Spread a Little Happiness: The First Hundred Years of the British Musical

Sheridan Morley, Author Thames & Hudson $29.95 (221p) ISBN 978-0-500-01398-4
Drama critic for Punch, son of actor Robert Morley, author of biographies of Noel Coward and David Niven, Morley is well qualified to assess Britain's contributions to musical theater. Though the recent commercial success of Cats and Les Miserables has carved out a respected position for the British musical, for decades the West End played dowdy relation to Broadway. Morley begins his history with early shows like A Gaiety Girl (1893) and Chu-Chin-Chow (1916) that drew on burlesque and the music hall to create a new form; he chronicles the glittering 1920s and '30s, when Noel Coward and Ivor Novello ruled the London musical stage; and looks at his country's love affair with American musicals that began with the overwhelming success of Oklahoma! in 1947 and led to a loss of confidence in the home product. He is critical of the emphasis on spectacle in such creations as Starlight Express, but is encouraged by Blood Brothers (1983) and The Hired Man (1984), which have strong social themes and distinctively British backgrounds. The book's profuse and evocative photographs enhance a lively, informative text. (June 29)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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