Before Rodgers and Hammerstein, there was Rodgers and Hart. A new musical, which premieres next month at Hampstead’s New End Theatre, celebrates the life and work of Lorenz Hart, the American lyricist and “poet of Broadway” who, with composer Richard Rodgers, created such classic musicals as On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, A Connecticut Yankee, The Boys from Syracuse and Pal Joey.

In From the Hart, which runs from 12 June to 2 September 2007 (previews from 30 May), original New Yorker John Guerrasio plays Hart in a cast that also features West End veteran Peter Straker (Hair, Tommy, Hot Stuff). Devised and compiled by David Kernan, the new musical has a book by John Kane and is directed by Caroline Clegg with musical direction from Matthew Brind.

Wile Hart’s career saw great successes, particularly during his 18-year writing partnership with Richard Rodgers, his private life was characterised by low self-esteem, unrequited love and alcoholism. Together with Rodgers (pictured) who he met at Columbia University, Hart penned myriad famous songs, including “Blue Moon”, “My Funny Valentine”, “The Lady Is a Tramp”, “Have You Met Miss Jones?” and “Manhattan”. He died aged 48 from pneumonia in 1943.

From the Hart is produced by Barbara Ferris, Steve E Holland and Ann Pinnington. The cast also features Matthew Barrow, Lucy Kerans-Hunt and Louisa Maxwell.

Meanwhile, Orson Welles’ lost musical Around the World, which opened on Broadway three years after Lorenz Hart’s death, will receive its European premiere next month, more than 50 years after its unsuccessful Broadway debut. As part of this year’s Lost Musicals season, it will have five performances on Sundays from 10 June to 8 July 2007 at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Theatre.

The musical, based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, is directed in this semi-staged production by Ian Marshall Fisher and stars Jack Klaff as Inspector Fix and Peter Gale as Phileas Fogg alongside Valerie Cutko, Michael Roberts, Peter Kenworthy and Richard Stemp. Musical direction is from Steve Edis, who has recently composed music for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear and The Seagull.

Coming in the wake of Welles’ screen success with Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, the 1946 musical, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and a cast of 70 plus four mechanical elephants, ran for only 75 performances at New York’s Adelphi Theatre. Welles also directed and starred in the lavish spectacular that incurred massive financial losses and has not been staged since.

Marshall Fisher’s company, Lost Musicals, has been staging neglected or forgotten works by the likes of Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Moss Hart, George and Ira Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim and Alan Jay Lerner in London and New York since 1989.

- by Malcolm Rock