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 Posted:   Feb 24, 2019 - 7:16 PM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)

I too had a good time. I was reminded of Barry's gift for melody and I intend to give my other Barry musicals another listen.

All I kept thinking as I watched was ". . . and this was NOT a hit. O-KAY!"

I'm guessing there will always be those who'll "stay away in droves" on general principle, due to the subject matter. There may never be a "right time" for a musical of "Lolita."

Celebrities in the audience I happened to spot while walking in, earlier tonight:

Rex Reed
Patricia Birch

 Posted:   Feb 25, 2019 - 12:31 AM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

There is a curious phenomenon - when the York does these things, especially things that were HUGE bombs of epic proportions, the audiences go in knowing they're going to love whatever they see. It happens all the time there - it's almost like a "See, this is a great show" attitude, like people back in the day were so WRONG about it. But they weren't, you see. The score has always been fun, but the book, that production, filled with its constant rewriting and woes, was not great.

But it's like everyone says, "See, this is brilliant and they should do it, move it, do a full production" and of course if anyone actually fell for that they would lose their shirts. I know how this was put together, with six different scripts being melded together and a piano is never going to service what Mr. Barry wrote, despite the talent of Deniz Cordell.

Many years ago, back in 2001, I opened a dialogue with Liza Lerner about recording the show. She really wanted it to happen, but another producer got in the way and went to Barry, telling him only he could produce a brilliant album. I warned Liza that it would never happen with this other guy, but he'd already gotten to Barry and it got way too muddled and I walked away - and of course it didn't happen with the other guy. I'd cast it - Twiggy's husband, Leigh Lawson was to be Humbert, Sally Mayes was to be Charlotte, and I had a young gal for Lolita.

BTW, the gal who's playing it at the York would seem to be in her late teens from the photos I've seen, one of those short girls who eternally looks much younger than she actually is. But if you're gonna do Lolita, you really should have someone who's closer to the right age.

 Posted:   Feb 25, 2019 - 8:05 AM   
 By:   John McMasters   (Member)

The score certainly deserves a recording as described by Mr. Kimmel! It is heartbreaking to learn that we might have had a superb recording of the material.

 Posted:   Feb 25, 2019 - 2:39 PM   
 By:   John McMasters   (Member)

I deleted the long meandering story that was below. It was too cringy.

 Posted:   Feb 25, 2019 - 4:45 PM   
 By:   villagardens553   (Member)

John McMasters, As a lifelong Barry fan, I enjoyed your story very much. When I have more time, I'll share my earliest exposures to Barry's music in the 60s. Given your interest in Barry, Lolita, and shows, there is a book you must read, if you haven't already. I've mentioned it before in other threads. The book is by Joseph Tandet--an entertainment lawyer who owned the rights to The Little Prince. Title is The Lawyer and the Little Prince and deals with decades of Tandet's attempts to get films and/or stage musicals made of The Little Prince. Many pages are devoted to his dealings with Barry in the 60s as well as the 80s. Some of the Barry anecdotes are hilarious. There are also pages of Lerner, as Barry and Lerner had a mutual interest in The Little Prince at the time, but ended up doing Lolita instead. A very entertaining read.

 Posted:   Mar 4, 2019 - 8:05 AM   
 By:   John McMasters   (Member)

I have revised a previous post – and, alas, made it even longer!!! Hence:

I discovered John Barry in my before-teens – DR. NO of course – when I was only 9 years old – when my best friend George and I went to the movies on our own on a Friday night. I can’t say that I had a deep psychological investment in Mr. Barry’s career at that point. His music was just so damn cool. I went to a lot of movies back then – virtually anything that played at our local theater. And I made note of his name on non-Bond films like SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (which creeped me out at 11) and ZULU. I fell in love with film music around that time. The first Barry lp that I purchased was THE WRONG BOX, followed by BORN FREE, KING RAT, and THE IPCRESS FILE (all of which I loved as films). George had all of the Bond soundtracks so I didn’t need to get those. Mr. Barry’s sound seemed unique to my uninformed ears – much different that Elmer Bernstein or Henry Mancini or Miklos Rozsa – all of whom were also unique to my ears. I would deplete my weekly allowance/lawn mowing/snow shoveling funds by purchasing their lps.

My obsession with film music continued through junior high school, high school, and college (and obviously beyond). Barry has remained a constant presence in my collection and in my affection all along the ride.

One day early in my junior year at Northwestern University in student housing, I rebelled against one of my neighbors who was blasting Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” nonstop on his turntable – he had been felled by a failed romance and had been mourning for several hours by playing that damn song over and over again. I countered when I could stand it no longer by blasting Stephen Sondheim’s original cast recording of “A Little Night Music” and slamming my door shut. I was interrupted in my anger by a loud knock on my door. When I opened the door I was greeted by a very cute guy, with a faintly British accent, who said, “You’re playing Stephen Sondheim!” That was the start of my life-long friendship with Erik.

