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The Dress Circle: No Broadway Transfers - Part 2

We’re continuing with our look at West End musicals that didn’t get to transfer to Broadway on this week’s Dress Circle (7/31/2022 7:00 p.m.) with four more shows.

Although Noel Coward had many shows on Broadway, most of them were plays that might have had a song or two included in the evening. Only four of his nine musicals were produced there. We’ll be looking at a 1953 work titled “After the Ball” to begin our program. This musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” had a healthy run of 188 performances in London, but even though the play has been on Broadway four times (the last time, sadly was in 1946), the musical was deemed “too British” to transfer.

The second musical is based on a 1911 novel by Arnold Bennett entitled “The Card” which is about a young man who uses his wits and a little larceny to make his way in the world from extremely humble beginnings to the youngest mayor of his town. Although the show ran for 130 performances in London after opening in 1973 and being the first “Western-style” musical to play in the Soviet Union as part of a cultural exchange program, Broadway never got to see it. The original production starred Jim Dale, and the music and lyrics were by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent.

“Robert & Elizabeth” by Ron Grainer and Ronald Millar was a huge success when it opened in London in 1964 running 948 performances. Like our first show tonight, it was based on a popular play titled “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” by Rudolph Besier which took a romantic look at the courting of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning and her eventual escape from the tyrannical rule of her overbearing father. “Robert & Elizabeth” made it close to Broadway having been produced at Milburn, NJ’s Papermill Playhouse, but there was never a Broadway trip even though it has been produced in many regional theatres around the country.

Our final show of the program is by one of Britain’s most prolific composer of musicals, Vivian Ellis. He wrote 28 musicals, and only one has made it to Broadway. His biggest hits were “Mr. Cinders” and “Bless the Bride,” but tonight we’re going to focus on a 1955 show titled “The Water Gipsies” with music by Ellis and lyrics by A.P. Herbert (on whose book it’s based). We’ll just say that the music is pleasant, and the book is just too complicated to explain in a few words. The title, however, refers to those people who live in the often colorful canal barges that travel the waterways in England.

We hope you’ll join us for more excellent performances of songs you more than likely won’t know, and if we can whet your appetites to search some of these shows out to see what the rest of the scores are like, then, we’ve accomplished a part of our Dress Circle “mission.”

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Ted Otten is co-host of The Dress Circle
Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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