Harold Fielding, Prominent London Theatre Producer, Dead at 86

Obituaries   Harold Fielding, Prominent London Theatre Producer, Dead at 86
Harold Fielding, the British producer who delighted London audiences with lavish productions of Mame, The Music Man and the five-year smash Charlie Girl, died Sept. 28 at a private nursing home Galsworthy House, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, the London Times reported.

Mr. Fielding had resided at the home since 1998, when he suffered a series of strokes.

Mr. Fielding showed a career-long affection for American musicals, and introduced English theatergoers to many of them. In fact, he began he career by produced a 1958 stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Pop idol Tommy Steele was the star. He brought in The Music Man in 1961, Sweet Charity in 1967, with Juliet Prowse in the lead, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1968, Mame in 1969 with Ginger Rogers, Show Boat in 1971, and Barnum in 1981, starring Michael Crawford.

One of his greatest successes, however, was the purely English show, Charlie Girl, which opened in 1965 and ran for 2,202 performances at the Adelphi Theatre. The show, which featured songs like "Fish and Chip," "Liverpool" and "The Flippin' 'All," is about Lady Hadwell, who opens stately Hadwell Hall as an attraction to make ends meet. Meanwhile, her daughters, Penelope, Fiona and tomboy Charlotte (Charlie), all find love in a roundabout fashion.

He used Steele again in 1963 for Half a Sixpence, scoring another long-running hit. The show transferred to Broadway in 1965 and ran for 511 performances. It was Mr. Fielding's sole Broadway credit. Sixpence was nominated for a Tony Award, as was Mr. Fielding, in the since discontinued Best Producer category.

Other Fielding shows included The Gazebo, A Thurber Carnival, Sail Away, Clap Hands, How Are You, Johnny?, Round Leicester Square, Man of Magic, Fielding's Music Hall and Hans Christian Anderson. For all these shows, Mr. Fielding broke a cardinal rule of producing: he used his own money.

As a producer, he would sometimes go to great lengths to ensure his show would get on. In 1962, while readying Noel Coward's Sail Away, a musicians strike loomed on the horizon. In anticipation, he resigned from the West End Managers' Association and struck a private deal with the musicians union.

Harold Fielding was born in Woking, Surrey. A child prodigy, he studied violin with Joseph Szigeti. After a stint as a promoter, he entered producing. Until 1963, he ran a string of summer theatres in eight resorts.

He was known affectionately throughout the London theatre as "The Guvnor."

He was predeceased by his wife Maisie Joyce Skivens. The couple had no children.

Tommy Steele and Polly James in the original London production of <i>Half a Sixpence</i>.
Tommy Steele and Polly James in the original London production of Half a Sixpence.
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