During our first conversation (I had lowered the volume on my stereo, and my neighbor had finally abandoned his room for fresh air), I shared my obsession with film music, and he shared his obsession with show music. My roommate at the time had returned from classes and joined our conversation. He was in the NU music school (violin – now a math professor), and we had a robust and often contentious conversation about classical music vs. film music vs. theatrical scores.

I recall that we talked about John Barry – and Erik asked me if I knew that Mr. Barry had written a musical with Alan Jay Lerner – LOLITA, MY LOVE. I was amazed that I knew nothing about this show by a composer I adored – and Erik soon filled me in. My academic advisor in the English Department at Northwestern was Alfred Appel, a Nabokov expert and author of THE ANNOTATED LOLITA, among other books. I recall asking him that week if he knew that Lerner/Barry had actually written a musical based on LOLITA, and his response was that he’d asked Nabokov about it. Nabokov had apparently not been dismissive, but had commented that he’d listened to a lot of Lerner and Barry’s works and had given his approval based on their talents because they were “the best.”

During senior year (1975) Erik came to my room in a state of true excitement. He’d found an advertisement in some publication that offered reel-to-reel tapes of sound system recordings for three shows: FOLLIES, 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE and LOLITA, MY LOVE. These were recordings made during live performances at each theater through their own sound systems. The tapes contained each show virtually in its entirety – from overture to final curtain applause. Erik reported that he and a friend were going to split the costs of ordering the tapes – and he wondered if I wanted to go in with them as he knew of my love for John Barry. I immediately said, “Yes.”

A few weeks later he again knocked at my door with the news that the tapes had arrived, that he had a reel-to-reel tape player, and I should plan on a long afternoon/night of listening to the tapes. He’d already listened to them, and he said they were amazing. I abandoned whatever I was doing. We went to his room and my acquaintance with LOLITA, MY LOVE began. The other person who had donated a share of funds to get the tapes was John McGlinn, the ardent scholar, restorationist and conductor of musical theater works, who had become a friend of Erik’s. Although McGlinn never really became my friend, I was often around the two of them when they would go off on wide ranging discussions in which they transversed the entire history of musical theater – arguing the merits of this show vs. that show, this lyricist vs. that lyricist, composer vs. composer. Although I did hang out with them quite a bit, McGlinn was a bit prickly. One of my fondest college memories is when the three of us went to a local restaurant and ended up singing TV theme songs – and were told to keep it down by the waiter when we eventually got to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.

I will never forget that afternoon and evening as Erik and I sat on his dorm room floor listening to the very murky recording of LOLITA, MY LOVE. It was such an unknown work – only a few songs published as sheet music, and no available script. Erik eventually transcribed that recording into a script of the performance with some sections left blank where the recording was too distorted or muffled to decipher. Within a few weeks he had the entire show (and FOLLIES and 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE) virtually committed to memory, as did John. Alas, all I could do was hum a tune here and there.

Over the years as our friendship has grown and our careers taken many paths, Erik and I often return to the memories of those afternoons and evenings spent bonding over Barry, Lerner, and Lolita. When we went to John’s memorial service a few years ago, those memories came up in deep sadness. John had achieved many great things in his life – including wonderful recordings of SHOW BOAT, ANYTHING GOES, BRIGADOON, and others – but his life was too short, truncated cruelly by a heart attack.

So when Erik first told me that LOLITA, MY LOVE might, just might, be among the York mufti shows honoring Mr. Lerner, I was blown away and also skeptical. Surely not. We had been hoping for so many years that someone somewhere would bring it back. When he called me at work and told me that the rights and permissions had all been secured, and it was actually going to be performed, I was dizzy with the recollections and associations that became a real flood of emotions.

LOLITA, MY LOVE means an awful lot to me – much more than a mere musical. It is one of those works that I love unreservedly, and I confess that I simply cannot be objective about it.

Seeing the final performance at the York yesterday afternoon, I was blown away by how powerful and disturbing the show is. The audience at this performance really went along for the ride. Everyone seemed to be on the same page that this was a completely unknown entity – and many of those in the audience were simply too young to have any knowledge of the show’s history. I chatted with many of the attendees both before and after the show – and they had no preconceptions as to what to expect – just that they had heard the show was disturbing. And, in any event, I personally don’t consider “difficult”, “disturbing”, or “dark” to be automatically negative epithets – accurate, perhaps, but not negative.

