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‘Play on Words’, a musical celebration of P. G. Wodehouse on Broadway by Hal Cazalet
20th June 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
An Evening of Music, Laughter, Romance & Glamour
Play On Words sees multi-accomplished performer, composer and lyricist Hal Cazalet honouring the Broadway career of his step Great-Grandfather P.G. Wodehouse, alongside his favourite songs celebrating the birth of the American musical and theatrical writing highlights of the last 120 years. Featuring the work of P.G. Wodehouse, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Maury Yeston, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim, Hal Cazalet, Dudley Moore, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alan Ayckbourn, and many more. Simon Beck accompanies on the Piano. Written and directed by Hugh Wooldridge.
“Wins all hearts” – The Sunday Times
“Beguiling” – The New York Times
“Attractively stylish” – The Guardian
“Genuinely funny with wonderful comic expression” – Opera Britannia
Play on Words is part of a week-long festival of Performing and Creative Arts at Hanford School. There will be different concerts and talks every evening between 19 – 25 June. The festival ends on Sunday 25th with an open garden event, as part of the National Gardens Scheme, where there will be a live band, cream teas and a magician show.
Drinks will be available ahead of the concert from 6.30pm.
‘PLUM’ WODEHOUSE AND HIS ELIXIR OF LYRICS
Hal Cazalet writes, “As a young boy I recall my Great Grandmother, Ethel Wodehouse, then aged 97, descending the staircase of her Long Island home in a black Sequin dress, pearls, and a feather bower. My siblings and I, toying with our high tea in shorts, flip flops and T-Shirts, looked on agog as she made her entrance into the kitchen like the last Great Star of The Ziegfeld Follies. Since being recently widowed from her beloved P.G. Wodehouse (nicknamed ‘Plum’), the house had been left untouched from the day he died. The sitting room was crowded with photographs of them with their myriad of adopted dogs, Plum’s own novels filled the shelves, and by the gramophone, lay a pile of records of his early Broadway Musicals.
Many years later, I came across an old leather suitcase in our attic at home engraved with the initials P.G.W. On opening it, I found reams of sheet music of songs with lyrics by Wodehouse and music by composers such as Sigmund Romberg, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Ivor Novello and Jerome Kern. Somewhat stunned by this ‘discovery’, I carefully took a pile down to the piano and played through them. This process was quite a revelation, in that it showed how the form of the American Musical had evolved. Jerome Kern (Plum’s earliest collaborator with whom he wrote over 250 songs) crafted his tunes like the Schubert of the American song, immaculate in both structure and melody. Unlike Plum’s mentor, W.S Gilbert, who wrote the words for Sullivan to set to music (which made them scan like verse), Plum would ‘tag along to Jerry Kern’s melodies’ (as he put it), so that he could hear where the emotional ‘high spots’ were in the music and so could write the lyric accordingly.
Plum worked with a large variety of great composers, but of all his musical collaborators, it was George Gershwin, with his blues chords and thrilling Jazz Rag Time rhythms who would go on to define the ‘sound’ of the American musical. It’s a wonder that Wodehouse could adapt so seamlessly to working with composers of such different styles from ‘Operatic ‘to ‘Swing time’, with his deft lyrics always complimenting the tunes so effortlessly. Wodehouse’s chance meeting with Jerome Kern and the librettist, Guy Bolton, in New York in 1915 was a turning point his career. No other Lyricist to this day can boast at having five musicals running simultaneously on Broadway. The pioneering shows they devised for the Princess Theatre between 1915 – 1924 not only defined the Broadway musical, but paved the way for all those who followed on the Great White Way. I am thrilled to be able to share some of these songs with you tonight by these great writers. What a rich legacy they have left us to indulge, escape and bask in.”
Hal Cazalet – June 2023.
Hal Cazalet trained at The Juilliard School, New York where he won the Shoshana Foundation Award. Hal has created leading roles in World Premiere’s for composers, Philip Glass Les Enfants Terribles (World Tour), Roxanna Panufnik The Music Programme (Polish National Opera, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House) and Tod Machover’s, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Death and the Powers (Chicago Opera Theatre & Dallas, Boston and Monte Carlo Operas). Other highlights include Cascada, The Merry Widow (ENO), as Albert Herring (Glyndebourne Tour), Dick Dauntless Ruddigore (Barbican Centre, Opera North) and in concert at The Wigmore Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center, DC. Hal’s musical of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince was showcased at The Place Theatre, London, starring Janie Dee, with plans to open at the Royal Opera House, Mumbai in 2024.
Simon Beck credits include musical director of the Glamis Prom with the Scottish Pops Orchestra, Live At Las Vegas, Scott Alan Live at IndigO2, West End Stars In Concert with the Orchestra of Contemporary Music of ERT starring Ramin Karimloo, and Dancing On Ice on Greek national TV. Music Supervisor/Arranger of The Boyfriend, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. Music Director of The Boyfriend, Sweet Charity, Spamilton, Ruthless!, Legally Blonde, Spamalot, Victoria Wood’s Talent, West Side Story, Sinatra, The Rocky Horror Show. In concert, Simon has been Music Director/Conductor for a host of stars, including Stephanie J Block, Hal Cazalet, Lorna Dallas, Sophie-Louise Dann, Cynthia Erivo, Andrew Lippa, Lorna Luft, Sally Mayes, and Liz Robertson. Associate Music Director of Monty Python Live (Almost) (O2 Arena, live cinema/TV broadcast worldwide, and DVD). Simon recently released his debut album The Courage of A Dreamer.