely Heart Column had John Berlyne’s pleasant rendering of Lonely Heart.

                John D Rockefeller Sr, World’s Wealthiest Man, Celebrates 94th Birthday was much more interesting. Involving a very different performance from James Vaughan as Rockerfella Sr, attempting to stab spendthrift, John D Rockefeller Jnr and  wife,  John Rogan and Vivienne Martin, who made him  presant of Radio City .  I’m not sure Rockefeller was really left-handed though.

                The Funnies had Mandy More in the fore.  A truly delightful number, hilariously performed. Until now Mandy More has always been in the shadows of such Lost Musicals stars as Kathryn Evans and Louise Gold, at last she proves she’d be capable of leading a Lost Musical herself and should be given a chance to.

                To Be Or Not To Be sung well but unremarkably by Earlene Bentley

                Easter Parade, concluded Act 1. Vivianne Martin’s performance was over the top. The other mishap was Mandy More flying across the stage, landing with a thud.             

                 Metropolitan Opening opened Act 2. An amusing number sung by John Berlyne, Danielle Carson and Mandy More; Continuing with Rigaletto, sponsored by Muller’s Miracle Mustard Sauce For Steak, a hilarious combination of Rigaletto, a radio soap-opera and an advertisement for Mustard Sauce, with rousing performances from comic talents: Vivianne Martin, John Rogan and Danielle Carson as a Soap family, Paula Wilcox, as an announcer, and James Vaughan as a French Waiter, it could well have been a forunner to Sesame Street’s Nestrapolitan Opera skits

                Unknown Negro Lynched By Frenzied Mob, consisted of Earlene Bentley singing Supper Time, this reminded me of Gershwin’s Summertime!

                To Be Or Not To Be gave the brilliant James Vaughan a shining acting turn, as an American, acting Hamlet, very badly, interrupted by Mandy More. It had a smattering of Graeme Henderson’s Lucentio, and his voice was unrecognisable! Followed by Mandy More’s super  rendition of To Be Or Not To Be My Man, ever so much better than the earlier one.

                Gandhi Goes On New Hunger Strike - in a restaurant was another hilarious performance from James Vaughan, as Mahatma Gandhi, it featured Vivienne Martin as Aimee Semple Macpherson. The pair team up, as a religious duo, for publicity.  Ms Macpherson’s brassier strap brakes, so she borrows a  safety pin, from Gandhi -  the one holding his loin cloth in place. She decides he must add something more to his act, and he suggests tap dancing. We had the brilliant spectacle of James Vaughan and Vivienne Martin, trying to dance to the tune of Shuffle Off To Buffalo - by Harry Warren and Al Dubin - in a concert staging!  James Vaughan certainly has a few hidden talents. I had no idea miming a-man-tap -dancing-while-holding-up his-loin-cloth was amongst them!

                It was well nigh impossible to follow that star turn with another, so Revolt in Cuba was represented by Mark Warman playing The Rhumba.

Noel Coward, Noted Playwright Leaves Waldorf Astoria Hotel In New York To Return To England, with the company playing a hotel staff influenced by The Master’s visit,  they talk in the style of him and his guests. All the performances were accomplished. Two stand out: James Vaughan as Henry Perlmutter a waiter, reading  Mr Coward’s diary takeing on his persona, and, Paula Wilcox as Aggie a chambermaid -  taking on Lynn Fontanne!

                Society Wedding Of The Season had John Berlyne, Danielle Carson and company singing Our Wedding Day, a half forgotten gem of a Berlin song, with sentiments so much his comic style.

                Prince Of Wales Rumoured Engaged is a truly amazing piece of writing from Moss Hart., in which John Berlyne as The Prince Of Wales (Edward VIII) is questioned by his Parents King George V and Queen Mary, assisted by Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald, played by John Rogan, Vivienne Martin and James Vaughan, about his love life. I am amazed at how up to date Moss Hart’s comedy is. He was way ahead of his time! I am surprised his work was never  rediscovered in the 1980’s, when, thanks to  Spitting Image,  such comedy was fashionable. Sadly we have moved on, and that sort of biting cruel satire is no longer socially acceptable.

                Josephine Baker Still The Rage Of Paris, had Earlene Bentley singing Harlem On My Mind. Her performance was good, but not outstanding.

