David Heneker, the British lyricist and composer who wrote songs for Half a Sixpence and Irma La Douce, musicals that were part of the 1960s British invasion of American-dominated musical theatre, died Jan. 30 in Wales at the age of 94.
Mr. Heneker also collaborated on Expresso Bongo, Jorrocks, Make Me and Offer, Popkiss, Charlie Girl and The Biograph Girl. However, Irma La Douce and Half a Sixpence were Mr. Heneker's best-known shows, overflowing with upbeat numbers and wistful sentiment. The latter show was made into a film starring the charming, toothy Tommy Steele, who originated the romantic lead role in London and then Broadway. The Broadway production was revised following London. The show was inspired by H.G. Wells' "Kipps," about a working class man who comes into money.
The score included "If the Rain's Got to Fall," "Money to Burn" and the title number, heard during a 512-performance run on Broadway; a tour followed, minus Steele.
Irma La Douce, the fanciful tale of a Parisian prostitute and her colorful world (including the john who loves her), was seen in London beginning in 1958 and New York in 1960. Lyricist Heneker and book-and-lyric collaborators Julian More and Monty Norman drew from composer Marguerite Monnot and librettist-lyricist Alexandre Breffort's French musical. Peter Brook directed, Elizabeth Seal starred in an all male cast in the West End and on Broadway. Billy Wilder directed a non-musical film version in 1963. "Our Language of Love" is remembered from the show.
Irma La Douce and Half a Sixpence were both preserved on cast recordings in the same decade that saw Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, Oliver! and other British musicals play Broadway after originating in London. Between 1925-1948 Mr. Heneker was an army officer. According to The New York Times, Mr. Heneker was inspired to write songs after reading Noel Coward's Bittersweet, and preferred to call himself a songwriter rather than a composer. He is survived by a son, Peter, five grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
— By Kenneth Jones