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The Girl Who Came to Supper

This musical comedy is based on Terence Rattigan's 1953 play The Sleeping Prince
that had been staged in London with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh,
on Broadway with Michael Redgrave and Barbara Bel Geddes, and filmed as
The Prince and the Showgirl with Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. The musical
opened to good reviews in Boston but was less well received by the critics
in Toronto. Durings its Philadelphia run, President Kennedy was assassinated,
necessitating the opening number, "Long Live the King (If He Can)," to be replaced. After four previews, the Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Joe Layton, opened on December 8, 1963 at The Broadway Theatre, where it ran for 112 performances.

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The Girl Who Came to Supper is set in 1911 London at the time of George V's coronation. The first Act opens with the finale of the 'play within a play 'The Coconut Girl' where the leading lady Jessie Maynard is singing about her complicated love life while sitting on a garden swing. The curtain falls and the cast gather backstage to meet a royal visitor, Grand Duke Charles, Prince Regent of Carpathia. Everyone falls at the feet of their visitor - except Mary Morgan who plays Jessie - who literally trips and falls into his arms. This provides the spark of interest the Prince develops in her and he sends Northbrook his assigned British diplomat to invite her to supper. Mary's head is turned and she imagines a future where she is the toast of society.

At the Carpathian Embassy the staff express their annoyance at the disruption the royal visit has made to their lives. The Prince worries about the news of civil unrest at home and a nervous Mary with her 'five and dime store' background feels ill-prepared for an evening with royalty.

The Prince has prepared an intimate dinner for two that he hopes will foster romance. The evening does not go well. Interruptions by the Queen Mother, a vague woman who mistakes Mary for a variety of people including Sarah Bernhardt and begs her son to be less hard on his son King Nicolas who has been supporting the Caropathian rebels. Phone calls interrupt on the political situation back home and the arrest of the rebel leader, that are complicated further by Mary imbibing too much and reciting the American Bill of Rights and the arrival of King Nicolas protesting about the treatment of his rebel friends. Northbrook arrives to save Mary from her fate and the Prince tries to arouse Mary's sympathy for his plight but to no avail as Mary has passed out!

Frustrated by events Nicolas storms out and walks the streets of London where he meets Ada Cockle a fish and chips seller with a homely line in philosophy. She belts out a selection of cockney songs to a crowd of like souls.

Mary and the Prince emerge in the morning - she being unsure of the events the night before presumes she has spent the night with the Prince and must be in love. The Prince's icy responses brings her back to earth and on Northbrook's arrival she becomes anxious to leave. She meets Nicolas on her way out who expresses his interest in her. Before she is able to leave Mary meets the Carpathian delegation in full regalia on their way to the Coronation. The Queen's lady-in-waiting is ill and she urges Mary to take her place. Before doing so she must be invested by the Prince with Carpathia's Order of Perseverance, awarded for 'personal sevices to the head of state.'

At Westminster Abbey the crowned heads and peers of numerous nations wait in boredom. Mary returns to the embassy to return her borrowed clothes and is persuaded by Nicolas to ring the German Amabassador to tell him of his plight. The call is interrupted by the Prince who places Nicolas under house arrest and castigates Mary for her complicity. True to her nature Mary rounds on the Prince before being dismissed. Left alone the Prince contemplates how this unusual woman has affected him. Mary convicnes the Prince to be a more loving father - Nicolas is released and ordered to the Foreign Office Ball. The Queen Mother commands Mary to accompany Nicolas. At the ball the guest 'get down' with a ragtime number and the Prince invites Lady Sunningdale to join him later for an intimate supper. He is pleased to meet a woman who knows the rules, unlike Mary. On their way home Mary and Nicolas relax and she tells him in song about the fantasy of the theatre world she inhabits. Back at the embassy - to return her borrowed jewels - realisation is on the horizon as Mary sees the supper setting and imagines the Prince hopes for a second engagement. The Prince decides to have his revenge and brings out the vodka. Mary produces a proclamation she has written for Nicolas that repudiates his alliance with the Germans and the rebels to overthrow his father. He expresses his admiration for this worthy adversary and admits his true feelings. The next morning the Prince is a new man - realisation has struck and he decides on free elections in Carpathia and asks Mary to return there with him. Nicolas is delighted at the changes and he and the Queen agree that Mary must visit his country. Mary knows that life is not like this. Regretfully the lovers part and the Prince realising that he cannot stand in the way of progress leaves. As the servants cover the furniture Mary looks around and picks up a single rose as a souvenir and quietly steals away.

