PE0282. THE BOY (Monckton & Talbot), recorded 1917, w.Howard Talbot Cond. Adelphi Theatre Ensemble; William H. Berry, Peter Gawthorne & Nellie Taylor; additional material by the Band of His Majesty's Coldstream Guards. (England) Palaeophonics 141, w.Elaborate The Play 20pp. Brochure replete with numerous photos of the Adelphi Theatre 1917 production & biographies. Excellently transferred from the legendary Acoustic 78rpm HMV rarities.
"Opening at the Adelphi Theatre, 14 Sept., 1917, THE BOY ran for 801 performances, closing 9 Aug., 1919 - one of the longest runs of any musical theatre piece up to that time. The story was based on THE MAGISTRATE by Arthur Wing Pinero, although the names of the characters were changed. Following its great success in London, in 1919 it was adapted for Broadway as GOOD MORNING, JUDGE and played 140 performances. The New York production interpolated additional songs by George Gershwin."
- London Musicals, 1915-1919
William Henry Berry, always billed as W. H. Berry, was an English comic actor. After learning his craft in pierrot and concert entertainments, he was spotted by the actor-manager George Grossmith Jr. and appeared in a series of musical comedies in comic character roles. His greatest success was as Mr. Meebles, the hapless magistrate in THE BOY in 1917.
Berry, born in London, was apprenticed at the the age of 14 to the theatre booking-agency Keith, Prowse and Co., through which he had access to free seats for West End plays and musical shows. He became fascinated with the theatre, and got a job as assistant business manager to the actor-manager Wilson Barrett at the old Globe Theatre. In 1898, Barrett gave up the Globe, and left England to tour Australia, leaving Berry unemployed. He took a job in a factory, where his colleagues found him so entertaining that he was quickly in demand at local dinners and concerts, and was able to give up the factory job.
Berry developed his professional skills performing as a concert artist in the winter and a pierrot with seaside concert parties in the summer. At one of his concert engagements George Grossmith Jr. and Ivan Caryll saw him and were impressed enough to invite Berry and his wife to join the cast of a forthcoming musical comedy to be presented by George Edwardes. Berry appeared with Lily Elsie in THE MERRY WIDOW, in 1907; his burlesque dance with Gabrielle Ray was one of the hits of the show.
After this, Berry was seen in a string of shows including HAVANA (1908), A WALTZ DREAM (1908), THE DOLLAR PRINCESS (1909), THE COUNT OF LUXEMBOURG (1911), GIPSY LOVE (1912), HIGH JINKS (1916), and his greatest success, THE BOY (1917), in which he played Mr. Meebles, the respectable magistrate who finds himself at the centre of farcical uproar. In 1920, he starred in THE NAUGHTY PRINCESS and as Dipper Twigg in THE GOLDEN MOTH at the Adelphi Theatre, London. He played Christian Velt in LILAC TIME in several revivals in the 1920s and 1930s. He appeared in PRINCESS CHARMING in 1926.
Peter Gawthorne was an Anglo-Irish actor, probably best known for his roles in Will Hay films. Gawthorne was one of Britain's most called-upon bit part actors during the 1940s and 1950s. He was born in 1884 in Queen's County in Ireland, but spent most of his career in England. After two years at the Academy of Dramatic Art, Gawthorne began a career on the London stage, eventually running up over twenty years experience on the stage. His début was in 1906, a walking on part at His Majesty's Theatre, London. He was featured in the role of Albany Pope, receiving good notices, in the hit musical THE BOY in 1917.
He worked for a number of companies but, in particular, Gainsborough Studios. He also toured Australia, South Africa and Americas, going into films in America before returning to Britain. Gawthorne also studied singing. He worked extensively in cinema often playing military officers and stern, authority figures, many of whom frequently clashed with the bumbling idiots played by Will Hay and other well-known comedians such as George Formby, The Crazy Gang, Jessie Matthews, Jack Hulbert, Alastair Sim and Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch. He also worked with a number of famous straight actors including George Arliss, Errol Flynn and Leslie Banks.
Lionel Monckton planned a career in the law but began writing music while at Oxford University. Some success came with contributions to West End shows such as CINDER-ELLEN UP-TOO-LATE (1891) for which he wrote What Will You Have To Drink?, in collaboration with Basil Hood, and Don Juan (1893), Some Do It This Way, with Horace Lennard. Encouraged by producer George Edwardes, he wrote more songs for shows, later composing entire scores. Many of the shows were staged at Londons Gaiety Theatre and enjoyed considerable success. Early productions included THE SHOP GIRL (1894) and THE GEISHA (1896), before Monckton hit his stride with THE CIRCUS GIRL (1896), on which he collaborated with Ivan Caryll. Other shows, some with Caryll and some with Adrian Ross, Howard Talbot, Paul Rubens, Hood and others, include A RUNAWAY GIRL (1898), THE MESSENGER BOY (1900), THE TOREADOR (1901), KITTY GREY (1901), A COUNTRY GIRL (1902), THE ORCHID (1903), THE SPRING CHICKEN (1905), THE GIRLS OF GOTTENBERG (1907), OUR MISS GIBBS (1909), THE ARCADIANS (1909), THE QUAKER GIRL (1910), THE MOUSMÉ (1911), and THE DANCING MISTRESS (1912).
Although many of these shows were great successes, it was THE ARCADIANS that stood out, not merely as the best of the Monckton scores, but as the archetype of the Edwardian musical. Songs, with Talbot, included The Pipes Of Pan, The Girl With The Brogue and All Down Piccadilly. Similarly successful was THE QUAKER GIRL. Its songs, including The Quaker Girl and Come To The Ball, were hugely popular and, as with THE ARCADIANS, sheet music sales were massive. Although some shows were also produced on Broadway, Monckton remained most closely linked to Londons West End where many of his shows starred Gertie Millar who was for a while his wife. Towards the end of World War I, another show was staged; this was THE BOY (1917), with Talbot and Ross, and was fairly successful. Following the end of the war, changes took place in public taste and the nature of the shows they wanted to see altered. In particular, the music was new as different styles began filtering over from the USA. Although he wrote for some revues, Monckton chose not to adapt his own successful style, instead opting for comfortable retirement.
A gentleman farmer with a love of Edwardian and early Twentieth Century music has created a home industry of preserving early Musical and Revue scores as recorded on 78 and cylinder, the latter of which he is certainly a specialist. It is an impressive list of shows that Dominic Combe has digitalised and issued on Compact Disc. Not only is it the recordings but the lovingly created books that attach.
Early theatre recordings abound in Great Britain, more so than in the United States where it took them some time to start recording original cast material. And so, many early scores are available to be heard. But what Dominic discovered when he started assembling these scores was that often latter day British 78 and cylinder record collectors turned their noses up on recordings of dance music or covers and best of or gems making them hard to find. And, it is those recordings which can often contain songs not otherwise recorded. He has built strong connections with other collectors willing to lend material to make each issue as complete as possible.
Modern equipment and an aptitude for perfection have helped Dominic clean up old 78 and cylinder records to deliver a sound quality that can be stunning. The booklets are produced with as much care by using original theatre programmes or magazines such as PLAY PICTORIAL and MUSIC FOR ALL so that the listener can get a good idea of how the show looked as well as to see the unique art work used to advertise the show back then.
Dominic has issued over fifty of these gems and still has titles either being completed or awaiting to be started on. The label is called PALAEOPHONICS.
- y phayward, OVERTURES: The Bunnet-Muir Musical Theatre Archive Trust, 10 July, 2017