ReDiscoveries2012 Season |  February to April 2012


by Ivor Novello

Sundays and Mondays, 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20 February 2012


Monday, 13 February 2012 at 3.00pm
Monday, 20 February 2012 at 3.00pm

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Part of the Finborough Theatre's CELEBRATING BRITISH MUSIC THEATRE series

**** Four Stars WhatsOnStage

The first professional revival of the 1951 smash hit.

The Finborough Theatre's acclaimed 'Celebrating British Music Theatre' series follows its recent sell-out success of Ivor Novello's 'musical romance' Perchance to Dream with the first-ever revival of Ivor Novello's last and wittiest musical.

Ivor Novello affectionately sends up his own Ruritanian extravagances in this irrestistible backstage musical comedy. Stage star Gay Daventry, bankrupted from the flop of her latest operetta, opens a drama school and finds – after various misadventures – that the one quality needed to get her back in the spotlight is, to name the show's hit song, Vitality! Other numbers include If Only He'd Looked My Way (subsequently recorded by Frank Sinatra), Bees Are Buzzin' and the enchanting On Such A Night As This, all combining Novello's melodic talent with Alan Melville's sharp wit.

West End favourite Sophie-Louise Dann stars in the title role of Gay, fresh from her critical sensation in last year’s Lend Me a Tenor. Her co-star is Helena Blackman, one of the UK’s fastest-rising musical performers. The extraordinary 19-strong cast features Tony Award winner Elizabeth Seal, whose career began in the chorus of the original production, as well as RSC and West End stars Frank Barrie, Valerie Cutko, Doreen Hermitage, Eileen Page and Myra Sands.

Presented by special permission of Samuel French ltd on behalf of the Ivor Novello Trustees


Welsh-born composer, author and actor Ivor Novello (1893-1951) was one of the most eminent British entertainers of the last century. His West End musicals include Glamorous Night, The Dancing Years and King's Rhapsody; his most popular songs include Keep the Home Fires Burning, And Her Mother Came Too, Waltz of My Heart, My Dearest Dear, Someday My Heart Will Awake and the perennial We'll Gather Lilacs. As an actor, he was Britain's first major male film star, appearing in over twenty silent features including Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Lodger, playing the sinister title role. As a West End matinee idol, he appeared in many of his own plays and musicals. The Ivor Novello Awards, honouring excellence in British music writing, were established in 1955 in his memory. The Finborough Theatre's recent revival of Perchance to Dream was a complete sell-out.


Lyricist Alan Melville (1910-1983) was one of the most popular playwrights and lyricists of the post-war years, and later a television personality. His sketches and lyrics featured in many West End revues, including Sweet and Low, Sweeter and Lower and Sweetest and Lowest which together ran for almost 2,000 performances. His long-running plays include Dear Charles, Castle in the Air and Simon and Laura (later filmed with Peter Finch and Kay Kendall).


Director and Choreographer Stewart Nicholls has directed and choreographed numerous productions, including Cowardy Custard (2011 UK Tour), Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk (Hall for Cornwall), Hetty Feinstein's Wedding Anniversary (New End Theatre), Lunch with Marlene and Noël (UK Tour), I Love a Piano (World Tour), Big Bruvva and Faith Brown and her Boys in the Buff (Edinburgh Festival), Over My Shoulder (Wyndham's Theatre and National Tour), Beatlemania (Gothenburg Opera House, Sweden), South Pacific (Birmingham Symphony Hall), Carousel (St David's Hall, Cardiff) and Love Songs (Bridewell Theatre). Stewart is a leading archivist of British musical theatre, directing and choreographing ten forgotten British musicals at the Theatre Museum, including Noël Coward's Sail Away (his restored version is published by Warner/Chappell Music) and The Amazons, for which he also co-produced the Grammy Award-nominated CD.


The Book has been revised for this production by Richard Stirling who wrote the 2007 Sunday Times top ten bestseller Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography as well as Love From Ivor (a tribute to Ivor Novello, which played to capacity at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Lincoln Center, New York) and Over My Shoulder, the musical tribute to 1930s film star Jessie Matthews. As an actor, he has appeared on film and television and the West End, regional and American stage. He trained at RADA.


