The ominous announcement "Must Close Saturday" too often heralded the demise of British musicals. Looking forward from the vantage point of Lionel Bart's spectacularly successful Oliver! in 1960, Adrian Wright's authoritative chronicle of the commercially unsuccessful British musical of the last half a century uncovers a wealth of fascinating material. In the wake of the resurgence that briefly blew through the British musical at the end of the 1950s with verismo works such as Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be and Expresso Bongo, the British musical was shaken by Bart's adaptation of Dickens, but was quickly left floundering in the face of constant critical complaint and financial failure. The first book to deal exclusively with British musical flops, Must Close Saturday presents a rolling panorama of the good, the bad and the ugly, reassessing their place in theatrical history. Wright reveals a consistent striving at invention, with subjects including the electric chair, the Holocaust, the Virgin Mary, social inequality and Trade Unionism, sexual problems and murder, as well as biographical treatments of Hollywood stars, French painters, tragic novelists, royalty, and the Rector of Stiffkey. Discursive and provoking, Must Close Saturday at last prises open the neglected history of the British musical flop up to 2016.
ADRIAN WRIGHT is the author of Foreign Country: The Life of L. P. Hartley (1996), John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure (1998), The Innumerable Dance: The Life and Work of William Alwyn (Boydell & Brewer, 2008), the novel Maroon (2010) and The Voice of Doom (2016). His previous books on British musical theatre are A Tanner's Worth of Tune: Rediscovering the Post-War British Musical (Boydell & Brewer, 2010) and West End Broadway: The Golden Age of the American Musical in London (Boydell & Brewer, 2012). He lives in Norfolk.