Herbert Farjeon's LITTLE REVUE

Book and Lyrics by Herbert Farjeon

Music by Walter Leigh

This theatrical revue opened at the Little Theatre, London on April 21, 1939 and ran for 415 performances.  This was Joyce Grenfell's professional stage debut; heading the cast were Hermione Baddeley and Cyril Ritchard.

Title Author Role Performer
Opening the Ball Peggy Willoughby, Laura Gorton, Sheila Douglas-Pennant, Betty Bevan, Dilys Rees,
Eric Anderson, Gordon Little, Michael Anthony, Ronald Waters, Eric Micklewood
Making Up Hermione Baddeley, Cyril Ritchard
A Very Nice Paper Mr. Prism George Benson
Miss Prune Charlotte Leigh
Fast Eric Anderson
Luce Betty Ann Davies
The Queen of the Thrills Lyric by Rodney Hobson; music by John Pritchett April Mawne Cyril Ritchard
Film Fan Sheila Douglas-Pennant
Steward Bernard Miles
Prussic Classics Compere Ronald Waters
a) Family Racket Mary Dunn Mr. Fairfax Eric Anderson
Mrs. Fairfax Betty Ann Davies
Puffin Peggy Willoughby
Winks Michael Anthony
John Ronald Waters
New Maid Vida Hope
b) The Answer's a Lehmann Emmy Hermione Baddeley
Mr. Tallent George Benson
c) Chekov-Mixture Mary Dunn 1st Sister Charlotte Leigh
2nd Sister Sheila Douglas-Pennant
3rd Sister Jacqueline Le Geyt
Cousin Percival Wilfrid George Benson
Railway Official Bernard Miles
d) Magyar Malady Romany Roma Hermione Baddeley
Romany Roy Cyril Ritchard
The Hon. Reggie Fortescue Gordon Little
Singer Eric Anderson
Flotsam and Gypsum Peggy Willoughby, Laura Gorton, Vida Hope, Sheila Douglas-Pennant, Betty Bevan, Dilys Rees, Michael Anthony, Eric Micklewood
Useful and Acceptable Gifts Joyce Grenfell Joyce Grenfell
Irish Lake Song Officer Eric Anderson
Ladies Charlotte Leigh, Laura Gorton
Boatman Michael Anthony
Shepherd Gordon Little
Cricket Vignettes Compere Gordon Little
a) Club 1st Old Bean Bernard Miles
2nd Old Bean Ronald Waters
b) Village Ted George Benson
Jack Eric Anderson
Winter in Torquay Mrs. Twiceover Hermione Baddeley
Colonel Spicer Michael Anthony
Alice Betty Ann Davies
Daisy Goes Out with Bert Daisy Jacqueline Le Geyt
Bert Gordon Little
Scribbler Bernard Miles
Voyeurs Charlotte Leigh, Peggy Willoughby, Laura Gorton, Vida Hope, Betty Bevan, Dilys Rees, Michael Anthony, Ronald Waters, Eric Micklewood
The Duet Ella Wheeler Wilcox Cyril Ritchard
Great Umbrella Festival Choristers Charlotte Leigh, Jacqueline Le Geyt, Dilys Rees, Eric Anderson, Gordon Little, Bernard Miles
Young Ladies Betty Ann Davies, Peggy Willoughby, Laura Gorton, Sheila Douglas-Pennant, Betty Bevan
Mlle. Parapluie Hermione Baddeley
Attendants Michael Anthony, Eric Micklewood
Britannia Vida Hope
John Bull George Benson
British Lion Ronald Waters
Mr. Pax Cyril Ritchard

Interval

Re-Opening Manager Gordon Little
Audience Dilys Rees, Eric Anderson, Ronald Waters
a) French Song Charles Trenet Michael Anthony
b) Spring Song V.C. Clinton-Baddeley Charlotte Leigh
c) 1912 Song Eleanor Farjeon; dance arranged by Cyril Ritchard Cyril Ritchard and Girls
Father and Son Father George Benson
Son Michael Anthony
Lonely Little Lotus Lyric by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright Lotus Hermione Baddeley
Native Eric Anderson
Visitor Bernard Miles
The Merry Widow Adapted in collaboration with Eleanor Farjeon from a sketch by Rip Officer Eric Anderson
Masqueraders Peggy Willoughby, Laura Gorton, Sheila Douglas-Pennant, Dilys Rees, Gordon Little, Michael Anthony, Ronald Waters, Eric Micklewood
The Merry Window Jacqueline Le Geyt
Mothers Joyce Grenfell Joyce Grenfell
Glyndebourne, Glorious Glyndebourne Hermione Baddeley, Charlotte Leigh, Cyril Ritchard, Eric Anderson
Bays and Capes School girl Betty Ann Davies
Mother Vida Hope
How to Get There Mrs. Brown Hermione Baddeley
Mr. Brown George Benson
Elsie Vida Hope
Jack Michael Anthony
Visitor Cyril Ritchard
Gala Dance Matinee Lady Organiser Charlotte Leigh
a) Martha of the Plains Martha Cyril Ritchard
b) South Northumberland Folk Dancers Dancers Betty Ann Davies, Vida Hope, Sheila Douglas-Pennant, Betty Bevan, Eric Anderson, Michael Anthony, Ronald Waters, Gordon Little
c) The Creaking Princess Mlle. Allova Hermione Baddeley
Harold Helpmeet Cyril Ritchard
Finale The Company

Writing in the September 1939 issue of THEATRE WORLD, D.C.F. observed:

As a successor to NINE SHARP, which put the Little Theatre on the map as the ideal home of revue intime, we have HERBERT FARJEON'S LITTLE REVUE, with the same cast (representing the cream of revue talent) and Mr. Farjeon's witty and erudite mind to fashion another entertainment of rare quality.

