A "marvelous party," including royalty, will be part of the unveiling of a life-size statue of Noel Coward Mar. 1 at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City.
Prince Edward will unsheathe the statue of the prolific British songwriter ("Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "I've Been to a Marvelous Party"), playwright (The Vortex, Private Lives) and actor ("In Which We Serve," Private Lives). The statue is identical to one the Queen Mother unveiled recently at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London.
The Coward statue, commissioned by his estate in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth (Dec. 16, 1899), will stand in the Theatre Hall of Fame section of the Gershwin lobby. The unveiling is not open to the public, but is expected to be attended by city officials and celebrities.
Master of ceremonies for the event is Coward historian Barry Day. Producer Alexander Cohen, Prince Edward, longtime Coward friend and estate executor Graham Payn will make remarks.
Sculptor Angela Connor will also attend. Cabaret artists Steve Ross will sing "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and Jeanne Lehman (The Sound of Music) will sing "I'll See You Again."
The prolific Coward, who was an actor, director, poet, songwriter and playwright, was one of the most famous men in England in the first half of the 20th century. His songs, such as "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington" and "If Love Were All," and his plays, such as Blithe Spirit and Present Laughter, are still heard today.
Yet behind the brittle dialog of his comedies and the sentiment of such plays as Cavalcade and the patriotic war film, "In Which We Serve," Coward was a man who manipulated publicity and never publicly revealed his true nature, including his homosexuality.
Coward's life was a "paradox between what he presented to the world and what he was like," biographer Philip Hoare said in the recent PBS Coward documentary.
Coward's companion of many years, actor-singer Payn, who still lives in Chalet Coward in Switzerland.
Coward died alone in Jamaica in 1973 after living in tax exile for many years. He was knighted three years before his death.
-- By Kenneth Jones