- Noel Coward
Sings His Score for The Girl Who Came to Supper
- Just a few years ago Noel Coward
was interviewed by Dick Cavett on television. Cavett led off
by asking, "Sir Noel, how do you account for the fact that
you have been so successful all these years in so many fields
of the entertainment arts: actor, playwright, composer, lyricist,
director in theatre and film, nightclub star, short story writer,
and novelist?" Coward, in that clipped, incisive, secure
way which was so characteristic of him, replied with one word:
Thus, Noel Coward described and explained himself. He was being
no more than fair, no less than honest. He was, and though alas
he is no longer here, the quintessential man of the theatre of
this century. No other man or woman combined every facet of theatre
to so high a degree. I will not recite his credits. I have not
been allowed enough space.
The Girl Who Came To Supper was the last musical for which Coward
wrote the score. 1 think it was the only one of his for which
he did not write the book; and one of the few in which he did
How did it come to be?
On a cold night in February 1961, I attended a Philharmonic concert
at Carnegie Hall. What triggered the thought I cannot imagine,
but at some point during the performance, I said to myself (very
quietly) that The Sleeping Prince would make a good musical.
Oddly enough, 1 had never seen Terence Rattigan's play, but I
had seen the film version (The Prince And The Showgirl) which
starred Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. I called the Drama
Bookshop, that invaluable repository of dramatic literature,
and had them send me the play. Reading it strengthened my resolve
and I telephoned Rattigan in London. He was agreeable to granting
me an option on the rights, and within a few days after a meeting
with his agent, I had made the deal. All I had to do (among other
things) was get a librettist, a lyricist, a composer, a scenic
designer and sets and props, a costume designer and costumes,
an orchestrator, a conductor, a cast, a stage manager, stagehands,
a press agent, advertising copy, a theatre (out of town for a
tryout, and in New York), and half a million dollars. (Today
it would be a million dollars.) Thus, do 1 answer the most persistent
and annoying question so often asked by the layman, "What
does a producer do?"
One of the dearest friends I've ever had was Harry Kurnitz. After
a long career as a successful Hollywood writer he turned to the
theatre, and in reasonably quick succession had written Reclining
Figure, Once More With Feeling, and A Shot In The Dark, all of
which were Broadway successes. 1 put the idea up to Kurnitz and
he agreed to write the book.
And now Noel Coward. He was the man I wanted for the score but
knowing he had always written the book as well, 1 didn't have
the nerve to suggest he only do the score. That fall 1 was in
Paris for a few days, and one evening had dinner with a group
of friends which included Stanley Donen, the enormously talented
film director. "What are you working on?" he asked,
and 1 told him, going on to my thoughts about Coward. Donen upbraided
me for my hesitancy, pulled out his address book and gave me
Coward's number in Switzerland. The next day I phoned; he was
most receptive and we went on from there.
The album you are about to hear were demonstration records made
by Coward for a variety of uses: for prospective backers, for
musical arrangers, and for record companies, etc.
Of the songs which did not remain in the show, one is called
"Long Live The King - If He Can." It was sung by the
Regent and was perfect for him; it was loved by the audiences.
While we were in Philadelphia on our tryout tour in that dark
November of 1963, the tragedy of Dallas occurred. The song was
never heard again. I have treasured these records for some fourteen
years. I hope that now many more than a few close friends will
enjoy them as I do. - Herman Levin September, 1977
- In his book 'The Lyrics of Noel
Coward (1965), Coward made a brief comment on his work for "The
Girl Who Came to Dinner":
- "Most of the lyrics on
this were inspired, as they should be by the book - Harry Kurnitz
via Terence Rattigan. I would like to draw the reader's attention,
if he is still withy me, to the five 'London ' songs and the
intricate rhyming of the 'Coronation Chorale.' There are also
some pleasant pastiche lines in the period musical comedy sequence,
'The Coconut Girl'
- The Girl Who Came to Supper
opened at the Broadway theatre, New York City on December 8,
1963, following engagements ins Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia.
It closed on March 14, 1964 after 113 performances.
- Acetates intended as demos for
prospective backers of the show. A most interesting aural document--
close your eyes and it could be cabaret. Recorded c1963.
- 1. Time Will Tell
- 2. Long Live The King - If He
- 3. I've Been Invited To a Party
- 4. Footman's Sextet ( Title
changed to When Foreign Princes Come To Visit Us)
- 5. Sir or Ma'am
- 6. If Only Mrs. Applejohn Were
- 7. I'm A Lonely Man
- 8. London - London Is a Little
Bit Of All Right, What Ho, Mrs. Brisker, Saturday Night at the
Rose and Crown, What's The Matter With a Nice Beef Stew, Don't
Take Our Charlie For The Army
- 9. Here and Now
- 10. Westminster Abbey (Title
changed to Coronation Chorale)
- 11. How Do You Do Middle Age?
- 12. Curt, Clear and Concise
- 13. Just People
- 14. I'll Remember Her
- 15. Come Be My True Love
- 16. The Coconut Girl - Welcome
to Pootzie Van Doyle, The Coconut Girl, Paddy Macneil (and His
Automobile), Swing Song, Six Lilies of The Valley, The Walla