“Around the World”

Lilian Baylis Theatre, London • 8 July 2007 • 4pm
Cole Porter (1946). Book by Orson Welles.

“Lost Musicals” series. Directed by Ian Marshall Fisher. Musical Direction & Piano : Steven Edis. With Jack Klaff (Orson Welles, Inspector Fix), Peter Gale (Phileas Fogg), Valerie Cutko (Aouda), Bryan Torfeh (Passepartout), Valda Aviks (Molly Muggins), Michael Roberts, Richard Stemp & Peter Kenworthy (all other roles!)

As usual, the “Lost Musicals” series allows us to see works that have had very little, if any, stage life since they were originally performed. Such is the case of Cole Porter’s Around the World, which ran for 75 performances on Broadway in 1946 and marked Orson Welles’ only foray into writing the book for a musical.

The work, a stage spectacular based on the Jules Verne novel, is little more than a curio today, and it doesn’t boast any unappreciated, underperformed Porter gem. Giving a concert version of a work that requires so many scene changes, 40 minutes of silent film footage and such a large cast (the original cast included many circus artists) is quite a challenge. Ian Marshall Fisher’s troupe, as usual, rises to it with brio. Much of the fun derives from seeing some of the actors change roles every two minutes. It made me wonder if Porter & Welles meant their work as the sort of broad comedy that was shown to us… or if that was only the unavoidable side-effect of the many limitations of the concert staging.

In any case, one can only be grateful for the opportunity to see this rarity of rarities. And for the pleasure of hearing Herbert Kretzmer, the lyricist of Les Misérables, give a delightful introductory speech.

My VIP streak is continuing. Kim Criswell was sitting in front of me.

Sad news: the Leicester Square Starbucks outlet is now closed. The human race is all the poorer for it.

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