I also met Peter Greenhill of the John Barry Appreciation Society and a fellow FSM poster, who along with several other society members, had traveled from England just to see the show. Mr. Greenhill had gone five times, and was thrilled with the production. His presence was acknowledged with a special thanks during the pre-show introductions. Also at the final performance was Liz Robertson (Mrs. Lerner) who had also flown in from the UK. She spoke to the cast at the after-reception and praised the work they had done and told them how much the production would have meant to Mr. Lerner.

I confess I was tearing up during the reception. The show itself seemed to me to be utterly beautiful.

(P.S. Forgot to mention that our own Bruce Kimmel and the late Nick Redman were among those thanked in the program.)

 Posted:   Mar 4, 2019 - 10:10 AM   
 By:   villagardens553   (Member)

I'm thrilled that the show is reaching people. I recently played my Lolita cd from the Boston performance, along with the media sound 45s. The songs are so witty. "Lolita" is one of Barry's very bests, and "At the Bed-E-By Motel" is infectious.

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 5:40 AM   
 By:   Peter Greenhill   (Member)

On a Friday night, early last October, I was sitting on the top deck of a London bus checking my phone when I saw a FB post about a late February 2019 New York production of John Barry and Alan Jay Lerner’s lost stage musical version of Lolita, My Love, last performed in Philadelphia and Boston in early 1971 but failing to make Broadway due to poor reviews and $900,000 losses. Great to see that it was back but sad that it wasn’t in London. I thought no more of it until next day when it occurred to me that this might be the only chance o see Lolita and so I booked tickets and a few weeks later booked flights and a hotel in New York

Last week, I was fortunate to be at the York theatre at Lexington and 54th to watch several performances . Firstly a word about the theatre itself. Included in a modern building designed as a church. On entry from 54th Street, you enter a large foyer, go down in the lift to level LL2 and you enter a smaller foyer with , over on the left a wall display, with photographs, articles and reviews about Lolita, My Love. Straight ahead is an area selling books, CDs and refreshments though, thankfully, only water can be taken into the 160 seat theatre. Further ahead is an impressive display of posters of previous productions at the theatre.Entry doors to the theatre are over on the right. The theatre specialises in giving opportunities to new musical productions and reviving musicals that may have closed unloved after short runs .

We, Alan More, Tony Weeks and Julie Down and myself, were made very welcome by Jim Morgan the producing artistic director who introduced us to the audience on 27th Feb and laid on a feedback session with the cast and crew. Aferwards we had pictures taken with the whole team. Included in that session was Dan Siretta who was an assistant choreographer on the original production and also had a small part. He told us how originally it was intended that ‘How Far Is It to the Next Town’ , used for the journey sequence, was going to be a 15 minute ballet with a team of 16 dancers. That would have been something to see!!

The audience members I spoke to are highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about musical theatre.

The production lasts about two and a half hours with a 20 minute interval.

The cast do hold scripts but apart from that it is a proper performance with lots of movement , all done with just six days rehearsal. Cast supply costumes and the set is minimal. However, this is certainly NOT just talking heads reading text and singing from a sedentary position at the front of the stage.

There are six drafts of Lolita, which illustrates the problems Barry and Lerner were having in adapting Nabokov’s novel into a piece of musical theatre. Erik Haagensen edited the current version from those drafts, particularly the final two which were completed after the show’s final performance in Boston in March 1971. Barry and Lerner still hoped to resurrect the show with Lerner still writing as late as July of that year.

What is clear is that they were very close to making Lolita a a piece of coherent, entertaining albeit edgy musical theatre . The device of having Humbert debriefing to psychiatrist, Dr. June Ray following his arrest gives the narrative clarity that may not have existed in the earlier versions.

It’s established early on that Humbert is attracted to some pre-pubescent girls, to gasps from some members of the audience. The reason for his infatuation is set out in ‘In the Broken Promise Land of Fifteen ‘ . Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, Annabelle Lee is the source for the song and is referred to later on in the text. The link between Annabelle Lee and Lolita is discussed in this article:…/loved-with-a-love-that-was-…/

There is a cast of thirteen. All are excellent actors and singers and a tribute to the talent of the New York City performing community. Difficult to imagine Lolita, My Love being more perfectly cast. Caitlin Cohn’s Lolita is often child like and vulnerable. At other times she is knowing and almost adult but the point is never lost that for most of the production Lolita is a child being exploited by an exploitative paedophile regardless of the source of that tendency.

The show doesn’t use the overture from the 1971 Boston production. Instead it reverts to the Philadelphia opening which is darker with Lolita standing in a spotlight as Humber walks slowly down the central isle of the theatre towards her , singling a passionate but slower version of Lolita. Strong opening.

