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Sail AwaySail Away

Described as 'A New Musical Comedy', Sail Away became the ideal vehicle for the performing talents of Elaine Stritch who appeared in both the American and British productions of the show. It started life as Later Than Spring (an idea for a film) then later Sail Away when it opened in Boston on 9 August 1961 to good reviews and sold out for this trial run. It moved to the Forrest Theatre, Philadelphia on 7 September before embracing Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on the 3 October for 167 performances.

This was Coward's penultimate musical play and enjoyed some limited success. It deals with the issue of love in later years and after various changes in the book centres almost entirely on Mimi Paragon played to the comedic hilt by Elaine Stritch and set on board the SS Carolonia.

It contains many memorable Coward songs including some (included in the later version of the play) used in cabaret to this day, 'Why Do The Wrong People Travel', 'This Is A Changing World' and the poignant 'Later Than Spring'.

It suffered from ambiguous revues and eventually gave Coward serious doubts about the value of the book, a rather thin story supporting much stronger musical numbers. Numerous changes were made before it travelled to the Savoy Theatre in the West End for a short run. It has been revived since by amateur companies and in a professional concert version played in 2008 at Sadler's Wells' Lilian Baylis Theatre, directed by Ian Marshall Fisher, starring Penny Fuller as Mimi Paragon, Vivienne Martin as Mrs Van Mier, and Rupert Young as Johnny Van Mier. It is perhaps viewed as the 'musical comedy that got away' - in other words it is musically much stronger than its theatre runs might indicate.

 

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Sail Away

The story centres around a brash, bold American divorcee, Mimi Paragon, who works as a hostess on the British cruise ship SS Carolonia.

Act I
Come to Me
Sail Away
Where Shall I Find Him?
Beatnik Love Affair
Later Than Spring
The Passenger’s Always Right
Useless, Useful Phrases
Go Slow, Johnny
You’re a Long, Long Way from America

Act II
The Customer’s Always Right
Something Very Strange
The Little Ones’ ABC
Don’t Turn Away from Love
When you Want Me
Why Do the Wrong People Travel

 

Sail Away (New York, 1961)

CD: Broadway Angel  ZDM 0777 7 64759 2 9

Come to Me (Elaine Stritch and the Stewards)
Sail Away (James Hurst)
Where Shall I Find Him? (Patricia Harty)
Beatnik Love Affair (Grover Dale)
Later Than Spring (James Hurst)
The Passenger's Always Right (Charles Braswell and the Stewards)
Useful Phrases (Elaine Stritch)
You're A Long, Long way from America (Elaine Stritch)
The Customer's Always Right (Charles Braswell and the Arabs)
Something Very Strange (Elaine Stritch)
Go Slow, Johnny (James Hurst)
The Little Ones' ABC (Elaine Stritch, Paul O'Keefe and the Children)
Don't Turn Away from Love (James Hurst)
When You Want Me (Grover Dale and Patricia Harty)
Why Do the Wrong People Travel? (Elaine Stritch)

Musical Direction by Peter Matz, Orchestrations by Irwin Kostal, Vocal Arrangements by Fred Werner [8 October 1961]

Sail Away (London, 1962)

UK: Lp EMI CLP 1572, USA: Lp: Stanyan SR 10027
CD: Varese Sarabande, ASIN: B0000A5A0M [July 2003]

Come to Me (Elaine Stritch and the Stewards)
Sail Away (David Holliday)
Where Shall I Find Him? (Sheila Forbes)
Beatnik Love Affair (Grover Dale)
Later Than Spring (David Holliday)
Useless Useful Phrases (Elaine Stritch)
The Passenger's Always Right (John Hewer and the Stewards)
You're A Long, Long way from America (Elaine Stritch)
The Customer's Always Right (John Hewer and the Vendors)
Go Slow, Johnny (David Holliday)
Something Very Strange (Elaine Stritch)
Don't Turn Away from Love (David Holliday)
Bronxville Darby and Joan (Edith Day and Grover Dale)
When You Want Me (Grover Dale and Sheila Forbes)
Later Than Spring reprise (Elaine Stritch)
Why Do the Wrong People Travel? (Elaine Stritch)

Musical direction by Gareth Davies. Some orchestrations by Angela Morley [June 1962]

 

For the Boston production:
The Boston Herald:

"Coward's SailAwayhas brilliant opening. The newest of the remarkable Mr Coward's solo achievements is a bright, funny, sassy and
evely now and then romantic musical comedy .., the evening was Mr Coward's and for all of his functions he should take a low bow,"

L.A. Garney in the Boston Daily Record:

"Glamour is the word as new Coward comedy thrills ... It may not be as good as Bitler Sweet but each musical interval seems delightful n, sing. More, the mating of the words to musical sound is as good as anything Mr Coward has ever done,"

Cyrus Durgin in the Bosun: Globe.

"Sail Away music good but show needs comedy ... but fitfullyentenaining ... goes back lathe musical-show-tor-run in the form ula of vignette treatment that Grand Hoteislaned years ago." The Herald: 'jean Fenn (as Verity) sings beautifully and looks exquisite in a role that seems oddly artificial and even cold, despite its ernor ional outlines."

For the New York production:

Howard Taubman in the New York Times:  "big, handsome, rakish musical."

Richard Colman in the New York Daily Mirror: "Sail Away docked at the
Broadhurst Iasi evening and we predict that it will be tied up at that
amusement pier for many months lacarne. This is not masterpiece of song
and dance, not oIT Coward '$ top comedy shelf, and doesn't have a song
comparable to those pop classics he penned for Biller Sweet bUI it has an
invigorating vitality that we find irresistible."
Thc New }'orkjoumolAtncrimn: "Coward Musical cruises to Nowhere."

The original US cast were led by Elaine Stritch and Charles Braswell.

The UK cast were led by Elaine Stritch with David Holliday, Mavis Villiers and Grover Dale.

(Maggie Fitzgibbon and Kevin Colson subsequently led an Australian production.)

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