Trained at Guildford School of Acting. Theatre includes New Edna: The Spectacle (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), Grease (Cambridge Theatre), Over My Shoulder (Wyndham’s Theatre and tour), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), Beauty and the Beast and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (National Tours), G and I (New End Theatre), Anyone Can Whistle (Savoy Theatre), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Lost Musicals), Follow that Girl (Theatre Museum) and Ray Cooney’s Time’s Up! (National Tour). Regional Theatre includes French without Tears, Murder Mystery Musical, Alice in Wonderland, Feels Like The First Time, Annie, Stepping Out and La Cage aux Folles (English Speaking Theatre, Frankfurt). Pantomimes include Ugly Sister for QDOS. Music Hall includes appearances with the Players’ Theatre, Hiss and Boo and Paper Mill Theatre Company. Musical Direction includes Caroline Sheen’s album Raise the Curtain, Over My Shoulder, Can’t Stop the Music (QE2) and Five Guys Named Moe (Roundhouse). Ben is a regular presenter on BBC Radio Bristol’s Good Morning Show.


Frank Barrie is one of the UK’s most experienced actors, with theatre appearances ranging from four years at the National Theatre under Sir Laurence Olivier, to major roles in many Shakespeare plays including Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard II, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet (his Broadway debut). He is the author of his one-man show Macready!, which transferred to the West End in 1981 after a triumphant run in New York, and was filmed in USA and for Channel 4. This is the most popular one-man show ever, playing in 65 countries to date and winning Frank a Plays and Players award as Best Actor. His other writing includes The Other Woman, starring Dame Thora Hird (BBC) and the acclaimed book Acting Shakespeare for Auditions, available from and Television includes over one hundred appearances, including the lead in Coriolanus and EastEnders (as Edward Bishop).

Helena Blackman trained at the Guildford School of Acting and is known best for her appearances on How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? (BBC). Her credits include Gertrude Lawrence in Noël and Gertie (Off West End Award nomination), Lily/Rose in The Secret Garden (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Helen in the West End premiere of Sondheim’s Saturday Night (Arts Theatre), Nellie Forbush in the UK No 1 tour of South Pacific (TMA Award nomination), the title role in Gypsy (Cardiff Millennium Centre) and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Leicester Haymarket Theatre). In concert and on radio, Helena’s solo performances include Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Musical Greats (Channel 4), Night of 1000 Voices (Royal Albert Hall), Friday Night Is Music Night (BBC Radio 2), The Alan Titchmarsh Show (ITV) Maria Meets Joseph (BBC), In Tune and The Elaine Paige Show. Television appearances include Any Dream Will Do, Strictly Come Dancing and It Takes Two (BBC). Helena’s debut album The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein was released to critical acclaim in 2011. As well as co-starring in Gay’s the Word, she is also touring the UK with her debut show Journey to the Past, performing songs from animated movies.

James Bentham has appeared in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass (Royal Festival Hall) as well as Boogie Nights (Crescent Theatre) and Elegies (Stage@Leeds).

Anna Brook-Mitchell has appeared in The Pirates of Penzance (National Tour), Follies (Pleasance Theatre, London), The Boy Friend (Her Majesty's Theatre) and Piramania! The Swashbuckling Pirate Musical (Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Edinburgh Fringe).

Daniel Cane has recently appeared in Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2011, The Love of the Nightingale (National Tour), Blaze! (Bridewell Theatre) and The Snark and How to Hunt It (Tristan Bates Theatre).

Valerie Cutko has previously appeared at the Finborough Theatre in Lucky Nurse and Other Short Musical Plays (2007).
Her theatre work includes Grand Hotel (Broadway), Cabaret and Beautiful and Damned (both at Lyric Theatre) and My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), The Phantom of the Opera (UK and Ireland tour), Silk Stockings (Lost Musicals at Sadler's Wells Theatre and New York), Alcestis, The Balcony (American Repertory Theatre) How He Lied To Her Husband and Sladek (National Theatre platforms). Film includes The Phantom of the Opera. Television includes Material Girl, The Robinsons and the BAFTA-nominated online drama KateModern. Playwriting includes Eva and Eve (Westminster Prize, Soho Theatre) and Windmill Street (International Playwriting Festival, Warehouse Theatre Croydon).

