Where's Charley?

Musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by George Abbott based on Brandon Thomas' Charley's Aunt. Charley and Jack are two Victorian college boys desperate to court their beaus Kitty and Amy but can't without a chaperone. Enter Charley's aunt... who is not all she seems!

Where's Charley?, a musical version of the perennial favourite Charley's Aunt, is a Broadway take on a quintessentially English comedy-farce of mistaken identities.

Norman Wisdom headlined the 1958 West End Premiere which run for a total of 381 performances at the Palace Theatre. The Open Air Theatre revived the musical in 2001 for a short run in repertory, starring Cameron Blakely in the title role, which run for a total of 20 performances, including public previews.

1958 West End Premiere with Norman Wisdom

2001 1st London Revival with Cameron Blakely

Frank Loesser's other London theatre musicals include Guys and Dolls.

1958 West End Premiere with Norman Wisdom

Opened 20 February 1958 (no previews), Closed 21 February 1959 at the Palace Theatre

The cast featured Norman Wisdom as 'Charley Wykeham', Pip Hinton as 'Amy Spettigue', Terence Cooper as 'Jack Chesney', John Moore as 'Brassett', Pamela Gale as 'Kitty Verdun', Felix Felton as 'Mr Spettigue', Jerry Desmonde as 'Sir Francis Chesney', Marian Grimaldia as 'Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez', Helen Anderson as 'Patricia', Shelia Francis as 'Clara', Barry Kent as 'Reggie', Peter Mander as 'Photographer', and Jill Martin as 'Agatha'.

Directed by William Chappell, with choreography by Hanya Holm, and designs by Peter Rice.

This production closed after running for one year, having played 381 performances (with no previews). Initially playing an eight-performances-a-week schedule - Monday to Thursday evenings, and two performances on Fridays and Saturdays - from w/c Monday 9 June 1957 it was reduced to a seven-performances-a-week schedule when the Friday afternoon performance was cancelled.

Prior to opening in London's West End this production, with the same cast, was staged at the Manchester Opera House from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 21 December 1957; Glasgow King's Theatre from Tuesday 24 December 1957 to Saturday 1 February 1958; and at the Stratford Memorial Theatre from Tuesday 4 to Saturday 15 February 1958.

2001 London Revival with Cameron Blakely

Previewed 24 July 2001, Opened 26 July 2001, Closed 16 August 2001 at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

The cast featured Cameron Blakely as 'Charley Wykeham', Lottie Mayor as 'Amy Spettigue', Alistair Robins as 'Jack Chesney', John Conroy as 'Brassett', Karen Evans as 'Kitty Verdun', Christopher Godwin as 'Mr Spettigue', Philip York as 'Sir Francis Chesney', Mary Lincoln as 'Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez', Alison Crowther as 'Patricia', Eileen Hunter as 'Clara', David Lucas as 'Reggie', Elizabeth Cooper Gee as 'Agatha', Rachel Barrell as 'Ethel', Daniel Crossley as 'Harry', Howard Ellis as 'Arthur', Pierre Fabre as 'Manservant', Richard Frame as 'Humphrey', Andrew Hutchings as 'Tom', and Mark Roper as 'Wilkinson'.

Directed by Ian Talbot, with choreography by Gillian Gregory, designs by Terry Parsons, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Simon Whitehorn.

This production run in repertory, playing 17 performances, plus 3 public preview performances, for a total of 20 performances.

Cameron Blakely's London theatre credits include the role of 'Louis' in Dion McHugh's revival of the David Crane, Seth Friedman and Marta Kauffman musical Personals at the Apollo Theatre in 2000.

Lottie Mayor's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Swallow' in Gale Edwards' production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman musical Whistle Down The Wind at the Aldwych Theatre in 1998; the ensemble of Sam Mendes' revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver! at the London Palladium in 1994; 'Liesel von Trapp' in Wendy Toye's revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music at Sadler's Wells in 1992; and the ensemble of Ernest Maxin's production of the Gwyn Hughes and Maureen Hughes musical Bernadette at the Dominion Theatre in 1990.

Alistair Robins' London theatre credits include the roles of 'Captain Albert Lennox' in Adrian Noble's production of the Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon musical The Secret Garden at the Aldwych Theatre in 2001; the cast of Phillip George's prodcution of Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway at the Albery Theatre in 1999; and 'Captain Walker' in Des McAnuff's revival of the Pete Townshend and The Who musical Tommy at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1996.

John Conroy's London theatre credits include the roles of the ensemble of Ian Talbot's revival of Joseph Papp's adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park in 2000; and 'Frankie Holmes' in Rob Bettinson's production of the Francis Essex and Rob Bettinson bio-musical Jolson at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1995.

"Where's Charley? is more than just a delightful summer musical in the park. It is a significant act of retrieval, and a showcase for a brilliant performer. That performer is Cameron Blakely, who plays the Oxford undergraduate Charley Wykeham, compelled to disguise himself as his own wealthy aunt from Brazil - 'where the nuts come from' - as a chaperone to his own girlfriend and that of his best college chum, Jack Chesney... Ian Talbot's splendid revival has striped blazers and boaters, handlebar moustaches and pastel parasols, on a Terry Parsons design of honeycomb Oxford stone and college shields... Charley's Amy is played delightfully by Lottie Mayor, and the second romantic couple of Alistair Robins and Karen Evans maintain the right balance between soppiness and sassiness." The Daily Mail

"With George Abbott's sprightly book and Loesser's breezy score, Where's Charley? is, on paper, ideal innocent fun. But 'innocent' doesn't have to mean sheepish and coy... As Charley, Cameron Blakely is, at least, half-right. Smooth and determined... he lacks the other dimension of the role, the one that gives it tension and fancy. While Charley the man is enraged and embarrassed by having to masquerade as a chaperone, Charley the amateur actor is practically levitating with glee at the success of his impersonation... As Amy and her friend, Lottie Mayor and Karen Evans are drab, screeching harpies. Mary Lincoln, as the real aunt, is laboriously gracious instead of sophisticated. But Philip York is charming as her suitor, and Christopher Godwin droll as a pantomime-Malvolio wicked uncle. The costumes, by Terry Parsons, look as if they have been run up from the curtains in a bankrupt seaside hotel." The Independent

"This Broadway musical splices the story of Brandon Thomas's original farce with musical numbers. The result is a mildly entertaining piece but one that never quite builds up a head of steam. Indeed, the two styles seem to pull away from each other, with the songs interrupting and slowing the momentum of the farce... The music is appealing, but not particularly memorable and much of the comedy is a bit flat, partly because it lacks the build-up that will get an audience in the mood to fall about at daft scenarios. Ian Talbot's production has a lightness of touch and some enjoyable details, both in direction and design. Karen Evans and Lottie Mayor are charming as the two sweethearts, and Mary Lincoln adds a touch of elegance as the real aunt. But while the show is a pleasant enough way to pass a summer evening in the Open Air theatre, for a proper laugh you would have to go back to the original." The Financial Times

Where's Charley? in London at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre previewed from 24 July 2001, opened on 26 July 2001, and closed on 16 August 2001