                Supreme Court Hands Down important Decision had Mandy More singing that the Supreme Court decided we will have no reprise. Earlene Bentley and Vivienne Martin attempting earlier numbers are told, “You can’t do that”. Finally Danielle Carson sings “a simple little chorus that they haven't heard before”, Not For All The Rice In China, with John Berlyne, a sweet romantic song, very nice to hear. Followed by John Rogan and Vivianne Martin’s, catchy Skate With Me. Next came Paula Wilcox, as a midget in a publicity stunt singing The Midget Number, all about sitting on JP Morgan’s knee, and not creating a sensation. This revue could hardly have been complete without James Vaughan exercising his flair for singing comic songs, and he finally did, with Through A Keyhole, the opening line  was used in You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun .  Mr Vaughan sang excellently, as always, I would never have known he had a bad cold at the time. Like all good concert performers he makes great use of body movement; He had the audience in hysterics, by moving his eyebrows! A terrific ending to a super show.  The cast ended with a quick reprise of Not for All The Rice In China. The Lost Musicals first Revue was a runaway success, thanks to eight brilliant performers and Mark Warman’s piano accompaniment.


On a CLeAR DAy you CAN See Forever

The second Lost Musical followed  the first triumph most successfully, due mainly to its star, the delightful, wonderfully talented Jessica Martin, as Daisy Gamble. The show, music by Burton Lane, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, was presented in its original form, the Lost Musicals have that down to a fine art. The pre-show talk was by the librettists widow. 

                The Show opens in the clinic of Dr Mark Bruckner, played to perfection by David Firth, a hypnosis session is in place. While hypnotising someone else, Dr Bruckner accidentally hypnotises Daisy Gamble, she has an unusually high ESP. Fortunately he realises what happened and wakes her up.  Daisy stays behind  to speak to Dr Bruckner, during which he discovers she is very good at making flowers grow, by singing to them Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here.

                After the session Daisy is meeting her fiancée, the very proper, conventional, Warren. He does not like her smoking habit, she asks Dr Bruckner if hypnosis can be used to cure it. He attempts this. While hypnotised he asks when she started talking to flowers, she names a date impossibly long ago, she is remembering a past life, in which she was an English lady named Melinda. She sings two delightful numbers I’ll Not Marry and Tosy And Cosh, excellently as one might expect from Jessica Martin. Before waking her up Dr Bruckner instructs her to remember nothing of this.  He, curious to find out more, sings On A Clear Day, very pleasantly.

                He arranges to take her out, when asked where she has been she replies On The S S Bernard Cohn. A brilliant number, superbly sung by Jessica Martin, excellently supported by Rae Baker and Christopher Holt. It was the only time, in this year’s entire season when somebody well and truly hit a song right over the footlights taking FULL advantage of Barbican Cinema 1’s wonderful acoustics.

                Each time Daisy visits Mark, for help conquering her smoking habit (leading to an amusing line about smoking on the telephone) he asks Melinda more about her life. This involves the characters of her past singing. Most notably Sir Hubert Insdale and Edward Monchrief, her husband, played by Bryan Torfeh and Rory Campbell, sing Don’t Tamper With My Sister.  I really enjoyed this song a lot, and feel sure that it ought to have a life outside of this show!

                Melinda loves Edward very much, except, he is a dreadful womaniser, always having affairs.(Melinda  ‘met’ Edward when she went to see him about  a scullary maid,  he  impregnated). He loves Melinda above the others, She Wasn’t You. To give him a new start, they, sail for America, but  their ship, the Trelawney was wrecked and all lives  lost.  A shocked  Mark sings Melinda.

                Act 2 opens with Mark’s nosy brother Dr Conrad Bruckner, played by Bryan Torfeh, finding out about and dismissing Mark’s researches into “Melinda”. Mark, convinced they are correct goes public, but does not name her. This attracts the attention of wealthy Themistocles Kriakos, who offers to fund projects continuation He thinks if it is possible to discover who someone was, it would be possible to discover who they are going to be. When I’m Being Born Again provided theatre veteran Harry Landis an admirable opportunity to shine.

                Daisy turns up, for a session with Mark, who is out. In his office she finds a tape, plays it, and stumbles upon the truth. She is Melinda!  Thinking Mark only loves Melinda and not Daisy she wonders What Did I Have That I don’t Have? another really excellent number from Jessica Martin, What a talent!

                Returning home she finds Warren planning to work for a Baby food’s manufacturer, with a good pension plan. Wait Till We’re Sixty Five a joyful comic number, performed by excellent artistes Jessica Martin and Johnny Meyers.