Sophie-Louise Dann stopped the show last year as the diva in Lend Me a Tenor (Gielgud Theatre; “She lands every laugh” – Variety), and appeared as Lady Raeburn in the recent smash hit revival of Salad Days (Riverside Studios). She has just finished playing Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (Hackney Empire). Other West End and London successes include Forbidden Broadway (Menier Chocolate Factory), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), Iolanthe, The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance (Carl Rosa Opera, Gielgud Theatre) and The Yeomen of the Guard (D’Oyly Carte Opera, Savoy Theatre). She has also starred on tour in High Society and The Boy Friend, and appeared to acclaim at Chichester Festival Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Clwyd Theatr Cymru in musicals, plays and comedies. Her television appearances include Patience and Sondheim at 80 (BBC Proms), My Summer with Des and Goodnight, Sweetheart. Her film work includes The Phantom of the Opera.

Amy Hamlen appeared in A Little Night Music (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford), La Bohème (King’s Head Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Mill Studio, Guildford). She is about to tour the UK with Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills.

Doreen Hermitage appeared as Belle Watling in the original musical production of Gone with the Wind (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and in the award-winning revival of On Your Toes (Palace Theatre). She was a very popular performer at The Players’ Theatre and appeared often on The Good Old Days (BBC). Her film credits include Little Shop of Horrors.

James Irving made his stage debut in Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (Barbican Theatre), and is a Principal for Grim’s Dyke Opera at Sir W.S. Gilbert’s former home Grim’s Dyke.

Josh Little is fast emerging as a dynamic musical theatre talent. He has just finished appearing in Dreamboats and Petticoats (National tour) and Children of Eden (Prince of Wales Theatre), and his album work includes Stars Sing the Songs of Steven Luke Walker and Band Camp: the Musical.

Lindsey Nicholls has just appeared in Robinson Crusoe and the Cornish Pirates (Hall for Cornwall) and Anthems and Chess in Concert (both Royal Albert Hall).

Eileen Page has numerous stage, television and film credits, including Emilia in The Winter’s Tale, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and the Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company) and A Long Day’s Journey into Night (National Theatre). In the West End, Eileen has appeared as the Duchess in Me and My Girl (Adelphi Theatre), Heidi Schiller in Follies (Shaftesbury Theatre) and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Henry VII (both at the Mermaid Theatre). On television, Eileen has appeared in numerous dramas, comedies and series. Her film credits include The Secret Garden and The Killing of Sister George, and she has just finished filming John Carter of Mars.

Jonny Purchase is about to appear in the major new film of Les Misérables. His theatre includes Cinderella (Octagon Theatre, Yeovil), Sleeping Beauty (Hall for Cornwall), West End Glee Club (Edinburgh Festival) and Dora: a Gala Concert (Her Majesty’s Theatre).

Myra Sands has many popular West End credits, including Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), Gigi and The Boy Friend (Regents Park Open Air Theatre), Miss Willoughby in Acorn Antiques (Theatre Royal, Haymarket), Summerfolk, Honk! and Candide (all for the National Theatre), Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables and long-running appearances as Jenny Anydots in Cats (New London Theatre) and Miss Lynch in Grease (Dominion Theatre). Her television roles include Mrs Horowitz in Love Hurts (BBC).

Elizabeth Seal launched her career in the original cast of Gay’s the Word (Saville Theatre) before achieving stardom as Gladys in The Pajama Game and Lola in Damn Yankees (both at the London Coliseum) and in the title role of Irma la Douce, directed by Peter Brook. Recreating the role on Broadway, she won the 1961 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, beating Julie Andrews, Carol Channing and Nancy Walker. She later took over the role of Roxie in the original West End production of Chicago. Other West End shows include Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real and Julian Slade’s Salad Days. Her film credits include Radio Cab Murder, Town on Trial and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Sophie Simms is a recent graduate, who made her professional debut in Nine (Mill Studio, Guidlford).

Paul Slack is currently touring his critically acclaimed solo play Phoenix Rising (about DH Lawrence) and has appeared in leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Royal Court Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, in the West End including Breaking the Code, and Chichester Festival Theatre. His film credits include Love Actually and Bright Young Things.

Sebastian Smith has appeared in West Side Story and Sleeping Beauty (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford), The Light in the Piazza (Electric Theatre, Guildford) and just finished Robinson Crusoe and the Cornish Pirates (Hall for Cornwall).