Robert Sella gives a creepy, unsettling performance as Humbert. A strong example is when ‘Farewell, Little Dream segues into ‘Hello, Little Dream’ as he realises that with the death of Lolita’s mother, Charlotte, it is now just him and Lolita. He celebrates with a song and dance around the stage utilising a top hat and cane bathed in creepy orange lighting until Dr. Ray, played in a cool, calm business like manner by Thursday Farrar. removes the cane.. Powerful close to the first half.

Another powerful Sella moment is when he marries Charlotte , as the ensemble chant Ave Lolita, Humbert turns to the audience and smirks as he knows he is now closer to the child. Humbert loathes Charlotte but will do anything to be close to the Lolita .

Charlotte is played by Jessica Tyler Wright who gives a wonderful over the top performance as Lolita’s mother. She gives a stunning rendition of Sur Les Quais sitting at a table with Humbert with a couple of glasses of wine. They then dance which leads to a final chorus delivered by Wright in full Bassey mode. George Abud gives a skilled demented performance as the seedy playwright and teacher Clare Quity who also stalks Lolita With the company, he performs a lively, upbeat version of Going, Going, Gone early in the opening half.

Another highlight is Caitlin Cohn rendition of ‘Saturday.............Lolita just wants everything her way. No more Mondays, everyday a Saturday. Great song , stunning performance. Well earned applause.

A key song in the second half is ‘Tell Me, Tell Me’, initially used by Humbert to seduce Lolita and have his night of passion at the Bed-D-Bye motel. It is then reprised the following morning as Lolita sobs after she’s told of her mother’s death. A gorgeous song used in a very dark context.

A pity that Laurie Barry was unable to attend as I suspect she would have been impressed by this performance of John’s work. Alan Jay Lerner’s widow, Liz Robertson attended the final performance on the afternoon of Sunday 3rd March and, at the closing event afterwards, said how impressed she’d been with the production and how Mr Lerner had always regretted the early failure of Lolita, My Love as he considered it to contain some of his best work.

Both estates had cooperated with rights issues as had the Edward Albee estate which acquired a substantial section of the rights following a stage adaptation of Lolita by Albee in 1981. All works based on Nabokov’s Lolita source material require permission from Albee’s estate.
When I booked tickets last October, I was pretty sure that this was going to be good but not this good. It is still controversial material but beautiful y directed by Emily Maltby and expertly adapted from Barry and Lerner’s original drafts by Eric Haagensen to give a coherent and thrilling musical theatre experience.

For me, Lolita, My Love is top five Barry.............up there with Goldfinger, Americans, The Lion In Winter and The Knack. (in no particular order).

What is certain is that this version should be recorded. Deniz Cordell worked wonders on score reconstruction and musical direction and accompanied the whole performance alone, using just piano and keyboard. A 90 piece orchestra is nice but not always necessary. Barry’s songs are often heard at their best with stripped down arrangements. Much of course will depend on rights and finance.

Lolita, My Love ran for just 11 performances at the York Theatre. It got strong reviews and was received well by most of the audiences. Finally, 48 years on the show reached New York. I was fortunate to be able to be in the room when it happened.

Many thanks to all at the York Theatre for their hospitality and a job well done. A theatre worth supporting. I’d be there regularly if I lived in New York.

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 6:50 AM   
 By:   Peter Greenhill   (Member)

Nice to meet and have a chat with John McMasters and Eric Haagensen just before the final performance last Sunday.....

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 11:37 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

Thanks for the lengthy review, Peter. Sounds like a great event, and if they ever do anything similar in old York you can bet I’ll be front and centre.

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 2:00 PM   
 By:   Peter Greenhill   (Member)

Thanks for the lengthy review, Peter. Sounds like a great event, and if they ever do anything similar in old York you can bet I’ll be front and centre.

It was great TG...............Let's hope it comes to UK soon...

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 2:07 PM   
 By:   Thomas   (Member)

It's great to read these reviews from John and Peter, about what sounds like a fantastic experience. I must confess I'm not familiar with any of this musical other than the occasional piece on the Barry compilations I have. I'd love to be able to hear more of it. Frankly, the same goes for Brighton Rock.

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 6:47 PM   
 By:   villagardens553   (Member)

I'm thrilled that some Barry fans got to see this. I love the music from Lolita, My Love, but only know it as most of us do--from the live boot, the promo records, and the occasional cover. Lerner's biographer devoted several pages to Lolita and referred to the score as "musically sophisticated."

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2019 - 8:40 PM   
 By:   Scott Bettencourt   (Member)

I just learned that a close friend of mine from my UCLA days is playing Humbert, so I would LOVE for them to record this version. (He's mostly a stage actor but his most prominent recent film role was as the doctor who takes Casey Affleck to see his brother's body in Manchester by the Sea).

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