(by Turbot and Vulligan)
|Lord Rudolph||Esmond Knight|
|Lord Robert||Charles Helop|
|Official Receiver||Naunton Wayne|
|Lady Chancellor||Norah Howard|
Reported by Robert Morrison
This Gilbert and Sullivan parody, with music by Vivian Ellis and lyrics by A. P. Herbert, was performed as part of the programme of C.B. Cochran's revue Streamline staged at the Palace Theatre, London, from September 28th, 1934, for 178 performances. The revue's score was by Ellis and Herbert (who would subsequently collaborate on the musicals Big Ben, Bless the Bride, Tough at the Top and The Water Gypsies), and the comedy sketches were written by Herbert with contributions from Ronald Jeans. The cast of the revue included Florence Desmond, Nelson Keys, Naunton Wayne, Norah Howard, Charles Heslop and Esmond Knight, together with specialty dancers Tilly Losch and the Austrian 'La Jana'. Towards the end of Streamline's London run, Cochran also added 19-year-old harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler to the programme.
Streamline, Cochran's revue. Palace Theatre, 1934. "Perseverance" (by Turbot and Vulligan)', A. P. Herbert's burlesque of a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, with music by Vivian Ellis. Florence Desmond as Perseverance, with Charles Heslop, Naunton Wayne and Esmond Knight, assisted by Fisher Girls and Baliffs sort out a knotty 'Gilbertian' problem. (From Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchensen's Revue: A Story in Pictures, [Peter Davies: London, 1971]).
The following commentary and synopsis of "Perseverance" was included by Sir Alan Herbert in his autobiography A.P.H.: His Life and Times, [Heinemann: London; 1970], pp. 109 - 114:—
"In September 1934, at the lovely Palace Theatre, Cochran put on his Twenty-First Revue, Streamline. Ronald Jeans did two or three sketches and a song, but I wrote the bulk of it, and here began my long and happy collaboration with Vivian Ells....
.....our masterpiece, we thought, was Perseverance. This, though I say it myself, is a first-class parody of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Score published by Chappell.) It packs all the Master's inevitable tricks into a small space. There is an idiotic female chorus who open the piece on the Terrace of the House of Commons:Fifty fisher-girls are we
Selling fishes from the sea etc.
There is the arch soprano song, the unaccompanied quartette, the patter-song, the elderly spinster who puts all right in a contralto number. The plot is vintage Gilbert.PERSERVERANCE: Lord Rudolph! will you purchase a plaice?
LILY: Lord Robert, may I sell you a sole?
RUDOLPH (who has a very high fruity speaking voice — brushes them aside): Pray observe the decencies of etiquette, young ladies. There is no Lord Rudolph—
ROBERT (gloomily): Lord Robert does not exist.
RUDOLPH: There is only the Viscount Bunion.
PERSEVERANCE: Yes, but which is he?
RUD. and ROB. (linking arms): We are the Viscount Bunion.
LILY: What, both of you?
CHORUS: Singular coincidence.
PERSEVERANCE: Will you not explain this curious circumstance?
RUDOLPH: Certainly, my dear Perseverance. (Comes down stage.) On the death of our father, the Earl, one of us will succeed to the title.
CHORUS: O rapture!
(PERSEVERANCE clings to RUDOLPH.)
RUDOLPH: Yes, but we do not know which.
CHORUS: O disappointment!(PERSEVERANCE, with the other hand, clings to ROBERT as well.)
LILY: But surely, Lord Robert, the eldest son must succeed to the title?
ROBERT (gloomily): Ah, but we are twins.
RUDOLPH: And therefore are the same age.
PERSERVERANCE (coy): But though you are the same age it seems to me that one of you must be the elder.
CHORUS: Strange paradox!
RUDOLPH: True, my dear Perseverance. Even among twins there is generally, I believe, some trifling element of seniority.
ROBERT: Unfortunately our father has refused to reveal the true facts until his death.
RUDOLPH: For he feared that the heir, secure of his future, would spend his youth in profligate enjoyment.
CHORUS: Ingenious precaution!
PERSEVERANCE: But were not both of you present on the occasion you have mentioned? Surely it was a little careless of you not to notice the order of your arrival?*(* I can see old Gilbert writing that line.)
RUDOLPH: The reproach is just.
PERSEVERANCE: Is there nobody who can tell you which of you is which?
ROBERT: Our mother — a good Conservative — perished in a One-Way street.
PERSEVERANCE: But unless we know which of you is to be the Earl how are we to know which of you we love the best?
RUDOLPH: That is easily adjusted (RUDOLPH and ROBERT both kneel). Provisionally you must love both of us.
Next comes the sort of song which made me determined not to be 'another Gilbert':PERSEVERANCE:
Though I am loth to plight my troth
With exact particularity
Yet I might part with hand and heart
On terms of honest parity.
I will not kiss the one (like this)
Unless I kiss the other.
Pray hold my hand, but understand,
You share it with your brother.
With equity pedantical
She will not kiss the one (like this)
Unless she hugs the other.
This proposition frantical
Is almost transatlantical:
Half a loaf is not much fun
But half a lady's worse than none.
(Isn't it horrible? It makes me sick. But isn't it 'Gilbertian'?).
Next comes the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy who sings an admirable patter-song:
When your furniture swarms with income-tax forms
Or Notices Final in red,
With magistrates' warrants arriving in torrents
And bailiffs asleep in your bed:
If shares go to nought the moment you've bought
And soar to the skies when you sell,
If insurance collectors and taxing inspectors
Are constantly ringing the bell ... Etcetera
He brings bad news: 'The Earl has passed away. He has, in short, kicked the bucket. In point of fact he is deceased.'
CHORUS: O horror!
