Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2019 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)
Fifteen performances of a musical comedy at an eighty-
For the uninitiated, the term ‘book version’ indicates that the production is not fully orchestrated or rehearsed. In UK terms, it falls somewhere between an acted play-
Musicals Tonight, founded in 1997 by Mel Miller, has a lot of experience in the genre, having presented over seventy lost musicals in total. Leave It To Jane was the sixth of their productions with lyrics and music by Wodehouse and Kern, and the fourth for which the book was written by Guy Bolton. Considered by many to have been one of the strongest ‘Princess’ musicals, it has an excellent score with a number of memorable songs – and Mel and his team found a cast to do it justice. There were no weak links among the voices, and the clarity of singing – an essential for a successful Wodehouse lyric, since to be able to hear his clever and subtle rhyming is as critical a part of the music as the melody – enabled all the words to be readily appreciated.
The setting of the story is Atwater, an American College, and the unlikely underlying theme is the rivalry between the College’s [American] Football team and that of nearby Bingham. Billy Bolton, about to start his third year of college education at Bingham, where his father exercises a major influence, is persuaded by the flirtatious heroine Jane to transfer his registration to Atwater, so that his All-
Jane, played by an impressive Sarah Ziegler, was given licence to flirt as hard as she knew how in order to attract Billy to Atwater, and in the first act, when her scheming is at its peak, she makes a major contribution to four of the principal songs. Having successfully tied Billy to Atwater by the end of Act I, her role diminishes somewhat in Act II, most of which is played round the football match.
But Jane is only one of a trio of leading ladies, being well supported by Bessie (Chelsea Barker) and Flora (Kari Grunberg). Bessie’s on-
It is not just the female stars who perform well. Thom Caska as Stub had the heavy responsibility of coordinating that part of the dialogue which is designed to ensure that the audience can keep abreast of developments, as well as participating in three songs in each act and trying to win or retain Bessie’s affections. He was well supported by a number of older characters – a couple of Professors, the football trainer, a senator, a parent – as well as the students. Carter Lynch looks the part as the star footballer, the athletic Billy Bolton, and an immensely tall Australian, Jackson Eather, impresses as a home-
All in all, the production makes the most of an unusual story, an extremely good score, a talented group of actors and the limiting scope of the available space. Musicals Tonight is to be congratulated once again – and although it is disappointing not to find another Wodehouse comedy on the programme for the 2013-
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