     

I'll See You Again

Act I   Act II
Swing Song   Coronation Chorale
Yasni Kozkolai (Carpathian National Anthem)   How Do You Do, Middle Age?
My Family Tree   Here and Now (Reprise)
I've Been Invited to a Party   The Stingaree
Waltz   Curt, Clear and Concise
I've Been Invited to a Party (Reprise)   Tango
When Foreign Princes Come to Visit Us   Welcome to Pootzie Van Doyle
Sir or Ma'am   The Coconut Girl
Soliloquies   Paddy MacNeill and His Automobile
Lonely   Swing Song (Reprise)
London is a Little Bit of All Right   Six Lillies of the Valley
What Ho, Mrs. Brisket   The Walla Walla Boola
Don't Take Our Charlie for the Army   This Time It's True Love
Saturday Night at the Rose and Crown   I'll Remember Her
London Is a Little Bit of All Right (Reprise)    
Here and Now    
I've Been Invited to a Party (Reprise)    
Soliloquies (Reprise)    


In November 1979 the BBC broadcast a radio adaptation of The Girl Who Came to Supper. The production was adapted by the writer Alan Melville (who was also a great raconteur and comedy actor) from the book of the Broadway musical by Harry Kurnitz.

The actor Keith Michell starred as the Regent with Peggy Ashcroft as the Queen Mother, Doris Hare as Ada Cockle, Edward Hardwicke as Northbrook and Deborah Fallender as Mary Morgan. Stephen Bone played the King, Nicolas. Richard Holmes conducted and Glyn Dearman producing the broadcast.

According to Internet reports, in 1981 this was released as a 2CD recording - although we have yet to see a copy!

Doris Hare sings London is a Little Bit of All Right:
   
The Girl Who Came to SupperAn original cast recording is available on the Sony label (CD: Sony SK 48210). It was originally released in mono on vinyl by Columbia (MONO-KOL 6020) with a portfolio of information and photographs. (NCMI)

In 1963 Noël recorded an album of himself singing his score from the show (DRG 5178).
Herman Levin who wrote the sleeve notes for the release says that these recordings were made by Coward for a variety of uses: for prospective backers, for musical arrangers and for record companies, etc. (NCMI)

In his book, The Lyrics of Noël Coward Noël says of the show:

"Most of lyrics in this were inspired, as they should be, by the book - Harry Kurnitz via Terence Rattigan. I would like to draw the reader's attention, if he is still with me, to the five 'London' songs and the intricate rhyming of the 'Coronation Chorale.' There are also some pleasant pastiche lines in the period of the musical comedy sequence, 'The Coconut Girl.' "

The Girl Who Came to Supper

Tessie O'Shea as Ada Cockle leading her cockney playmates in London Is a Little Bit of All Right.

The show was first presented by Herman Levin at the Colonial Theater, Boston, on 30th September 1963. It then moved to the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto and the Shubert Theater, Philadelphia. It was subsequently presented at the Broadway Theater on 8 December, 1963 and rabn for 112 performances.

The book and score have never been published.

 

The cast included Florence Henderson as Mary, José Ferrer as Charles, Irene Browne as the Queen Mother, Sean Scully as Nicholas, Tessie O'Shea as Ada Cockle, and Roderick Cook as Peter Northbrook.

Henderson and O'Shea were singled out for praise by the critics - the former for her one-woman delivery of an abridged version of The Coconut Girl, the latter for her extended song-and-dance routine - but the highly influential Walter Kerr's review was negative for the most part. He and others felt the show was an unsuccessful attempt to duplicate the success of the earlier My Fair Lady.

O'Shea won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Nominations went to Coward and Kurnitz for Best Author of a Musical and Irene Sharaff for Best Costume Design. The show proved to be the last with a Coward score and the only one of his musicals never produced in London.

The original cast are:

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