ORSON WELLES and COLE PORTER’S “AROUND THE WORLD” revival in London
Shortly before the April 28, 1946 opening of AROUND THE WORLD in Boston, Orson Welles called Harry Cohn in Hollywood to get a loan for the costumes he needed to open his new show. As most Welles followers know, the result of that call was a loan from Cohn that allowed the show to go on. It also led to the only film Welles would ever make with his wife at the time, Rita Hayworth. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is now widely considered a masterpiece of film noir, but incredibly enough, it was not even listed on a recent ballot of the 400 greatest movies, as ranked by that idiotic commercial and corporate group known as the AFI.
Thankfully, Columbia at the time was not owned by a huge muti-international conglomorate, but was run by an independent mogul, Harry Cohn. That allowed Welles to make the most expensive Hollywood movie he would would ever direct. Unfortunately, Welles was not given final cut on the film.
However, the entire reason THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI happened, was because of the call Welles made to Cohn to help him launch his production of AROUND THE WORLD. It was based on the famed Jules Verne's novel, which Welles had already adapted to radio, to startling effect, in 1938.
However, doesn't it seem slightly bizarre that until the revival being put on this week in London by Ian Marshall Fisher, that this work by two giants of American culture has never been revived on the stage? And of course, it still has never been revived in America.
Now, just think what Picasso and Matisse were painting in 1946? Do you think any of those canvases have been hidden from view for the last 60 years? Of course not.
So let's thank all of Welles many friends in the UK who know and love his work. People in the theater, like Mr. Ian Fisher, and Simon Callow, and Welles first biographer, Peter Noble. And of course, the BFI and Sight and Sound, who unlike the laughable AFI, have the taste, knowledge and appreciation to know that Orson Welles really did make many other movies besides CITIZEN KANE.
Here is The Hollywood Reporter Review for the London Revival of AROUND THE WORLD, with links to an article in The UK Independent.
Many thanks to Wellesnet UK contributor David Rowlett for providing information and links to the London production of AROUND THE WORLD.
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW:
AROUND THE WORLD
A Concert presentation of a musical by Orson Welles and Cole Porter captures some of the long-forgotten magic.
Jun 19, 2007
Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler's Wells, London
Playing through July 8
Orson Welles conceived his musical version of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" as a theatrical spectacular. With songs by Cole Porter and a stage filled with magicians, tumblers and fireworks, it debuted at the Adelphi Theatre in New York on May 31, 1946, but ran for just 75 performances. The wittily staged Lost Musicals concert presentation of the show at London's Sadler's Wells lacks the pyrotechnics and razzmatazz, but it provides a tantalizing impression of what the prodigiously talented Welles had in mind.
Director Ian Marshall Fisher, who founded Lost Musicals in 1989 with the aim of presenting to British audiences the lesser-known works of major American writers, provides the background to "Around the World" before introducing eight singers and a pianist who perform the songs and act out cleverly contrived scenes to tell the story.
Welles shot a series of silent movies to provide exposition for some of the more exotic spots on Phileas Fogg's fabled journey around the globe, and in their absence Jack Klaff, as Welles, describes each one from a script provided by the late Dick Vosburgh.
In his own production, Welles played Inspector Fix, the dogged Scotland Yard policeman who trails Fogg on his trek in the mistaken belief that the fastidious gentleman has obtained the large quantity of cash he carries from a bank robbery. Klaff plays Fix, too, as well as several shady ethnic characters that the inspector ineffectually impersonates.
The eight cast members -- six men and two women -- sit onstage, standing up to perform the musical numbers and act out the story to the accompaniment of Steven Edis on piano. Bryan Torfeh makes a believable Passepartout, who, unlike the Mexican Cantinflas in the 1956 film version, is an American sailor who has missed his boat and signs on as Fogg's manservant. He is matched by Valda Aviks, as Passepartout's faithful squeeze Molly Muggins, and Valerie Cutko, as the Indian widow Missus Aouda, who falls for Fogg. Michael Roberts, Richard Stemp and Peter Kenworthy play the rest of the roles, male and female, to splendidly amusing effect.
