The songs of Ivor Novello, the man who dominated British musical theatre from the 1930s to the early 1950s, are incorporated in The Lodger, a play that opens at Jermyn Street Theatre on March 12, for a run of four weeks.
Jermyn Street has a strong reputation for British musical theatre: Richard Stirling's show Over my Shoulder about the 1930s star Jessie Matthews sold out there in November 2001, and Sheridan Morley, who directs The Lodger, has directed several "nostalgia" shows at the theatre, including another sold-out run, that of The Jermyn Street Revue.
Morley's grandmother, movie star Dame Gladys Cooper, acted with Novello on stage and screen in the 1920s, so there is a family connection with Novello's work, while Morley's authorized biography of Sir John Gielgud covers another aspect of The Lodger's plot - the 1953 clampdown on gays and the very 1950s clash between the world of the theatre and that of everyday Britain.
Written by Paul Webb, The Lodger is about a thirty-something ex-chorus boy, Tony (played by Garth Bardsley, who has played the lead in The Phantom of the Opera) in Coronation year, 1953, two years after Novello's premature death led to the collapse of his theatrical empire.
With the British release of Robert Altman's Gosford Park (written by Julian Fellowes), Novello, who is a major character in the film, will, become, belatedly, a famous name again - perfect publicity for The Lodger, which features a selection of his music, using it in a dramatic context to take the plot forward, rather than in a Side-by-Side-by-Ivor way.
The Lodger runs until April 6.