Wednesday 19 May 2021

Sandy, Fenella, Parvula

At the risk of turning this blog into some kind of gay almanac, I must just mark the anniversary of Sandy Wilson, born on this day in 1924. Wilson, the doyen of British stage musical writers in the Fifties and Sixties, is best known for The Boy Friend, a kind of affectionate and tuneful parody of the Twenties musical, but he also wrote several musicals adapted from novels: His Monkey Wife (from a novel by John Collier), The Clapham Wonder (from Barbara Comyns's The Vet's Daughter) –  and, most improbably, Valmouth (from Ronald Firbank's novel of the same name). I have never seen this – indeed I have never knowingly been present at any production of a stage musical – and knew little of it, until I did a little light research, and discovered that it had not been the commercial flop I'd assumed it to be (in keeping with its source material), but had done pretty well when it was premiered in 1958, had been revived from time to time, released as a soundtrack album, and even adapted for radio. What's more, it was Valmouth that made a star of the vampish, husky-voiced Fenella Fielding – just as the Broadway production of The Boy Friend had made a star of the 19-year-old Julie Andrews. Fenella played the fun-loving widow Lady Parvula de Panzoust in Valmouth (that's her above in character). If you're curious, you can follow the link below to hear her singing one of the songs from the show, in her inimitable (but much imitated) manner. Froth, of course, but cleverly written and artfully performed...

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