Discover The Lost Musicals August1997
Review from Words and Music © January 1998
After her unique performance of The Physician in Noel/Cole: Let’s Do It, versatile Louise Gold is a natural choice for a role written for Gertrude Lawrence, such as Ian Marshall Fisher’s production of, George and Ira Gershwins’s Oh Kay.
The story, not surprisingly, by Guy Bolton and P.G.Wodehouse is about bootleggers during the prohibition. A group of such, lead by The Duke, a fine performance from Stewart Permutt, another of The Lost Musicals’s regular comedians, along with Larry Potter, pleasantly portrayed by Michael Gyngell, and ‘Shorty McGee’, an excellent performance from David de Keyser, have been using an empty house as a holding store. The first three numbers are used to set this seen: The house is only nominally empty, since you will always find a number of girls hanging around, they perform a pleasant little number, The Woman’s Touch. Two of them are twins, Phil and Dolly Ruxton, delightful performances from Liza Pulman and Julia Farino; who classically confuse Shorty. Larry is friendly with both girls, and this trio performed Don’t Ask. The best of the three was When Our Ship Comes Sailing In, well sung by Stewart and David.
Problems arise when owner of the house, Jimmy Winter, another first class performance from Michael Fitzpatrick, returns home, with his new second wife, Constance, played by Lorelei King. Shorty frightens away the, newly hired, Butler, and his wife, the Cook, then poses as the Butler.
Trouble for Jimmy when he receives a telegram from his lawyer, informing him that his divorce from his first wife has not been made final, therefore he is bigamously married. The furious Constance walks out on him, leaving their bags, labelled "Just Married" , in the hall. Jimmy and the girls sing Dear Little Girl, very pleasantly, while Jimmy reflects on an unknown girl, he calls his Mermaid, who saved him from drowning, a year ago. He wishes she hadn’t.
Meanwhile The Duke’s sister, Lady Kay decides to come ashore, which worries the Duke as she does not have a passport (Kay and The Duke are English). A storm blows up, and Kay seeks shelter by jumping though Jimmy’s French Windows, with a neat Pas de chat. We are told she is soaking wet, despite wearing gumboots and a mac. Frightened by the storm, she tries to shoot Jimmy. Left handed, Louise Gold mimed this with the gun in her right hand!
Jimmy, however is delighted to find Kay sheltering in his house, since she is his Mermaid and the pair sweetly duet the delightful Maybe, a song reminiscent of Indian Love Call.
Having discovered Kay, Jimmy is in good spirits. Larry and the girls, hearing that Constance has walked out on Jimmy, have decided to cheer him up, they enthusiastically perform the rousing Clap Yo’ Hands. This is just the kind of number an audience will walk out of the theatre humming.
A revenue officer named Jansen, another convincing performance by Johnny Myers, comes in looking for Kay. Spotting the bags Kay, now wearing a pair of Constance’s pyjamas, that she has borrowed, passes herself off as Jimmy’s wife, and the pair duet one of this show’s greatest songs Do Do Do. It came as a surprise to discover that this is in fact a comic number. Which makes it perfect for such a gifted performer as Louise Gold, it was one of those numbers where only she could make her interesting interpretation of it work. Kay and Jimmy duet it, while fooling about around Jansen, basically trying to make him sick of their romantic carrying on; this included Jansen, in a manner reminiscent of The Muppets, getting hilariously embraced by Kay!
The following morning Jimmy must keep Kay a secret from the local girls. She locks herself in his bedroom, but they hear her, so Jimmy tries to make out he is a ventriloquist. Finally forced to reveal that there is someone in there he opens the door, to find Kay having put on a maid’s uniform, and is now passing herself off as Jane, the Butler’s wife. Shorty reluctantly agrees to this.
Constance turns up, with her irate father, another fine performance from Reg Eppey in one of his customary Lost Musical’s roles, that of a judge. At this, the Act 1 finale, a telegram arrives telling Jimmy that his divorce has now been finalised, so he is free to marry properly, Constance and her father make plans for the wedding to take place that afternoon. Being in love with Jimmy, and knowing Jimmy is really in love with his Mermaid, because, as Kay puts it "He keeps looking at me in a certain way, when I’m not looking at him:" , Kay vows to sabotage the wedding.
