Bashville

BASHVILLE

Music by Denis King - Lyrics by Benny Green - Adaptation by Benny Green and David William from “The Admirable Bashville” by George Bernard Shaw

Publisher: Samuel French Ltd

In 1882, seeded by his interest in boxing and having become good friends with James J. Corbett, the leading boxer of his age, Shaw wrote his novel “Cashel Byron’s Profession”. In 1903 he decided to set the piece for the theatre and, just to add another element of wit, because nothing was as fascinating to Shaw than his own talent, chose as his form a one-act play, “The Admirable Bashville”, in which all the theatrical devices were pastiches of other plays. To add still further to the conceit, he wrote the dialogue in iambic pentameter--appropriated, much of the time, from an English writer whose talent, he thought, almost measured up to his own: William Shakespeare. In the same spirit, Denis King and Benny Green, leaving the original play very nearly intact, have added songs and musical numbers which satirize some of the 20th Century’s conventions of musical theatre.


Kings Comment

PERFORMANCES

First performed at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London, May 1983, and returned the following season, 1984, SWET (now OLIVIER) AWARD NOMINEE 1984.

Director: David William
Design: Tim Goodchild
Choreographer: Gillian Gregory
Lighting: Ian Callander
Orchestrations: Denis King
Musical Director: Anthony Bowles

CAST ( 13 M, 2W, between 16-12 chorus)

PRINCIPALS: Christina Collier, Peter Woodward, Donald Pelmear, Paul Raffield, Douglas Hodge, Ewart James Walters, James Cairncross, Vincenzo Nicoli, Graham Chinn, Berwick Kaler, Joan Davies, Robert Lister, Tony Gouveia, Leon Herbert, Anthony Wellington, CHORUS: Julie Dawn Cole, Philip Godawa, Eric James, Francesca Longrigg, Abigail McKern, Janet Moran, Stephan Newman, Stephen Rayne, Jo Ross, Hamilton Wilson, Teresa Gallagher

MUSICAL NUMBERS

Click on any track name in blue to listen to the track, use the controls on the right hand side to play, pause and stop the audio.

To purchase any of the tracks below please click here to visit the iTunes Store

OTHER MEDIA:

Original Cast Recording, Abbey Road Studios September 1, 1983, produced by Norman Newell, engineer John Richards. Digitally remastered 2005 JAY Productions Ltd.

KINGS' COMMENTS:

We had the producer and board members from the Open Air Theatre over for drinks and to hear the score as soon as it was finished. Benny Green did the talking, Denis played and sang, and I kept wine glasses filled and an eye out for skeptical looks, ready to whip away shrimp balls and show them the door if they didn’t like honeybunch’s music--but the show was a big hit with everyone squished in his office. How it would work under umbrellas remained to be seen. Predictably, on opening night, a sudden squall ten minutes into Act One sent the audience racing for cover, which meant the bar, which meant everyone went back buzzed half an hour later to wet seats, but Bashville became not only the hit of the summer but returned to flourish in the Regent’s Park Rainy Season again the following year (so Den made about four more cents).

There was talk of a transfer to the West End. Denis and I were asked if we could help think of rich types who might want to invest five thousand pounds in the show and we immediately thought of Abdulla, a chic Arab sheik friend, who was in fact more of a friend of Denis’ brother Mike, who knew him from years ago when they were both dating Bunnies at the Playboy Club. Much to our delight, Abdulla expressed interest. Letters promptly went flying off to the Gulf, copies of the script, How To Put All Your Dinars Into Your Friend’s Show info and so on, and a month later when Abdulla came to London, we took him to lunch and then afterwards back to our flat so he could hear the demo tape of the score.

I’d just gotten the coffee poured and the Almond Lace Wafers going when, Den’s finger poised on the PLAY button, Abdulla suddenly announced  that “Match of the Day” was on. This is football (soccer). Seemed to be of some importance. On went the TV. Denis and I kept manipulating the conversation back to Bashville and how great it is--with Den surreptitiously lowering the sound on the remote the whole time, so eventually we only had to watch Italy vs. Brazil while tapping our toes to “A Gentleman’s True To His Code" and other potential hits. We played the tape about six times, Abdulla smiling and nodding throughout, but we didn’t know if it was at the football score or the Bashville one. Finally the game ended.

“Well!” Den, all smiles, looked at Abdulla. “What do you think of the songs?”

Let me just mention that there is one iron clad rule for when composers are watching you listen to their music: basically, you have to act like this music is without exception the best music ever composed since ink was invented. Now, with practice, this shouldn’t prevent you from leaping to get the phone, or something to drink, or to let the dog in, or saying “One second be right back, just running to the bathroom quick!” although composers can occasionally misinterpret this as lack of interest and have in fact been known to say, somewhat beadily in fact, “Do you want to hear this or don’t you??” (whereupon I sit, instantly riveted, but then get so worried I don’t look like I’m enjoying it enough--smiling and tapping my foot to the wrong tempo and trying to look impressed by key changes and grabbing the album cover if there is one, like I’m desperate to know who’s doubling on bass clarinet or who the assistant sound engineer is--that the music, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t really register at all).

Needless to say, I was concerned that Abdulla, whose grandmother was still living in a goatskin tent, might not have grown up with these Iron Clad Listening Rules--not to mention any of the Shauvian turn-of-the-century blank verse puns with which Benny Green peppered his lyrics, many of which I’m still working on, but hope to understand in time--but surprise surprise, Abdulla said he loved the score, in fact went overboard about it, adored it, wanted a copy, thought it was absolutely brilliant!

I poured more coffee, thinking “We’re in, we’re in!”

Abdulla took a few reflective sips then said “Who wrote the music? I like it." There was a slight pause while this registered.

“I did!” Den cried (you big goose).

"You did??” Abdullah was still shaking his head in amazement as he went out the door and we still have absolutely no idea what he thought Den’s involvement was in the show, props maybe. Anyway he never coughed up.

Despite euphoric reviews, being nominated for awards, despite nonstop phonecalls full of producers saying how much they adored the show (except for one who changed his mind after his wife’s best friend from L.A’s chauffeur saw it and hated it, a reason if ever there was one), Bashville, before dying, transferred not to the West End but only to Birmingham, where at least we got to see it without wearing waders and foul weather gear. That’s something, I guess.  Astrid King

Key Changes

Black Beauty

Fact of the Day

At age 15, Denis was performing six shows a day at London's famous Windmill Theatre but was not allowed to wait in the wings for his entrance with his older brothers because they followed the naked Fan Dancer act---Denis had fifteen seconds to race down five flights from the dressing room to be onstage when the curtain went up.

King Brothers Album

Listening Post

Why Should She Choose A Scarecrow


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