Not A Flop, By Jeeves!

With the announcement that By Jeeves is going to be streamed as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s weekly The Shows Must Go On! initiative on Youtube from Friday 8 May, it’s time to clear up some nonsense you might have read.

For – according to some less than solidly researched articles, websites and tweets – you’re going to get the chance to see Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s flop West End musical Jeeves.

You’re not.

You’re never going to.

What you will see is the rather more successful, award-winning, Olivier Award nominated and critically acclaimed musical By Jeeves. Which aside from sharing several songs with Jeeves is almost a completely different musical.

So here’s some facts that sets out why you’re not getting the chance to see Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical flop Jeeves, but the rather different beast, By Jeeves.

By Jeeves (© Really Useful Company)

Different Musicals, Similar Names

Jeeves and By Jeeves have, in recent years, been frequently conflated into one musical, which is generally referred to as Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘flop’ musical Jeeves.

But they are not the same musical and whilst Jeeves (1975) was an undoubted flop, By Jeeves (1996) was also undoubtedly a critical and popular success on its premiere. Here, we differentiate between the two.

The Facts: Jeeves

○ Jeeves was, inarguably, a flop West End musical.

○ It’s one – and only – professional production opened at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 March 1975 before transferring to Her Majesty’s Theatre on 22 April 1975. The musical closed on 24 May 1975.

○ Jeeves was conceived as a large scale West End musical. It had a cast of 22 actors and an orchestra of 19 musicians. It featured numerous changes of location and set (via constantly changing backcloths).

○ The musical had 14 songs (not including reprises) and, when it first opened, ran in excess of four hours. By the end of its West End run, this had been reduced to slightly less than three hours.

○ A cast recording on vinyl was released but was not widely available nor successful; it is considered to be one of the rarest Ayckbourn collectables.

○ There has also been one amateur production of Jeeves – significantly edited and cut – which was produced in 1981 at Dulwich College. This version is also not available for production and has been withdrawn.

○ Jeeves has had one professional production. It was withdrawn almost immediately afterwards and was never published. It will never be produced, staged, recorded nor seen again.

The Facts: By Jeeves

○ By Jeeves is not Jeeves! (Let’s get that one out of the way first…)

○ By Jeeves was the opening production of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1996. It was critically acclaimed and performed to sold-out houses (and ran for longer than the original West End production of Jeeves).

○ This production then transferred to the Duke Of York’s Theatre in the West End for a limited run between 2 July and 28 September 1996. Its success led to a transfer to the Lyric Theatre between 3 October and 22 February 1997. This production then went onto a successful UK tour.

○ By Jeeves won the TMA Regional Theatre Award for Best Musical in 1996 and it was nominated for the Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. The actor Steven Pacey was also nominated for Best Actor in a Musical as Bertie and and Louise Belson was nominated for Best Costume Designer.

○ It had its first North American production in October 1996 at the Norman Terris Theater, Chester, Connecticut. It would be produced several more times in North America before premiering on Broadway on 30 December 2001 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

○ By Jeeves was conceived as a small-scale, small-cast musical. It has a cast of 11 actors with an intended orchestration of four musicians. It features a single-set.

○ By Jeeves has 11 songs, three of which were taken from the original musical in their original form with most of the songs newly written for By Jeeves. It runs for – approximately – two and a quarter hours.

○ Alan Ayckbourn wrote ‘virtually’ a new book for By Jeeves and the plots are not the same. The main antagonist in Jeeves is Wodehouse’s character Spode but, in By Jeeves, it is Ayckbourn’s creation, Cyrus Budge Jnr III.

○ There have been three cast recordings released on CD of By Jeeves and the West End & Broadway cast recordings are also available to stream.

○ It was adapted for and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 14 December 1996 and adapted and recorded for television during 2001 featuring the Broadway company; this is the production being streamed as part of The Shows Must Go On!

○ Alan Ayckbourn has directed more productions of By Jeeves than any of his other plays or works. He’s very fond of it and was definitely watching on the opening night (unlike Jeeves!).

○ By Jeeves has been produced by professional and amateur companies around the world and is constantly available for production.

One other salient fact. No-one is ever going to see the original Jeeves again – no matter what you may read – neither Alan Ayckbourn nor Andrew Lloyd Webber would ever agree to it being re-staged.

If any writer, article, website sir tweet says Alan Ayckbourn’s flop musical Jeeves is being revived, screened, streamed or anything else. Don’t believe it.

It will always be By Jeeves being revived, staged, streamed or recorded.

So with that cleared up, you can enjoy Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical success By Jeeves from 8 May at 7pm for 48 hours on The Shows Must Go On! channel on Youtube.

You can find out more about Jeeves and By Jeeves including interviews, articles, lost songs and an in-depth history on Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website here.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.

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