Dorothy Fields Forever is a "Side-by-Side"-style revue, by Eden Phillips and David Kernan, that pays tribute to the lyricist Dorothy Fields. A hugely talented woman who wrote songs for shows, revues and cabaret from the 1920's to the 1970's, she made her way in what was then (as now) an essentially male-dominated area.
Theatrenow went to the King's Head, Islington, to meet Angela Richards, the actress who plays Dorothy Fields, and who has earned rave reviews for her portrayal of this worldly-wise but warm and witty Broadway baby.
You must be very happy with the way the show is going, especially the several-week extension to your run at the King's Head? "Yes! It's a very happy show to be in, and I know everyone says this about their fellow cast members, but we really do have an amazingly talented group, and it's lovely to work with David Kernan again."
You've obviously seen the very good reviews in the press, but do you get much feedback from the audience? "One of the nice things about being in a venue like the King's Head is that you get to meet the audience afterwards. But the biggest delight, for me, is the way people come out of this show looking genuinely happy. "Quite often when you go to a show — and this happens to me, too — you come out thinking 'why did I spend all that money?' but with this one they're glad they came, they're touched by it as well as entertained. The most frequent comment I get is that people didn't know she wrote so many well-known songs, that they're interested in her work now and want to find out more about her."
Is there going to be a cast CD to capitalize on this? "I don't think there are any plans for one, though it would be nice."
Did you ever meet Dorothy Fields in the course of your career? "Unfortunately, no — though I'd heard of her, naturally. She was a great woman, a very hip woman in her way — you don't write Sweet Charity without being hip!"
I gather you write songs, too. Did that help in your preparation for the role? "Well, it gives me an idea of the process that she went through, though I tend to write music as well as lyrics. I co-wrote songs for the television series 'Secret Army,' and I'm working on a musical now.
"When I come up with a song, I usually find the music and the words at the same time. Dorothy Fields generally set the words to existing music, but what is so special about her work is the way the two fit: You can't hear the music without thinking of the words, and that's as it should be."
Most of you career seems to have been in musical theatre. "I was very lucky to go straight from RADA into a big musical, Robert and Elizabeth, and, having done well in that, to go on to On the Level. Then I decided that I needed to go and do some rep work, to have the experience of playing lots of parts, of learning my craft onstage. Playing one role for a year or so in a big musical is great fun and well paid, but in artistic terms it wasn't an ideal thing to do at the start of a career. It was too soon, too much."
Apart from Dorothy Fields, which lyricists do you most admire? "There are so many, really, but Johnny Mercer, Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter and Sondheim come to mind."
Do you have a favorite Fields song? "I enjoy singing 'He Had Refinement,' but my favorite song in the show is 'The Way You Look Tonight.' She wrote 500 or so songs during her career, but that one's in a class of its own."
Angela Richards and co. are having a well-earned break from July 22 to 27, but will be demonstrating their own class back at the King's Head, Islington in a further run of Dorothy Fields Forever from July 30 to Sept 1. Early booking is advisable.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow