Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis


Following the Overture, the theatre lights dim and the sound of a child practicing five-finger exercises on a piano is heard. Three performers are spotlighted in front of the curtain. They use Noel Coward's own words to introduce the audience to his childhood ("The Boy Actor").

Act One

The revue opens with a medley of some of Coward's greatest hits ("Something to Do with Spring" / "Let's Say Goodbye" / "This Is a Changing World" / "We Were Dancing" / "Dance, Little Lady"/ "A Room with a View"). A brief scene then cheekily recounts the joys of London in the spring, particularly in Hyde Park, where young people would lie unashamedly close.

Next, we are introduced to a young man and girl playing "Beryl" and "Fred," who have just left a local football field and are depressed by the outcome of the game. They wait for a bus that doesn't come. Fred begins to wallow in their poor fortune when Beryl reminds him that as Brits, they are cheerful by nature, no matter how bad things get ("The End of the News"). By the end, they are laughing so hard that they miss the bus.

Keeping with the theme of tongue-in-cheek critique, the company laments that the stately homes of England are only kept up for American renters ("The Stately Homes of England"). This sentiment is contrasted, however, with a girl reflecting on the true charm of London ("London Pride").

The focus of the revue shifts to a "Family Album" where characters sing about colorful relatives, including a vulgar aunt and a frisky, missionary uncle ("Aunt Jessie" / "Uncle Harry").

Next, the music halls of Coward's youth are highlighted; a medley ensues that features more of Coward's hits. A young woman carrying a parasol is chased by men in sport boaters and canes ("Chase Me, Charlie"/ "Saturday Night at The Rose and Crown"). The theme moves to nautical and island fun ("The Island of Bolamazoo" / "What Ho! Mrs. Brisket" / "Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?"). Finally, the medley ends with a big finish of men in hats strolling down Piccadilly ("Men about Town"), followed by a sentimental love song by a young girl ("If Love Were All").

Coward's passion for travel is the subject of the next vignette. A man and a woman sit comfortably at home discussing, and criticizing, the travel habits of others ("Why Do the Wrong People Travel?"). This segues to a Naval Officer preparing his crew for a sea voyage, where they must be courteous, no matter what happens ("The Passenger's Always Right").

The first act ends with a paean to the Stage Mother, by the performers discussing one who is particularly misguided about her daughter's abilities ("Mrs. Worthington").

Act Two

As the curtain opens, we find a trio decked out in elegant evening wear. The girl carries a lorgnette and the men carry tropical fans. They have donned this apparel to tell of the habits of Englishman in Asian countries who have missed a few cultural cues, and who therefore go out in the midday sun... something locals find crazy ("Mad Dogs and Englishmen").

The revue then continues to look into British society. Another man speaks of how he's been to a party and tells of all of the bizarre and extraordinary things that happened there ("The Marvelous Party"). Following that moment, a scene begins that has been derived from dialogue contained in Private Lives, Design for Living, Shadow Play, Nude With Violin and The Young Ida. A man and a girl begin dancing, and verbal sparring starts when another man cuts in. It all continues with a shuffling of partners, until the second man and the girl end up together. The original dancer is eventually left alone and wonders whether his love was just a dream ("You Were There").

The next vignette... a girl wearing a cape, white gloves and a headdress of three white ostrich feathers, alongside a man with several military ribbons on his jacket, are motoring along in the back seat of a limousine. They reveal that the girl is an actress about to give a command performance at Buckingham Palace. She is quite nervous and decidedly uncomfortable about her climb up the social ladder. She wonders aloud how she has ended up performing for the Queen when she is a simple pawnbroker's daughter ("Three White Feathers").

A series of vignettes continues the tribute to the theatre. These include: comments made by Sir Noel to reporters and critics, a recitation about an elderly actress, a monologue detailing Coward's first meeting with Gertrude Lawrence and Coward's observations about love and sex ("I Am No Good at Love" / "Sex Talk"). These observations transition to two men cheekily discussing sex as a question of lighting ("A Question of Lighting"). The section ends with the girl singing one of Coward's most famous torch songs about a young woman who is usually unsentimental, but is surprised by herself ("Mad about the Boy").

The revue moves to Coward's musings on women. We learn of Nina from Argentina ("Nina") and then of the exploits of a retiree who lives it up after her husband dies, reinvigorating her life with Italian soldiers at the bar on Piccola Marina ("Mrs. Wentworth-Brewster"). The mirth is interrupted by the desire to get back to nature and relax ("World Weary"). But, they are brought back to their senses by a loud, jazzy intro from the orchestra and find themselves performing Coward's famous parody of his friend, Cole Porter's, famous song about falling in love ("Let's Do It").

After this high point, the revue moves into the Finale, a medley of Coward's most rhapsodic and beautiful ballads. Filled with nostalgia and longing for the time when Coward was at his peak, the songs play to a classic musical theatre ending ("Where Are the Songs We Sang?" / "Someday I'll Find You" / "If Love Were All" / "Play, Orchestra, Play"). The music swells as the lights fade.