PE0340. PRIMROSE. Music: George Gershwin; Lyrics: Desmond Carter & Ira Gershwin); Book by George Grossmith & Guy Bolton, w.John Ansell Cond. Winter Garden Theatre Ensemble; Leslie Henson, Margery Hicklin, Ernest Graham, Vera Lennox, Heather Thatcher, Percy Heming, etc. (255 performances). (England) Palaeophonics 166, w.Elaborate 'The Play' 20pp. Brochure replete with numerous photos of the Winter Garden Theatre 1924 production. Excellently transferred from the legendary Acoustic 78rpm English Columbia rarities. Dominic Combe’s newest delight, produced via his enhanced equipment! For this production he had access to fabulous archival material and superb original 78s with which to work!
“PRIMROSE opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, London on September 11, 1924 and ran for 255 performances. Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Desmond Carter and Ira Gershwin. Book by George Grossmith and Guy Bolton. Book staged by George Grossmith and Charles A. Maynard. Dances and ensembles by Laddie Cliff. Produced by George Grossmith and J. A. E. Malone. Cast included Margery Hicklin, Ernest Graham, Leslie Henson, Vera Lennox, Heather Thatcher, and Percy Heming.
In the wake of the tumultuous reception given to RHAPSODY IN BLUE in February 1924 and his last score for GEORGE WHITE’S SCANDALS in June, George Gershwin found himself once again in London, this time to work on PRIMROSE, a musical comedy for the English comedian, Leslie Henson. PRIMROSE proved a great success, and included the first publication of a Gershwin full score, though the show was so thoroughly English that it never had an American run. The show was not produced on Broadway, where it would have competed with LADY, BE GOOD!. The American premičre of Primrose did not take place until 1987George did not have much time to bask in his newly-minted fame, as hard on the heels of PRIMROSE was LADY, BE GOOD!, a show that would cement his working relationship with his brother Ira.
“George Gershwin, at 25 years old, was an established songwriter by 1924 when Grossmith and his producing partners, J. A. E. Malone and Edward Laurillard, hired him to produce the score for PRIMROSE for them in London. The musical is the first in which Gershwin wrote some of the orchestrations himself. The year was one of the busiest for Gershwin, as it also included his RHAPSODY IN BLUE and two other musicals. Gershwin's score, and the book by Bolton are old-fashioned for their time, with more in common with the frothy Edwardian musical comedies than with the later Gershwin musicals. Nevertheless, Desmond Carter's witty lyrics and the show's farcical book have been praised by reviewers, while Gershwin's score has been compared with Gilbert and Sullivan. A piano vocal edition of the score was published in London in 1924, but Gershwin's manuscript was considered lost until it was found in America in 1982.
Primrose was produced by Grossmith and J. A. E. Malone, who wanted to follow up on their earlier successes composed by Jerome Kern. It opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in London on 11 September 1924 only two months before the Gershwins’ LADY, BE GOOD! debuted on Broadway. The cast featured comedian Leslie Henson and also included Claude Hulbert, Heather Thatcher and opera baritone Percy Heming. The director was Charles A. Maynard, and the choreographer was Laddie Cliff. Extensive excerpts from the score were recorded with original 1924 cast members conducted by Ansell, and have been re-released on Palaeophonics’ CD. The show was not produced on Broadway, where it would have competed with Lady, Be Good!. The American premičre of Primrose did not take place until 1987.”
"After a year-long absence from the New York stage, 1924 saw three new Broadway musicals composed by George Gershwin plus the premiere of his RHAPSODY IN BLUE. For this frothy confection Gershwin provided a score sounding like nothing we're accustomed to hearing from him. The blues and jazz influences which colored his work up until that point were discarded for an operetta-inspired sound, particularly in the first act's ballads and choral pieces. Acts II and III are packed with more comedy numbers and charm songs, providing simple, peppy melodies containing nary a hint of the tricky syncopation and sophisticated chord progressions that New York audiences would embrace two months later in LADY, BE GOOD. But by far the most outstanding contribution to PRIMROSE is the comedy lyrics of Desmond Carter, who penned the words to seventeen of the score's twenty-two songs and collaborated with Ira Gershwin on four of the remaining five.”
- Michael Dale, BROADWAY WORLD, 11 Dec., 2003
“Leslie Henson, was a noted comedian, born in London in 1891, famous for his bulging eyes, malleable face and raspy voice. He studied with 'the Cairns James School of Musical and Dramatic Art as a child, he was writing and producing theatrical pieces while still at school. Became popular in Music Hall from 1910, his first West End role in 1912 was NICELY, THANKS! and became a over-night star, also in TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT which became a smash-hit in 1915 followed by starring in several hit West End musical comedies including YES, UNCLE! in 1917. Henson served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I,then after the war he returned to the West End playing in KISSING TIME in 1919 and a series of musical comedies and farces throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Leslie starred in at least 15 movies, the first of which was THE LIFEGUARDSMAN for the British Actors Film Company in 1916. Most notable, however, was ALF'S BUTTON co-starring Alma Taylor in 1920 and TONS OF MONEY in 1924. Henson also starred in a number of talkies, the best known being A WARM CORNER in 1930 and IT'S A BOY in 1934. He was last seen on T.V. in the late 1950s.”
- Paul Rothwell-Smith, IMDb Mini Biography
“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.
I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, (norpete.com) which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.
There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”
- Thomas Krebs, OPERETTA RESEARCH CENTER - PALEOPHONICS - A JOURNEY TO THE DAWN OF RECORDED SOUND IN MUSICAL COMEDY, 1 July, 2020