Then, of course, the Unaccompanied Quartette:
Death is the terminus of all our travel,
Whether in firsts or thirds our lot is cast:
Some live on clay and some reside on gravel,
But all must hand their tickets in at last.
Death is a riddle man can not unravel
Fal - lal - di - did - di - ly ay!
Fol - lol - di - did - di - ly O! etc.
Death is the terminus to which we go.
But who is to inherit?
RUDOLPH: And in his will does he disclose the name of his eldest son?
OFF. REC.: That trifling detail is not so much as mentioned.
RUDOLPH: Technically, therefore, we are both the Earl of Billingsgate?
OFF. REC.: That seems to be the position. I congratulate each half of your lordship.
ROBERT: In that case we shall have to take the same seat in the House of Lords—
RUDOLPH: Make the same speeches—
ROBERT: Wear the same coronet—
PERSERVERANCE (curtseying): And marry the same Countess.
LILY: Agreeable dilemma!
RUDOLPH: But stay, here comes an elderly female who may be able to disentangle us.
OFF. REC : What should this antiquated ruin know of the matter?
ROBERT: It is our Nurse.
OFF. REC.: On the contrary, I now perceive, it is the Lady Chancellor.
(Enter the LADY CHANCELLOR — an immensely tall Contralto, in her robes of office, with full-bottomed wig. An attendant carries her Great Seal.)
I am the Lady Chancellor, I am:
But once I was a nurse — and drove a pram.
Two lovely twins they trusted to my care.
Alike in size, in features, form and hair.
No marks, no moles, but I knew which was what,
For one was musical — the other not.
CHORUS: Ah, one was musical, the other not.
The elder babe would crow and croon all day,
And cry for mamma in the key of A:
The other seldom sang, and, if he did,
Was out of tune — Ah, how I loved that kid!
CHORUS: Though out of tune she dearly loved that kid!
What if my age is rather more than middle?
For his sweet sake I now resolve the riddle.
If one can sing the rightful Earl is he—
The other, still more blest, shall marry me!
OFF. REC.: A highly diverting narrative. But, so far as is known, neither half of this nobleman can sing a note.
LADY C: That is easily ascertained. Let them try.
OFF. REC.: May I warn your Ladyship that at the moment each half of this individual is an undischarged bankrupt?
LADY C: No matter. My miserable honorarium will suffice for two.
OFF. REC.: But not, I take it, for four?
PERSEVERANCE (taking an oyster from her basket): It is of no consequence. This oyster has just opened its doors and expelled a pearl of reassuring dimensions (holds up an enormous pearl).
CHORUS: O rapture!
OFF. REC.: Intelligent bivalve! Satisfactory pearl! Devoted girl! But still no Earl.
LADY C: Sing, Viscount!
(ROBERT opens his mouth but fails. RUDOLPH succeeds, so all is well.)
So now you know (a) how it is done and (b) why I have never done it.
Streamline was one of the rare theatrical enterprises I had a hand in that actually made money. If they revived revues there is much of this one, I believe, that would still stand up."
A. P. Herbert seated at the piano with composer Vivian Ellis standing behind.
A number of the principal items from Streamline (songs, dance music and sketches) were recorded by Columbia Records under the supervision of producer Joe Batten during the show's pre-West End run in Manchester, with spoken introductions by C. B. Cochran himself.
Included was "Perseverance," which was recorded at the Opera House, Manchester on September 13th, 1934, with Florence Desmond, Sepha Treble, Norah Howard, Esmond Knight, Charles Heslop and Naunton Wayne accompanied by Charles Prentice and his Orchestra, and released on Columbia DX-619. (Reference: London Musical Shows on Record 1897-1976", Brian Rust, [Gramophone; London: 1977])
Joe Batten wrote of the parody in his memoirs Joe Batten's Book: The Story of Sound Recording"; [Rockliff, London : 1956]:
"It was from Streamline that we recorded the most brilliant burlesque I remember: "Perseverance", a skit on Gilbert and Sullivan opera by Sir Alan Herbert and ...the music by Vivian Ellis. It has always been a mystery to me why such outstanding numbers are consigned to limbo as soon as the show is taken off. "Perseverance" should, and could, be interpolated into all sorts of shows, could be used in many broadcast programmes, and thereby saved from such an ignominious end as the theatrical w.p.b. This, of course, applies to countless other numbers of similar nature, and I throw out this suggestion to producers hard up for ideas."
[w.p.b. = waste paper basket, I presume!]
The recordings from Streamline were reviewed in The Gramophone, November, 1934 by Roger Wimbush who commented:—
Mr. Herbert's lyrics will delight all who do not mind the hive of bees in his bonnet, and Perseverance is a triumph, especially in an age which no longer appreciates burlesque. Not only is Sullivan guyed to perfection, but so is Gilbert, even down to his jibes at middle-aged women. I could write a column on this, but must pass on to Florence Desmond. [etc.]
In 1978 the World Record Club released a compilation LP of the original cast recordings from Streamline, (including "Perseverance"), and Ellis's 1934 musical Jill Darling on World Records SH 263. (Noted in "The Gramophone", March, 1978.)
Chappell Vocal Score Cover
|1934||Columbia||12" - 78 rpm||DX-619||CAX-7257-3 : part 1|
CAX-7258-1 : part 2
|1978||World Record Club||Mono LP||SH 263||Included in compilation of Streamline excerpts with Jill Darling|
Footnote:— Sir Alan (A. P.) Herbert was commissioned by Rupert D'Oyly Carte in 1947 to provide substitute lyrics for Ko-Ko's "Little List" Song and "The Mikado's Song" to replace Gilbert's use of the "n-word". Herbert was thus responsible for the amendments to the respective songs of "banjo serenader" and "Is painted with vigour And permanent walnut juice".