By W. J. IGOE
ZIP GOES A MILLION (THE PALACE TREATar) A STRANGE phenomenon is to be A STRANGE phenomenon is to be seen presently in the West End of London: Englishmen are starring in English musical shows. True. one comes from eancashire which soon may lie on the far-flung frontiers of the Empire; nevertheless George Formby is English, as native as hotpot, ale. and the summer ritual on green turf.
A second-night audience applauded Mr. Formby to what is called the echo, There were, admittedly. other good people in the play. But it was George's night. One was inolined to ask where he has been all these years.
'I his is the second show led by English performers -the other inconspicuously is a success — Mr. Emile Littler has given us recently. One must applaud his creative determination to build native stars. HIM' for a Boy, at His IMajesty's, is a charming piece of nonsense beautifully plais tel by that elephantine elf Me 1-red Emney and the spry. leery and insouciant Mr. Richard Hearne, with Mr. Austin Melford, soberly satirical, and the pretty Misses Eve Lister and Hermene French in support, Adapted from a "straight' comedy, Blue for a Boy, seemed to me, al least, to gain by the addition of music. It has the universal quality of innocence that attracts the laughter of young and old. It is family entertainment.
71P Goes a Million opens with it scene that is mere Oklahoma, the set almost a replica of the first used in the American show; it continues with a view of the " RitzCarlton Hotel in New York " that would fit into any slick revue, then echoes the undressed stage dance number in Kiss MC Kale; it gives us a South Sea Island scene. to coin a word. and. on the whole. is not a musical play, but a revue, On script it is alien and synthetic. Are there, one asks, no store to be found in the native soil of England which might be cultivated into good musicals. For example, Mn.Formby is a recognisable Lancashire working-class comedian; were all the mills in the North. " dark and Satanic?" Is it impossible to make a 'Lancashire musical play, with all the pride in a great effort the Americans conveyed in Oklahoma, about the development of industrialism.
Again, thistri shall see
w e week w
Again, thistri shall see
South Pacific, a musical woven into the context of the great American campaign in Asian waters. Are our writers brooding so intently upon the
inevitable agony of battles, which all seem to assume we lost, that they cannot find inspiration in the most magnificent war eon of all. from 1939 onwards, Britain's?
Hut it would be encouraging to British audiences to receive a lead, and not only on the stage, in national pride. Pre-Reformation England-anytime now we may sec an astute American producer base a show on The Canterbury Talcs—Eighteenth Century England. the England of machines and expanding commerce, the British who opened Canada. Australia and India, the Britain that won two terrible wars, at such dreadful cost—surely there are wonderful subjects in the history of this country. richer by far than America, which might be made into invigorating popular entertainment.
ZIP Goes a Million succeeds because Mr. Formby has a com mon English touch. We warm to the kindly turnip face, the revolving eyes, he mouth like a slashed coconut, the silly little songs—eaving Up For Sally — the melodiously tinny voice and twanging banjo. The comedian is the universal works — platoon and bar-room simpleton — mother's boy — the beloved henpeck — the father who Cannot hang a picture and underlying his everyday folly there is the sublime wisdom of the ordinary fool who loves and trusts the world. His comedy is earthy, hut never lascivious; we know he loves children, because himself he is a child. The music-halls of the country swarm with such men. most, admittedly, less experienced than this still young veteran, It is the task of men like Mr. Littler to develop that talent and to provide stages and scripts where it may be brought to maturity. It would unfair not to add that the producer is on the right path. and applauding him. when he brings us players like Mr. Emncy. Mr. Formby, Mr, Hearne, Mr. esTelford. Miss Sara Gregory, Miss Lister and Miss French. Mr. Ward Donovan, apparently American, the juvenile in Zip Goes a Million, added much to our pleasure by charming singing. manly comedy and unassuming personality,
Miss Gregory is a delightful singer of happy songs, the Northern equivalent of Mr. Formby.
The ballet is admirable. I regret I cannot identify by name, one young dancer who seemed to me " star material."