Musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics and book by Alan Ayckbourn, based on the Jeeves stories by P G Wodehouse. The 1996 revised revival was renamed 'By Jeeves' and was described being 'a mostly new musical'.
Rumour has it that confusion reigned at a recent weekend house party held at Totleigh Towers by magistrate Sir Watkyn Bassett. Among the guests where his daughter Madeline Bassett, his ward Stephanie 'Stiffy' Byng, the prominent scholar and sportswoman Miss Honoria Glossop, the wealthy US food magnate Mr Cyrus Budge III (Jnr), leading newt authority Mr Augustus Fink-Nottle, the Reverend Mr Harold 'Stinker' Pinker and the diminutive eligible bachelor, Mr Bingo Little. Also attending was banjo virtuoso Mr Bertram Wooster who was reputed to be at the centre of most of the curious goings on. So hilarious were events that a group of talented actors are now busy recreating highlights of the weekend in the West End each evening.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End musicals include The Phantom of the Opera, The Beautiful Game, Cats the Musical, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Love Never Dies, Starlight Express, Stephen Ward the Musical, Sunset Boulevard, Whistle Down The Wind and The Woman in White.
Alan Ayckbourn's West End credits include Absent Friends, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval, The Divide, How The Other Half Loves, The Norman Conquests (trilogy: Table Manners, Living Together, and Round and Round the Garden), Relatively Speaking, Woman in Mind, and Things We Do for Love. Alan Ayckbourn also provided lyrics to the Roger Glossop's children's show of Beatrix Potter's Where is Peter Rabbit?
Jeeves - Original London West End Production 1975
Previewed 11 April 1975, Opened 22 April 1975, Closed 24 May 1975 at Her Majesty's Theatre
Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Jeeves in London, based PG Wodehouse's Jeeves
The cast features David Hemmings as 'Bertram (Bertie) Wooster', Michael Aldridge as 'Jeeves' and Gabrielle Drake as 'Madeleine Bassett'. Directed by Eric Thompson and Alan Ayckbourn with choreography by Christopher Bruce, designs by Voytek (Wojciech Roman Pawel Jerzy Szendzikowski) and lighting by Robert Ornbo.
This production played 10 preview performances and 38 regular performances before closing early.
"The sight of a British musical falling flat on its face is not a pretty sight, although it is a fairly familiar experience in a theatre. But I never expected Jeeves to be so dreary, unfunny, untuneful and so woefully staged. Much of the music was greeted not so much by applause as faintly disguised sympathy. But wherever you look in this show you come across inexplicable failure, because a lot of proven talent is involved... Eccentric characters litter the stage in search of witty lines and funny situations... But the cast is handicapped by the inept dialogue. The story is little more than a series of would-be comic turns with Wooster and Co. falling in and out of love in a stately mansion. Director Eric Thompson has a string of recent hits to his credit. It hardly seems possible that he had a hand in this clumsy production." The Daily Mirror
"The big British musical of the year, based on the Jeeves stories by PG Wodehouse, is not a success. It has, at its centre, a gallant and endearing performance by David Hemmings as the monocled ass Bertie Wooster and two or three pleasing and catchy melodies by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Everybody else, more or less, sinks without a trace. For Alan Ayckbourn Jeeves has proved a booby trap, Mr. Ayckbourn's play surprisingly lacks invention and sparkle, and his lyrics are wooden and uncomfortable... The Wodehouse stories simply do not provide musical comedy material, and the idea should have been abandoned at birth... Hemmings, not a great singing star, is given far too much to do, and is constantly left stranded on the stage during somebody else's number. But he finally wins you over through sheer grit. The effort of many good and talented men, Jeeves is a renewed warning to the British that the difficult and demanding musical comedy form is best left to professionals at the game." The Daily Express