                Meanwhile, Mark has arranged a press conference, but one person is missing, Daisy, even Warren does not know where she is. Mark tries to get thought message to her, Come Back To Me. Daisy hears him, tries to block him out, but eventually  comes.

                Daisy trying to run away, is about to get on a plane, called The Trelawney, she has an overwhelming sense it will to crash. She kicks up a fuss, delaying it long enough for a fault to be discovered. Daisy realises she and Mark are meant to be together, and Mark reprises On A  Clear Day.

                All in all it was hugely enjoyable. All the performers were excellent, as always. The cast included: Barbara Young, and Jason Carr gave satisfactory accompaniment on the piano.  But one performer, in particular stood out, making this production a real success, that is Jessica Martin. This show marks her swansong, she is retiring from the business. It is of course her decision, however I sincerely hope that someday, she will return. She has so much talent and was such a great performer -she can lead a show herself, or hold her own against any co-star.



With The Mikado, and Untitledfilm98, it is appropriate to celebrate the work of Gilbert and Sullivan, with Hollywood Pinafore, George S Kaufman’s affectionate adaptation of HMS Pinafore. Set in Hollywood at Pinafore Pictures.

                We are introduced, by doorman, Will Harper, to the Simple Movie Folk Of The Wood That’s Known As Holly. First film stars  Gloria Mundi and Beverly Wiltshire, played by Juliet Panter and Zoe Ann Bown, followed by,  child star, Miss Peggy, played by Tiffany Edwards, a bit old for the role.

                The show starts with arrival of Gossip columnist Louhedda Hopsons,Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper combined, very well played by Paula Wilcox, emerging from the shadows as one of this season’s stars. With a Press agent, Bob Becket, played by Leon Berger, she shines in particular in Sweet Little Butter Up. (Rosina Brandram was the original Buttercup).

                Next comes the villainy, Dick Live-Eye, an agent, who gets 10%,  likes to scare people, wickedly played by Matt Zimmerman. He is always trying to sell people things  he does not own, like the  rights to The Bible. Sometimes they are owned by the people he is trying to sell them to, like Clark Gable to MGM. He performs a truly excellent interpolated spoof, An Agent’s Lot Is Not A Happy One. His singing made one forget the excellent original in the film The Pirates Of Penzance! 

                We meet The Writers, amongst them our hero, Ralph Rackstraw, excellent performance by Tim Brierley He Loves Alas Above His Salary, Brenda Blossom, but “the maidens of this town do not marry writers”.

                We meet a Director, Mike Corcoran, truly excellent performance from Frank Lazarus, he should play more characters like this. He sings a funny song about being a good director What Never?  No Never! Well Hardly Ever.  We also meet Corcoran’s daughter Brenda Blossom, an Academy Award Winning star, played by Liza Pulman, one of the real surprises of the evening. I had no idea how capable Liza Pulman is of playing a lead, when she appeared in  Oh Kay she was very overshadowed.  She sang Here On The Lot I am A Star very well. She tells her father that she is in love. He is afraid it is a minor actor,  it is even worse,  a writer! But she is a star so he will never know it.

                It is time to meet studio head, Joseph W Porter. We are introduced to his secretary, Miss Hebe, a fine performance from Judith Paris. Next in song his sisters, cousins and aunts Gaily Tripping Lightly Skipping Relatives Are Always Skipping. Finally Joe Porter himself, played by Ian Lavender, (Dad’s Army’s Private Pike, “Stupid boy”). He is older, stouter, but a fine actor showing an unexpected singing talent, performing Now I Am The Ruler Of The Studio the original turned up in the Pinafore scene in that Pirates Of Penzance film).

                Mr Porter is always discovering stars, like Sylvia Sin, gigglingly played by Heather Davis. He wishes to be shown a writer. They are brought in, and Ralph makes a request, for “Some more straw”-“ to stuff the characters with”.  To “bring this miserable creature to his senses” they perform the, well worth hearing Studio Writer’s Song. Joe Porter decides to stay outside for a while. Dick Live-Eye enters and persuades Mr Porter to hire him as his agent. Followed by a truly wonderful song, This Is Hollywood And Therefore, which is hilariously funny.

                Ralph encounters Brenda, she coldly rebuffs him, a writer. He contemplates suicide. Luckily she declares her love and they decide to get married. Hearing their intentions, not realising who they are Mr Porter raises Ralph’s salary. Dick Live-Eye tries to put a spoke in, but is booed off stage by the chorus..