"Around the World" has not been performed since its 1946 run, and that's really no mystery. Welles' star power sold the show originally along with his hugely ambitious onstage stunts that frequently didn't work. Porter's songs are not his greatest, though the ballads "Should I Tell You I Love You" and "Look What I Have Found" certainly are hummable. There's a couple of novelty songs, "Snag Tooth Gertie" and "Whenever They Fly the Flag of Old England." And the songwriter's lyrical skill extends to finding a rhyme for Fogg's first name: "That smart Mr. Phileas, so Piccadilly-dillyous." But Porter wrote "Kiss Me Kate" the next year, and the songs from "Around the World" were soon forgotten. It's great fun that Lost Musicals has brought them back for a revival, however brief.
AROUND THE WORLD
Presented by Lost Musicals
Credits: Music-lyrics: Cole Porter; Book: Orson Welles; Silent Screen movie dialogue: Dick Vosburgh; Director: Ian Marshall Fisher; Music director: Steven Edis. Cast: Orson Welles/Inspector Fix: Jack Klaff; Phileas Fogg: Peter Gale; Pat Passepartout: Bryan Torfeh; Missus Aouda: Valerie Cutko; Molly Muggins: Valda Aviks; Jevity/Lola/others: Michael Roberts; Runcible/Madame Liang/others: Richard Stemp; Cruett-Spew/Arab Spy/others: Peter Kenworthy.
UK Independent article:
Info and tickets on the London revival:
Ian Marshall Fisher on the UK revival:
Welles June 7, 1946 radio adaptation of "AROUND THE WORLD," as heard on the Mercury Summer Theater CBS radio broadcast:
Credits for the Original Broadway Production
AROUND THE WORLD
A Musical Extravaganza in Two Acts
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book adapted by Orson Welles from the Jules Verne novel
Around the World in Eighty Days Pre-Broadway engagements:
April 28, 1946 at the Boston Opera House, Boston
May 7, 1946 at the Shubert Theatre, New Haven
May 14, 1946 at the Shubert Theatre, Philadelphia
Opened May 31, 1946 at the Adelphi Theatre, NYC
Closed August 3, 1946 after a run of 75 performances
Produced by Orson Welles as a Mercury Theatre Production
Directed by Orson Welles
Choreography by Nelson Barclift
Costumes by Alvin Colt
Set Design by Robert Davison
Lighting by Peggy Clark
Circus arranged by Barbette
Vocal Arranger - Mitchell Ayres
Orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett, Ted Royal
Musical Direction by Harry Levant
Overture - Orchestra
"Look What I Found" - Molly, Pat, Ensemble
"There He Goes, Mr. Phileas Fogg" - Phileas, Pat
"Mee-Rah-Lah" - Ensemble
"Suttee Procession" [instrumental]
"Suez Dance" [instrumental]
"Sea Chantey" - Ensemble
"Should I Tell You I Love You" - Missus Aouda
"Pipe Dreaming" - Pat
"Oka Saka Circus" [instrumental]
Entr'acte - Orchestra
"California Scene Dance" [instrumental]
"If You Smile at Me" - Lola (reprised by Molly)
"Wherever They Fly the Flag of Old England" - Phileas, Ensemble
Orson Welles (Dick Fix)
Arthur Margetson (Phileas Fogg)
Mary Healy (Missus Aouda)
Julie Warren (Molly Muggins)
Larry Laurence [Enzio Stuarti] ("Pat" Passepartout)
Victoria Cordova (Lola)
Genevieve Sauris (A Lady)
Stefan Schnabel (Avery Jevity)
Brainerd Duffield (Mr. Benjamin Cruett-Spew, Mr. Oka Saka)
Guy Spaull (Mr. Ralph Runcible)
Bernard Savage (Sir Charles Mandiboy)
Billy Howell (Lord Upditch)
Dorothy Bird (Mee-rah-lah)
Jackie Cezanne (Lee Toy)