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Coward’s Sail Away Found in 2008 Lost Musicals

Director Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals season of semi-staged productions for rarely performed work returns to London this year and includes “forgotten” pieces by Ira Gerwshwin, George S Kaufman and Noel Coward. This year's cast stars Helen Anker, Elizabeth Counsell, David Furth, Stephen Carlile, Valerie Cutko, Andrea Miller, Nuala Willis, David O'Brien, Peter Gale, James Vaughan and John Rawnsley.

The schedule of weekend-only performances, all at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Theatre, kicked off with Park Avenue this past Sunday (30 March 2008), continuing on 6, 13, 20, 26 and 27 April. Opened on Broadway in 1946, Park Avenue has music by Arthur Schwartz, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and a book by George S Kaufman and Nunnally Johnson.

It’s a spoof on relationships and divorce amongst the wealthy upper classes, predating Company as a musical satire along similar lines. The score features the song “Don’t Be a Woman If You Can”. This production marks its European premiere, over 60 years since its initial two-month run at the Shubert Theatre in New York.

Park Avenue is followed by Noel Coward’s Sail Away, which plays 15, 22, 29 June and 5, 6, 12, 13 July 2008. Unlike Park Avenue, this show has seen the light of day in London before, although it hasn’t been back since its original production transferred from Broadway to the Savoy in 1962 (pictured) starring Elaine Stritch.

The show, hailed as Coward’s last fully written musical comedy, looks at the brash and bold American, Mimi Paragon, who is working as a hostess on a British cruise ship dealing with tourists, their children, phrase books and falling in love. The score includes songs such as “Useful (Useless) Phrases”, “The Passenger’s Always Right” and the title song, “Sail Away”.

Both musicals are performed semi-staged with piano accompaniment, with productions promised as being complete and unabridged. Each performance will be preceded by an introduction from guest presenters including Ian Marshall Fisher, Herbert Kretzmer, Mark Steyn and members of the writers’ families.

Previous Lost Musicals seasons have included shows such as Fanny (Harold Rome), Allegro (Rodgers & Hammerstein), Trouble In Tahiti (Leonard Bernstein), Greenwillow (Frank Loesser), Pipe Dream (Rodgers & Hammerstein), Out Of This World (Cole Porter), Love Life (Kurt Weill), A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Arthur Schwartz) and Music in the Air (Jerome Kern).

Since founding the Lost Musicals in 1989, Marshall Fisher has worked closely with the estates and families of the writers to rediscover and reconstruct the shows. He spends several months each year in the US to do so, and as a result, has brought around 77 otherwise neglected Broadway shows to London, performed by over 1,500 actors and singers including Laura Michelle Kelly, Gavin Lee, Henry Goodman, Joanna Riding, Denis Quilley, Janie Dee, Desmond Barrit, Louise Gold and Tim Flavin. The Lost Musicals series format has been copied in the US.

- by Tom Atkins


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