                Act 2 commences with Frank Lazarus singing a sad song. Brenda’s refusal to marry Joe Porter worries him. He is afraid Mr Porter will not let him direct Po’s The Raven. He is cheered up by Louhedda, offering to marry him! With her writing his praises in her columns he need not fear being out of work.  The benefits to her include an exclusive on covering The Wedding and “ if there was to be a baby, I would be the first to know.”

                Joe Porter is also upset. Miss Hebe tries to get the girls to cheer him up by: Singing, Juggling, or doing Card tricks, but they can’t, they are only in Hollywood because they want to marry Clark Gable. Louhedda enters and teases him, with Hollywood’s A Funny Place, another excellent performance from talented Paula Wilcox, and Ian Lavender.

                Dick Live-Eye “scares the hell out of” Brenda Blossom, by telling her what will happen if she refuses to wed Joe Porter. He will put her upon The Stage. “It’s a living death.”  “And one thing more, On The stage you will have to act, and should you give a bad performance upon the stage, the critics actually say so, in print!”  She sings about The Life That I Embrace.

                It is decided Pinafore should make a prestige picture,- one that looses you money. They set about this by trying to buy the rights to a Broadway play. This, along with lines about stuffing characters , shows  George S Kaufman was  a forunner to great TV comedy writers, like  Jerry Juhl. They decide to make The Life And Times Of Joe Porter, because, He Is A Movie Man.

                Dick Live-Eye tells Joe Porter some bad news. Incensed by the fact that either Darryl Zannuck or Van Johnson have everything he wants, Mr Porter bans mention of their names, anyone who does is sacked. Followed by Hey Veniculay, a funny little duet by Ian Lavender and wonderful Matt Zimmerman.

                Brenda and Ralph decide to runaway. Hearing this, and fearful of his job, Corcoran decides to stop them. We enter a Marx Brother’s style scene, in the dark, where Brenda and Ralph keep bumping into something, that turns out to be her father!  Corcoran utters both forbidden words, and sacked, waylaying the couple long enough to be discovered, and Rackstraw is carted  to the doghouse, singing Light Of My Life Farewell.

                To the rescue comes Louhedda! When asked “what is your foul purpose”, Dick Live-Eye, replies “ just messing things up. I’m an agent.”  In a stunning performance from Paula Wilcox with I’m Slightly Off My Trolley, she reveals that while reporting on  two appointments to the studio, one high and one low, she made a terrible mistake!  Joe Porter was meant to be but a writer, the head of the studio should have been Ralph Rackstraw! Now Brenda will marry the head of the studio. Ralph hires Corcoran, who is marrying Louhedda, to direct Po’s The Raven. Everybody is getting married, so Miss Hebe offers herself to Joe Porter. The show ends with a triple wedding “But separate honeymoons”.

                A thoroughly enjoyable show, well performed, by the cast including: Arlene Coyle, Norman Bowman, Darren Batten, Jacqueline Harben, Chris Vincent, Timothy Walton, Musical direction by David Shrubsole  “With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan.”


The Frogs

The fourth Lost Musical of the season was a single act by Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove, based on a comedy by Aristophanes! Concerns Dionysos the God of Wine and Theatre, brilliantly played by Rolf Saxon, and peace-loving  servant Xanthias, played by Stewart Permutt journeying to Hades in quest of George Bernard Shaw . It opens with these two, imploring the audience to behave -  it was written for Shevelove’s old college, Yale, to perform in a swimming pool!

                They Call on Dionysos’s half brother, Herakles,  loudly played James Vaughan. Dionysos’s borrows  his Lion skin, to journey disguised as him. Herakles goes to clean out a stable.

                Continuing, they reach the River Sticks, and Charon the boat man, also played by ever versatile James Vaughan. His entrance, sliding across the stage, sitting on his script book, was one of the comic highlights of the entire season!

                As Herakles, Dionysos qualifies to ride to Hades, Xanthias has to walk. When asked how long it will take Charon replies “All night if I row, no time at all if you row.”  On querying this he is told “Well you did the last time”, so he rows and Charon goes to sleep, woken when they encounter The Frogs, who sing their chorus.Tthe boat carries on, to encounter the Dyonysians, singing a tribute to Dionysos, who,cannot reveal himself.