In 2006, the Finborough Theatre began the Celebrating British Music Theatre series with a sell-out production of Leslie Stuart's Florodora. Productions since then have included sell-out rediscoveries of Lionel Monckton's Our Miss Gibbs, Harold Fraser-Simson's operetta The Maid of the Mountains, A "Gilbert and Sullivan" Double Bill featuring Gilbert's play Sweethearts and Sullivan's opera The Zoo, Dame Ethel Smyth's opera The Boatswain's Mate, Sandy Wilson's The Buccaneer, Oscar Asche's Chu Chin Chow, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd and Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream.


“Fizzes and sparkles with absolute confidence in its retro content.” Lucy Thackray, The Public Reviews

“Gay’s the Word may be low on plot but it is high on toe-tapping ditties; I left feeling rather as though I’d been snorting sherbet. But in a good way. It boasts great singing, witty lyrics, cheery spirit and jolly good fun. Another fabulous revival from the Finborough.” Lucy Thackray, The Public Reviews

“Gay’s the Word, that originally opened in 1951 and has never been professionally revived since until the ever-amazing Finborough squeezed a cast of 19 onto its tiny stage.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“It is a huge treat and it must have a life beyond here. Bring on the Novello revival!” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“Its crying out for a major staging & if it got one could be the sort of hit Me & My Girl was second time around (though they might have to change the title!). It’s simply wonderful.” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“Helena Blackman continues to impress with a particular affinity & suitability for this period, as she showed in Noel & Gertie last year.” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“Blackman suits the bright-eyed ingenue and sings like a nightingale, showing a keen talent for comedy as well as looking period-perfect.”  Lucy Thackray, The Public Reviews

“Helena Blackman and Josh Little as bumbling sweethearts Linda and Peter make their incredibly silly storyline quite heartwarming.” Lucy Thackray, The Public Reviews

“Josh Little is an excellent romantic lead.” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“The ensemble of eager drama students are a delight to watch, with their complex harmonies blending effortlessly around Dann and Blackman’s stunning solos in some of the slickest company vocals I’ve heard on the fringe (kudos to musical director Ben Stock).”  Lucy Thackray, The Public Reviews

“Sophie-Louise Dann who shines above all, pitching the performance perfectly for the intimate space and never letting us forget it is she who is running the show.” Ian, There Ought to be Clowns Blogspot

“There’s a blazing central performance from Sophie-Louise Dann as the ever-resourceful, ironically knowing Gay - a comic peach and a signing, dancing delight.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate

“Dann is excellent from the off, belting over the eight-strong ensemble in the opening pastiche and wringing every last laugh from her first solo number "It's Bound to be Right on the Night." Andrew Girvan, Whats on Stage

“Sophie-Louise Dann gives one of the finest musical comedy performances I’ve ever seen; she sings beautifully and is a master at comedy.”  Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“There’s a quartet of veteran ladies – Doreen Hermitage, Eileen Page, Myra Sands & Elizabeth Seal – who almost steal the show.” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“Delivered brilliantly by Eileen Page, Myra Sands, Elizabeth Seal (who was actually a member of the chorus of the original production) and Doreen Hermitage.” Ian, There Ought to be Clowns Blogspot

“All huge amounts of ridiculous fun and performed with such loving warmth in Stewart Nicholls’ production that it is hard to resist.” Ian, There Ought to be Clowns Blogspot

“Stewart Nicholl’s production sparkles.” Gareth James, Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

“The Finborough Theatre has long been well regarded as a powerhouse of intimate (not small!) theatre, developing a strong reputation on two fronts with its rediscoveries of old plays and in the promotion of new writing. But though the space above the rather lovely wine bar is petite, their productions never are and this revival of Ivor Novello’s Gay’s the Word, on for just six performances (now extended by two), features a cast of 19. Last year’s Perchance to Dream, another of Novello’s neglected works, was a genuine pleasure to watch – introducing me to the song We’ll Gather Lilacs which has never since left my head – and so anticipation was indeed high for this.” Ian, There Ought to be Clowns Blogspot


Sundays and Mondays, 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20 February 2012

Evenings at 7.30pm.

Monday, 13 February 2012 at 3.00pm
Monday, 20 February 2012 at 3.00pm

Performance Length: Approximately two and a half hours with interval.

Tickets £18, £15 concessions



Music and Book by Ivor Novello

Lyrics by Alan Melville

Directed and Choreographed by Stewart Nicholls

Book Revised by Richard Stirling

Musical Direction by Ben Stock

Presented by Evergreen Theatrical Productions Ltd in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.