THE VALLEY OF SONG
by Phil Park lyrics by Christopher Hassall music by Ivor Novello and Ronald Hanmer.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 25 January 2014.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: William Russell
The Valley of Wrong.
The Finborough has a decent track record in reviving Ivor Novello musicals – Their Gay’s the Word was passable – but the decision to stage Valley of Song, his last, incomplete musical, beggars belief.
It is ghastly, a tooth-rotting confection set in Wales, saccharine sweet with second-rate Novello songs performed by a gallant but hopelessly inadequate young cast and a couple of older troupers. All go through the motions demanded by the director, smiling brightly as they warble and utter the libretto’s banal words.
We begin in the Valleys where the choir sings a number called ‘Cambria’ – their Welsh accents so atrocious it sounds like they hymning Cumbria. Local choirmaster David, also a composer (like Ivor), loves leading soprano Lily. She likes him, but wants to see the world, and become an opera singer.
The local lady of the manor, who owns several emporia, duly turns fairy godmother, taking Lily to Venice. Milan might have made more sense, but in Venice there’s Carnival, cue for a production number about lanterns.
At least it gets us away from Wales, though not from an awful lot of wailing. Lily meets an Italian Count, who is, of course, a bounder – he wears patent leather shoes, flashes his very white teeth, and smiles a lot – who is soon exposed as a cad, whereupon the First World War breaks out. We even get some bars of Novello’s much earlier ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ inserted. Would that they had used the fires to burn the score.
Naturally everyone then goes back to Wales – except David, who has come to Venice to see if Lily has changed her mind. He joins the army. Lily, betrayed by the Count, can no longer sing, a blessing in disguise given the ballads she is allotted. The lady of the manor has turned her house into a hospital for wounded soldiers and in due course David turns up with a stick to claim his love, who promptly bursts into song – as does everyone else.
The show should have been left unproduced. This staging does Novello’s memory and reputation no service.
Nan Brewster: Sandy Walsh.
David Evans: Linford Hydes.
Olwen Jones: Jill Nalder.
Gwilim: Lee van Geleen.
Swansea Argus: Harrison Rose.
Lily: Katy Treharne.
Maria: Amirs Matthews.
Ricardo Favero: Richard Mark.
Choir: Laura Allen, Katie Arundell, Amelia Clay, Ross McNeill, Harrison Rose, Philippa Tozer, Carla Turner.
Director: Benji Sperring.
Designer: Jacob Hughes.
Lighting: Nic Farman.
Musical Director: Adam Morris.
Choreographer: Sally Brooks.
Assistant director: Rachel Illingworth.