                On arrival in Hades, the disguise is a mixed blessing. The questers encounter  Pluto’s servant, half-dead Aekos, a reasonably convincing performance from Barry Martin. He is angry because Herakles slew Cerberus, last time, so  must get his comuppance. Aekos goes to tell Pluto. Afraid  Dionysos swaps clothes with Xanthias. They meet a delightful Handmaiden to Persephone, played by Morag Brownlie, with loving designs on Herakles, persuading Dionysos to swap back. We welcome the return of delightfully wicked Myra Sands, in one of her customary annoying roles, as A Handmaiden to Hippolyte. In this case demanding the return of her lady’s sacred girdle, who is not the same without it. Vowing vengeance she goes to “tell the girls” and Dionysos attempts to swap back.

                Pluto enters and realises neither man is Dionysos, because they are both too short. Pluto, charmingly played by veteran Harry Landis  is a  firm but benevolent ruler. It was not nice of Herakles to slay Cerberus, but wants no revenge. Dionysos says he has come in search of Shaw, who is coming to dinner, Pluto invites the two travellers. The residents of Hades, lead by Hierophantes,  James Vaughan again, sing a  song about the state of the world. Followed by a drunk after party scene, with  Xanthias and Aeakos, comparing notes, a delightful piece of double entendre, at the expense of various deceased playwrights.

                Dionysosy tries to persuade Shaw, a bitingly cruel performance from Shay Gorman, to come back to Earth to write again for the theatre. A very flamboyant William Shakespeare, excellently, likeably played by talented Peter Gale enters, with followers. Shaw clearly dislikes Shakespeare and they soon find themselves in a quarrel. It looks like it will come to fisticuffs, but Dionysos  persuades them to make it a battle of words, and organises a duel. Thus we come to the climax of the show, a duel of words, between Shaw and Shakespeare, quoting from their writings, refereed by Dionysos, who reluctantly declares Shakespeare the victor, and asks to take him back to earth. Pluto doesn’t want to let him go, but  relents. With the funny  Charon they make their way  to Earth through The Frogs.

                The other Frogs and Dionysians were: Zoe Ann Bown, Verona Chard, Rupert Fawcett, Catherine Hamilton, Sam Kenyon, Steven Mann, Daisy Moon, Andrew Weale, Musical direction by Paul Bateman.This strange musical was enjoyable, thanks to the wining performances of:  Peter Gale, Harry Landis, Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands, Rolf Saxon and James Vaughan.



The final Lost Musical at The Barbican was an even bigger departure. For the first time in their entire history Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals had a FULL orchestra, the BBC Concert orchestra, and were in The Barbican Concert Hall. Until I actually saw it I could not believe it! The show, part of the Gershwin centenary celebrations, was the original version of Strike Up The Band, a satire about war, in which America goes to war over cheese.

                It opens in  Horace J Fletcher’s cheese factory, with  Timothy Harper and G. Edgar Slone, brilliantly portrayed by two of the Company’s finest men,  Michael Winsor and James Vaughan , and a chorus of factory workers singing Fletcher’s American Cheese. The head of the factory, wonderful portrayal by another versatile performer, David De Keyser enters, and confers with Slone.

                The next development brings in Mrs Draper, played by Thelma Ruby, who deserves a better role! and her daughter Anne Draper, a touching performance by Claire Carrie. Anne and Timothy are in love alone they sing the romantic 17 and 21. Anne is determined to get Timothy.

                Slone suggests that, for the publicity it will generate, he marry Fletcher’s daughter Joan.  We meet Joan, a convincing performance from Iren Bartok,  clearly not interested in Slone. She is preoccupied with a dairyman turned newspaper reporter Jim Townsend, played to perfection by another talented man, John Capes, who wrote things about her. She demands her father do something about this. He is more concerned with keeping the tariff on foreign cheese high. He calls  the President’s silent aide Colonel Holmes, a super performance from Barry Cryer. Fletcher is a Typical Self-Made American according to himself, and his Yes Men, Jim disagrees. Jim meets Joan, alone, he only wrote those things to get her to notice. They share their feelings in Meadow Serenade

                Fletcher joins Holmes and chorus in Unofficial Spokesman, a very funny song referring to Holmes, who got a lot of laughs, that George S Kaufman had not intended, for his lines about The President. I am extremely surprised that The Barbican Centre’s management permitted this!

                A Marx Brothers style meeting in Mr Fletcher’s office concludes that the only course of action is War, with Switzerland, it introduced a bizarre character, George Spelvin, charismatic portrayal by talented Sam Kelly (also in Untitledfilm98). He first appears as a Salesman, turns into a telegram messenger, and other things, we unsure exactly what he is!