Act 2 opens with the company performing Its Never Too Late To Mendelssohn, a number which only The Gershwin’s would write! and an Operetta-type piece called Bride and Groom. This was followed by Jimmy, Constance and her Father having lunch, as served by Shorty and Kay, an impressive performance from David and Louise, showing Louise Gold to be a comic talent well deserving the mantle of either Beatrice Lillie or Gertrude Lawrence.
Shorty encounter’s Kay wearing an evening dress, borrowed from Constance, preparing to say goodbye to Jimmy. His wedding is imminent and she has, so far, failed to stop it. Maybe if sees her going, and for once properly dressed, he might realise who he is really in love with. Here she gave us a real delight. It was wonderful to hear Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me sung in its original context, there are references in the script relating to this song. Louise Gold is so very good at making any famous song very much her own. Her unique renditions can dispel the memories one might have of anyone else. She handled it sweetly, with simple sincerity. Jimmy enters, so does Jansen. Properly dressed Kay again passes herself off as Jimmy’s wife.
In the run up to the ceremony: First Larry and Phil (Dolly, by this time, being paired off with The Duke) consolidate each other with Fidgety Feet . Then Jimmy and the Girls to mark the occasion with Heaven On Earth.
To prevent Jimmy marrying Constance, and help her family and friends get their alcohol safely out of the cellar, Kay resorts to desperate measures. She persuades Shorty to pose as a revenue officer and arrest Jimmy in the middle of the ceremony. The pair dueted Ain’t It Romantic, which was very much dominated by Louise, typically overshadowing David, with her vocal parodies.
Immediately after Shorty arrests Jimmy, Jansen enters and arrests Kay, for coming ashore illegally. Shorty, Kay and Jimmy are all locked in the cellar. While the alcohol is being loaded on to trucks, they manage to escape.
Later there is some reception at Jimmy’s, to which everyone is invited. Last to arrive are Kay and Jimmy. Kay asks the men in the assembled company for their opinion of her, and whether they think Jimmy truly loves her, like she loves him. They reassure her with a truly brilliant number, Oh Kay (You’re OK with Me). This number was the most perfect summation of this show, especially of Louise Gold’s performance in it, since, she has a charm that is all her own and a style she can call her own.
Finally Jansen reveals that he is in fact not a revenue Officer, but a rival bootlegger. He thinks he has cheated them out of their booty, but since Larry and his assistant, played by Darren Hudsen, disguised, drove the trucks away, he hasn’t. However, unless they pay him, he threatens to turn Kay over to the authorities, for not having a passport. Whereupon Kay, producing her marriage certificate, reveals that she is now legally allowed in the country, since she has just married Jimmy, and the curtain falls. Besides the twins, the other girls were played by Lara Serebrier, Nicola Edwards, Louise Anne Halliday and Sophia Wylie. Jason Carr gave satisfactory accompiament on the piano.
This Review First Appeared In Words and Music Issue 29, January 1998. My grateful thanks to Word’s and Music’s Editor, Carol Hughes, for permission to use it.
Additional comments (by Emma Shane, © 2000): I would like add that the plot-style of Oh Kay closely follows that of the legendary Princess Theatre Shows, which Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse scripted some ten years prior to writing Oh Kay, and it contains many of the same Wodehousian elements: People deliberately passing themselves off as someone else, Mistaken identity, A girl – for some perfectly innocent reason – found wearing someone else’s pyjamas, minor crooks, English nobility etc etc. The other lovely trait that many of those shows contained, and which Oh Kay is a shining example of, is the leads getting what they really want without having to change.. There are, far far to many musicals where the girl starts off a totally extraordinary character, but in order to win their man the girl, it usually is the girl, is required to change, to fall into line, to be tamed; Annie Get Your Gun, Calamity Jane, and Kiss Me Kate being perhaps the best examples of this, though the same is also very much true of: Panama Hattie, 110 In The Shade, and By Jupiter. Oh Kay is the complete antithesis of all this, neither Kay, or for that matter Jimmy, have to alter their behaviour to win each other. From the she first enters until the curtain comes down, Kay retains her sheer individuality, and she wins her man by being simply herself. In this way the show sets a standard for society of accepting individuality, and is truly a wonderful vehicle for such uniquely individual actresses as Gertrude Lawrence and Louise Gold.