"The main point at issue is whether Alan Ayckbourn and his composer have underestimated the required scale of operations. Jeeves is a modest, well-written, unspectacular piece in the musical comedy tradition: everything stops when somebody gets a song, and Eric Thompson's production generally inhabits small areas of the stage and shows no flair for company animation. The score is patchy. Some numbers take off into cascades of joyous invention... But there is also an excessive amount of dutiful twenties pastiche. I admired the crafity increasing grandeur of Voytek's sets: pastel backdrops gradually ascending to solid Corinthian pillars, and a complete baronial interior wheeled on by Jeeves at the end. At close quarters, the show gives considerable pleasure; up in the circle it might all seem a long way off." The Times
Jeeves in London at Her Majesty's Theatre previewed from 11 April 1975, opened on 22 April 1975 and closed on 24 May 1975
By Jeeves - 1st London West End Revival (revised) 1996
Previewed 26 June 1996, Opend 2 July 1996, Closed 28 September 1996 at the Duke Of York's Theatre
Transferred 3 October 1996, Closed 22 February 1997 at the Lyric Theatre
The cast features Steven Pacey as 'Bertram (Bertie) Wooster' and Malcolm Sinclair as 'Jeeves' with Bob Austin, Nic Colicos, Simon Day, Nick Haverson, Richard Long, Diana Morrison, Cathy Sara and Lucy Tregear. Directed by Alan Ayckbourn with choreography by Sheila Carter, sets by Roger Glossop, costumes by Louise Belson and lighting by Mick Hughes.
"The show is based on PG Wodehouse's Jeeves stories, which is a massive challenge: PG Wodehouse is one of the masters of English prose, and he deploys it with deadly expertise and an impeccable sense of style to create a Home Counties never-never land that is instantly recognisable and hilarious beyond anyone's power to imitate.... By Jeeves! takes a little while to hit its stride, but by the second half Andrew Lloyd Webber's music really begins to sparkle with an identifiable feel of the batty 1920s. I am a little uneasy about Steven Pacey's Bertie Wooster. Partly it's that Pacey cannot help looking intelligent, whereas Bertie's intelligence is strictly of the Cro-Magnon variety, deploying an asinine dignity to make him impervious to common sense. Also, Bertie should sound, if not utterly upper class, at least like Noel Coward, and should suggest that he had at least been to, if not been chucked out of, a fairly pukka school... Malcolm Sinclair is an excellent Jeeves, sleek, calm and ostentatiously unobtrusive, weary but alert, a combination of an undertaker and a bishop... An enchantingly batty evening." The Sunday Times
"I emerged with a warm glow from By Jeeves, the reworked Andrew Lloyd Webber / Alan Ayckbourn musical, when I saw it played in the round at Scarborough. In transporting this charming little show to the Duke of York's in London, Sir Andrew has introduced a new song and director Ayckbourn has reset the story on a conventional stage. And both have come up trumps. With the same wonderfully P G Wodehouse-ian cast, in which Steven Pacey and Malcolm Sinclair spar splendidly as Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves, this jolly mixture of farce and song provides about as much fun as you can get in a public place without attracting the attention of the constabulary. Packed solid with the feelgood factor, it's a happy-go-lucky delight." The News of the World
"By Jeeves is an extensive reworking of a 20-year-old show. It has Alan Ayckbourn's book and lyrics and trades happily on the period artlessness of bright young things. These, together with Lloyd Webber's score, frame this as a chamber musical. The show isn't awash with singing servants but there are enough to indicate the presence of a put-upon class, well able to hold its own, certainly in the person of Malcolm Sinclair's effortlessly manipulative Jeeves... Like Wooster himself, this show knows exactly how far to go. That isn't quite the same as saying it never puts a polished toe cap wrong, rather the artifice is in direct proportion to the familiarity of the audience with the worldof Jeeves. Of course the characters are two-dimensional as cardboard but what you do get are sweet songs, not show-stopping bolters." The Guardian
By Jeeves in London at the Duke Of York's Theatre previewed from 26 June 1996, opend on 2 July 1996 and closed on 28 September 1996, transferred to the Lyric Theatre from 3 October 1996 and closed 22 February 1997