                A few weeks later the country is on the brink of the Horace J Fletcher Memorial War, he is financing it. The chorus sing a Patriotic Rally. Romance is in the air. Joan and Jim declare their love in The Man I Love, a beautiful interpretation in its original setting. They run into a big problem, Jim does not agree with this War. However he reluctantly goes along with it, for Joan’s sake. Anne is desperate to marry Timothy, before war is declared, she does not want to wait until after the war to get married, she might have to wait a long time. Spelvin and chorus try to cheer her up with the hilarious, patriotic Yankee Doodle Rhythm, a super performance from the comical Sam Kelly.

                With the declaration of War Mrs Draper and Mr Fletcher celebrate by, a reprise of 17 and 21, and, drinking milk, the same milk used to make the cheese. Jim enters, and is invited to join them. Being a dairyman he “knows about milk” so on tasting it he realises the dreadful truth, it is grade B milk! He refuses to fight, tells Joan this, who promptly walks out on him.

                The patriotism theme continues with a meeting of “the very patriotic league”: Mr Fletcher, Colonel Holmes, Mrs Draper and Mr Slone, wearing pointed hoods. Amongst the problems is Townsend, who refuses to fight.  In Finaletto Act 1 he protests he will not fight for cheese made with grade B milk. Slone, who “is a bit arrogant”, dismisses this preposterous claim, with a convincing performance from James Vaughan, who is  rather good at acting arrogant (as his role in a BBC Courtroom-drama proved). Townsend is lead off, the soldiers, headed by Timothy lead the company into the rousing title song Strike Up The Band.

                Act 2 opens ‘Somewhere In Switzerland, with American Soldiers and Swiss Girls in the amusingly satirical Oh This Is Such A Lovely War. It is a war for publicity, it even has spectators, a female chorus singing Come-Look-at-the-War. But, the American soldiers cannot find the Swiss army. The Swiss know these mountains better, whenever they see  “us coming they hide and we can never find them.”  Amongst the spectators is Joan, she meets Townsend, who has been drafted, forced to serve the army as a general dogsbody, but he still knows about milk, one day he will prove it, they duet Hoping That Someday You’d Care.

                Meanwhile Anne, still trying to get married, meets Timothy, but he is too busy, right now it is time for Military Dancing Drill. Anne’s mother will not let her get married until after she does. Anne, trying to help, tells Holmes and Fletcher her mother has shares in the cheese business. They romance Mrs Draper, in the amusing How About A Man, but lose interest, on finding she is not wealthy.

                 Fletcher cannot finance the war much more. Spelvin wants to be a General. Fletcher makes him one sends him to find the army, who cannot find the enemy.  Spelvin takes charge, asking if they have problems. They do, Buttons missing from their uniforms, more are cut off every day. a traitor’s work, but who?

                Spelvin encounters Townsend, with an idea on how to win the War, he also suspects who the traitor is, but no one will listen to him, Spelvin, does.  Everyday the Swiss army goes to lunch, after which their General calls them together by yodelling. Townsend’s suggestion is Spelvin assemble his men, just before this time, and yodel. The Swiss will think it is their General and coming running in that direction, and then can be licked. Finaletto Act II finds this idea put into practice, by the company, and the war  won.

                On the boat home, seasick Mrs Draper and Mr Fletcher discovering  they  have a lot in common, decide to marry.  Dominic Natoli. The male chorus sing Homeward Bound, and reprise The Girl I Love.

                At a big homecoming in Flecture's Ballroom. Townsend is a hero, Spelvin enters. Now, he can reveal all.  That arrogant Mr Slone tries to stop him, and no wonder, the traitor is G. Edgar Slone, really a Swiss secret agent. It was he who cut the buttons off the American soldiers uniforms, so they could not button their jackets in the mountains, so freeze to death. For years he worked in the factory adulterating the cheese with Grade B milk. Spelvin is an American secret agent. Fletcher begs this will not get out. Townsend promises on two conditions First there will be an international league of cheeses and no more War, and second, well it isn’t really up to Fletcher, Joan will marry him. The chorus sing The War That Ended War.  It is announced Russia wants to drop the tariff on Caviar, everyone prepares for war, with the Finale Ultimo of Strike Up The Band.

                The chorus were: Thomas Aaron, Temime Bowling, Zoe Ann Bown, Morag Brownlie, Chris Dee, Stephen Ellias, Deirdree Forrest, Alex Mills, Bernadine Pritchett, Teresa Revill and Robert Traynor. The company gave an excellent tribute to George Gershwin’s centenary, a fine finale to 6 years at The Barbican, the leading men were especially good, where did Ian Marshall Fisher find them?




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