Review: Merrie England, Finborough

“No other land could nurse them”

The Finborough’s policy of celebrating neglected British musical theatre has unearthed much of interest for fans of the genre, though it is probably safe to say that there have been as many which will remain curiosities as there have bona fide successes worthy of further recognition and reappraisal. It is thereforemost pleasing to discover that their latest rediscovery, the comic opera Merrie England, is a genuine contender for the latter category and a scream of a success.

Written in 1902 by composer Edward German and librettist Basil Hood (a man who apparently died from overwork and undereating…), the show occupies similar territory to Gilbert and Sullivan in its operetta form, considerable lyrical wordplay and complete frivolity when it comes to matters of plot. For what its worth here, the play is set in the court of Queen Elizabeth I as she visits the Mayday celebrations in the village of Windsor, an event which sends the lovelives and rivalries of everyone from monarch to villagers into haywire. Continue reading “Review: Merrie England, Finborough”

Review: Perchance to Dream, Finborough

“If you run out of words, just burst into song”

The Finborough Theatre in West London has had an excellent record in reviving British musicals as part of their “Celebrating British Music Theatre” series and marking the 60th anniversary of the death of composer Ivor Novello is Perchance to Dream, sliding into the Sunday/Monday slot there for the month of September. It is the first professional London production for 25 years of this show devised, written and composed by Novello himself, the only show for which he wrote the lyrics.

It is an unashamedly romantic musical, centring on the country pile Huntersmoon and the tangled love affairs of its residents as we glide from the Regency era, through Victorian times and to WWII as the ghosts of the past continue to haunt future generations. But it is the glorious music that commands the attention as Novello’s score incorporate such classics as ‘Love Is My Reason’, ‘A Woman’s Heart’ and ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’: classic songwriting close to its best. Continue reading “Review: Perchance to Dream, Finborough”