Director Paul Foster tells us about the first week of rehearsals for the British premiere of Darling of the Day, opening at the Union Theatre in March
It's a lovely feeling to rehearse a show that's set in London and all about Londoners here.
It seems strange that the first performances in 1967/1968 were in Toronto, Boston and New York. Its reception on Broadway, with a sadly miscast Vincent Price in the leading role of Priam Farll, meant that the show hasn't ever been fully staged in this country in the intervening years. The move of the original production of Hair from off-Broadway to Broadway around the same time heralded a changing theatrical climate and must have made the piece seem suddenly out of fashion.
We are finding the show charming with a strong and beautifully involving story. Jule Styne and Yip Harburg's score is melodic and varied, almost Lerner and Loewe in feel, and captures the quirks and eccentricities of the English class system; there's everything from a pub knees-up to the pomp and circumstance of Court.
It's a show about how a little white lie can snowball and come back to haunt you - a theme
that's reminiscent of Styne's Bells are Ringing which I revived a couple of years ago at the
Union with the brilliant Anna-Jane Casey. A famous painter changes his identity after his valet dies and tries to live a quiet life in Putney with a local woman (played originally by Patricia Routledge). You really root for them as a couple but are always aware that their happiness is fragile and on a knife-edge.
We've a fantastic company of fourteen led by Katy Secombe, James Dinsmore and Rebecca
Caine and are having a lot of fun in rehearsal. Matt Flint is coming up with some great routines that do justice to Inga Davis-Rutter's arrangements - Jule Styne thought it was his best score after Gypsy. The writers' Estates have been extremely supportive and wished us well as we attempt to honour the fun and tenderness of the piece and come to it with fresh eyes and ears.
I always like to tackle pieces that have had a chequered history - it's a great challenge and you really feel you're not as weighed down by a raft of previous versions and interpretations. Of course, things have to be worth spending this much time and attention on - there's no point disinterring a show that's on the theatrical scrapheap for a reason. I think the way the twists and turns of this mature relationship are handled is truly engaging, the dialogue full of wit and feeling and the characters nicely drawn. It does feel like a homecoming of sorts. To quote the waltz from the first Act, "Let's see what happens!"
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Darling of the Day receives its British premiere at the Union Theatre from March 20. |