Beautiful and Damned

Previewed 28 April 2004, Opened 10 May 2004, Closed 14 August 2004 at the Lyric Theatre

It's the roaring twenties!... The party was never ending... The price was high... An evocative and glittering musical set in the 1920's, Beautiful and Damned tells the tragic story of Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The glamorous and fashionable couple, successful young author and stylish young wife, with their high spending, high living lifestyle, became the envy of the world. She's over the top; and he's under the table; Putting on a crazy show; Welcome to the party; It's a champagne rodeo. Scott christened the period The Jazz Age, and Zelda was its high priestess. However, behind the dazzling and elegant facade, a darker story awaits to be told...

The cast for Beautiful and Damned in London features Michael Praed as 'F Scott Fitzgerald' and Helen Anker as 'Zelda Fitzgerald' with David Burt as 'Judge Sayre' and Susannah Fellows as 'Minnie Sayre'. Directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood with designs by Christopher Woods and lighting by Nick Richings. Musical devised by Roger Cook with music and lyrics by Roger Cook and Les Reed and book by Kit Hesketh Harvey with additional material by Phil Willmott. Craig Revel Horwood's West End credits include Hard Times The Musical (Haymarket Theatre in 2000).

"Drink, drugs, insanity, destructive relationships and the untimely death of one of the greatest novelists the world has ever known. Stick it all together and what have you got? The perfect recipe for a West End musical. The booze-fuelled marriage of the brilliant American writer F Scott Fitzgerald and his troubled wife Zelda was an explosively tragic affair which ended with his early death and her incarceration in a mental institution. Not perhaps ideal material for a feelgood night at the theatre. But I promise that feel good you will after this exhilarating show, which triumphantly combines a damned good story with some beautiful songs. As the Southern belle Zelda, who instantly falls for the handsome young author just as the roaring 20s are about to give debauchery a bad name, Helen Anker charismatically makes the entire production sparkle. Michael Praed delivers a fine performance as Fitzgerald, a genius whose main flaw was his unflinching belief that vast amounts of alcohol helped his creativity. Both Anker and Praed sing wonderfully. And as a graduate of the Royal Ballet School, it is no surprise that Ms Anker dances like a dream. Based on a book by Kit Hesketh Harvey and the music and lyrics of Les Reed and Roger Cook, this is a seriously superior musical." The Daily Mirror

"'In the really dark night of my soul it is always three o'clock in the morning,' wrote F Scott Fitzgerald in one of his few good lines not quoted in Beautiful and Damned, an eccentrically mismatched and misconceived new musical that opened last night for what may be more of a convulsive stagger than a run. By about three interminable hours in, I began to know exactly how Old Scottie felt. The problem starts with the concept: turning the lives of two gay, drunken misfits obsessed with only themselves and each other into a romantic musical makes as much sense as turning Macbeth into a Disneyland theme park... [Kit Hesketh Harvey's] book for the musical lurches from the Madhouse where Zelda ended up, to gay Riviera routs where extras stand around looking like the kind of 'writers' who thought the Pulitzer was a new electric kettle. As for Anker, she has to start her performance as Carol Channing, progress through Hedda Gabler and Evita only to end up as the Madwoman of Chaillot - not an easy transition even for a great actress, especially as she is finally denied the mental-home fire that ended her life and would have allowed her to give us a bit of - Rebecca as well... Hesketh Harvey has to abandon any serious attempt at a story-led musical tragedy to allow for yet another Craig Revel Horwood dance routine. You could argue that this is the birth of a new kind of literary sing-along. But on the whole I would much rather have watched Ernie Get Your Gun (a celebration of a suicidal Hemingway) or even the Rebecca West Side Story." The Daily Express

"Enjoyable as this parade of generic hedonism and flapper costumes may be, Fitzgerald completists, or even those who simply liked The Great Gatsby, will not find their literary appreciation much enhanced. Style beats substance hands down, which in a roundabout way is a fitting summation of these two scintillatingly wasted lives. Interestingly Kit Hesketh-Harvey's book has Zelda as the main player; her moneyed Alabama background has already been fleshed out by the time young Scott arrives on a staircase bathed in the light befitting a minor Greek God. Helen Anker gives a suitably febrile performance and sings her way heroically through a succession of Les Reed and Roger Cook's sweetly forgettable tunes. Michael Praed's Scott also sings rather well although, unlike Anker, he is not given so many opportunities for pathos once the party has turned sour and the guests have departed. The couple's poignant late duet, Save Me the Waltz, elegantly sums up the perils of a marriage played out under the glare of the world's flashbulbs." The London Evening Standard

"Beautiful and Damned is an all-singing, all-dancing version of the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. The songs are competent without being catchy, the dance numbers are energetic without being exciting, the designs press the obvious Jazz Age buttons without producing a buzz. What irretrievably scuppers the show, however, is the book, a witless affair (by the usually urbane Kit Hesketh Harvey) which leaves no cliche unturned and offers laughably dumbed-down portraits of the central characters... David Burt has fun as a chunky Ernest Hemingway; the rest of the cast, beginning with Michael Praed as Scott and Helen Anker as Zelda, deserve our compassion, and I can only wish them better roles next time." The Sunday Telegraph

Beautiful and Damned in London at the Lyric Theatre previewed from 28 April 2004, opened on 10 May 2004 and closed on 14 August 2004.