Many idiosyncrasies of the moment come within the range of his astringent satire. A VERY NICE PAPER depicts a very nice contrast between the executives of the sensational press, gloating unctuously over the latest rape, and their rivals, spreading sunshine and uplift and rhapsodizing over King Baby.

PRUSSIC CLASSICS consists of four play parodies. GEORGE AND MARGARET is raised to the nth degree of domestic triviality under the title, FAMILY RACKET. Hermione Baddeley is in tremendous form as the Cornish sex-maniac in THE ANSWER'S A LEHMANN. A Tchehov parody shows a woeful quartette, seated on a railway platform, yearning for Manchester but tearing up their tickets immediately the train arrives. MAGYAR MALADY should be the romantic musical play to end romantic musical plays–though, of course, it won't.

GLYNDEBOURNE, GLORIOUS GLYNDEBOURNE (it must be good, we've come so far!) punctures the affectations of musical snobs. WINTER IN TORQUAY presents Hermione Baddeley as a professional invalid reveling in a narrative of her more revolting complaints. This superb comedienne finds further scope in HOW TO GET THERE, in which a suburban family lecture a long-suffering guest on bus and tram routes; and as a fading bloom in LONELY LITTLE LOTUS and as Mlle. Parapluie in GREAT UMBRELLA FESTIVAL.

Cyril Ritchard is another tower of strength to the revue. Best of all I liked his Martha, Woman of the Plains, in GALA DANCE MATINEE, a gaunt, angular creature with a technique terrifyingly authentic. After that, his dashing jeune premier of 1912 musical comedy, surrounded by a roguish, hobble-skirted chorus, and his passé film actress in QUEEN OF THE THRILLS.

Everything this clever pair undertake is a joy to behold, yet there is no question of the revue being all stars and no support, for all the members of the company pull their weight. George Benson's character studies make his every apperance a delight. Charlotte Leigh, notably in a genteel Cuckoo song, and as the gushing organizer of the Gala Dance Matinee, is vastly amusing. Betty Ann Davies makes her pasty faced schoolgirl, overburdened by homework, a genuine and moving figure. Joyce Grenfell, a clever newcomer, scores a success with her lecture on USEFUL AND ACCEPTABLE GIFTS, and her three studies of maternal solicitude.

By way of contrast to the pervading note of lightness and gaiety, there is the savage irony of THE MERRY WIDOW, a vignette of Vienna under the Nazi heel, and a sidelight on East End intolerance called DAISY GOES OUT WITH BERT.

And when the evening is over–all too soon–the parting exhortation of the company COME TO THE LITTLE AGAIN, seems superfluous indeed.

I am indebted to Ray Stanley, of Australia, for additional details of some of the cast and writers.  He informs me Betty Ann Davies was a '30s film star and took over from Vivien Leigh in the stage version of A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE.  I see she was in BELLES OF ST. TRINIAN'S with Joyce in 1954, the first of the St. Trinian's films.   Ray also says WINTER IN TORQUAY was rewritten by Hermione Gingold and shows up on the CD of JOHN MURRAY ANDERSON'S ALMANAC as WINTER IN PALM SPRINGS.

Bernard Miles appeared early in his career at the Players Theatre, a mock Victorian music hall; and was in LATE JOYS at the Little Theatre in April 1939 and also appeared in the DIVERSION revues (Joyce Grenfell was in one of these) and recorded some rustic monologues.

Ray believes the characters Flotsam and Gypsum in the Magyar Malady sketch were a take-off of Mr. Flotsam (B.C. Hilliam) and Mr. Jetsam (Malcolm McEaarchern), a famous vocal duo, very popular in England in the 30s.

Nicholas Phipps, who contributed lyrics to Lonely Little Lotus, was Joyce Grenfell's cousin (she was born Joyce Phipps) and had a long film career; he contributed lyrics to many revues, but generally Joyce wrote her own material.  Ray informs me he was a playwright as well.

Victor Clinton Clinton-Baddeley, who wrong Spring Song,  wrote the book THE BURLESQUE TRADITION IN THE ENGLISH THEATRE AFTER 1660 (1954) and ALL RIGHT ON THE NIGHT (1952), several pantomimes including CINDERELLA , JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, ALADDIN, SLEEPING BEAUTY and DICK WHITTINGTON.  Leonard Rossiter appeared in a revival of the latter. Clinton-Baddeley also wrote the mystery novel DEATH'S BRIGHT DART (1967).  He was known as "a master elocutionist and dyed-in-the-wool Dickensian".  He wrote the 1937 film BORN THAT WAY and appeared in the film HIS LORDSHIP (1932) for which he and Eric Maschwitz supplied the music.  He wrote the lyrics and cowrote the book with Scobie Mackenzie to JOLLY ROGER OR THE ADMIRAL'S DAUGHTER, a 1933 comic opera. He wrote the lyrics and cowrote the book with Scobie Mackenzie to THE PRIDE OF THE REGIMENT OR CASHIERED FOR HIS COUNTRY (1932), another comic opera.

Magyar Malady was  a skit on Hungarian musical operetta and possibly a parody of a musical of that title which opened on January 20, 1939 at the His Majesty's Theatre and ran for 105 performances. According to Ray Stanley, this was an operetta-ish romance which starred Binnie Hale with the book and lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by George Posford.  Ray informs me the BBC made one of its first experiments in televising a complete musical play from the theatre for this production.

Compiled by Judy Harris

Visit my Joyce Grenfell webpage at http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/grenfell.htm

or my Cyril Ritchard webpage at http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/cyril.htm

or my homepage at http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/index.htm

or e-mail me at foosie@bestweb.net

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