The Spokane Civic Theatre opens its ‘95-‘96 season with a musical that goes waa-ayy back - to the days when cheery Cockney musicals ruled London’s West End.
“Me and My Girl,” the 1937 musical by British songsmith Noel Gay, opens in a gala season premiere tonight, with the regular run beginning Saturday.
It’s a frothy and slapstick-filled show about Bill Snibson, a Cockney who discovers that he has become an earl. However, it may cost him the woman he loves. The show is best-known for its sprightly tune “The Lambeth Walk,” in which Snibson teaches the London swells how to be a Cockney.
“Me and My Girl” was a smash in pre-war London: It ran for 1,646 performances in the West End, and was the most successful of Gay’s 26 musicals. Yet the amazing thing about it was not its first success, but its second success.
It came about in the early 1980s when Gay’s son, Richard Armitage, noticed that the royalty checks on his father’s estate were getting bigger, indicating a modest swell of interest in Gay’s music, according to a story by Benedict Nightingale in the New York Times.
So in the early 1980s, Armitage decided to revive “Me and My Girl,” which wasn’t easy, because he couldn’t find the full score or the full script. Finally, after searching through museums, archives and attics, the show was reconstructed. Armitage even solicited help from from old-time theatergoers, who sent letters describing some of the slapstick comedy bits they remembered from the original play.
The result was an against-all-odds success in London in 1984. The show transferred to Broadway in 1986, with equal success.
Robert Lindsay was a sensation as Snibson, but the show’s success was largely due to the simplicity and appeal of Gay’s songs.
“My father was a Yorkshireman, and he judged everything by what the colliers did or didn’t sing at the end of the day,” said Armitage, as quoted by Nightingale.
The Civic’s version is directed and choreographed by Jean Hardie, one of Spokane’s top talents.
Bill Snibson is played by Nick Bailey, a 17-year-old Mead High School student, who has appeared previously in “Oliver!” and “Hello Dolly!”
Leslie Houck plays Sally, the female lead. Other cast members include Thara Leigh Cooper, Ian Yale, Jim Curran, Craig Kassa, Greg Pschirrer, Jerry Cantrall, Wendy Jordan, Hollis Higgins, Roelf Von Erbst, Peggy Stanley, Kent Kimball, Griff Stokes, Ben Crotty, Joe Cannon, Andy Start, Sabrina Meier, Kashana Cox, Rhonda Higgins, Sherry Lewis, Holly Houston, Diana Kloster, Briane Jordan, Gary Laing and Trudy A. Rogers.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “ME AND MY GIRL” Location and time: Civic Theatre, 8 tonight Tickets: The gala season premiere tonight is $25 per ticket, which includes the party at 6:30 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m. The regular run begins Saturday and continues until Oct. 28. Showtimes are 8 p.m. except for 2 p.m. matinees on Oct. 8 and 22. Tickets are $15 on Fridays and Saturdays; $12 on Thursdays and Sundays; $12 for seniors; $9 for students. Call 325-2507 for reservations.