‘Darling of the Day’ – The Union Theatre

DOTD Finale

One of the reasons I planned my trip to London when I did was to see the first staged UK production of Darling of the Day at the Union Theatre in Southwark. The tiny London theatre has been noted for limited season revivals of various musicals in its small black box space, and I felt compelled to make the trip because there haven’t been many opportunities to see this show, with a score by Jule Styne and Yip Harburg, since its Broadway failure in early 1968.

Based on the novel Buried Alive by Arnold Bennett, Darling of the Day tells of an esteemed painter named Priam Farll who returns to London after an extended absence only to discover he’s to receive a royal welcome: knighting, galas, dinners, audiences with royalty; all things he despises. Upon the sudden death of his valet Henry Leek, Farll seizes the opportunity to “get out of the world alive” as he puts it and swaps places with the deceased. Matters are complicated by a lovely Putney widow named Alice Challice, who has been corresponding with Leek through a matrimonial agency. Romance and farcical hijinks ensue.

The musical was a bit of a fiasco in late 1967 and early 1968, going through a slew of directors, choreographers and writers before opening on Broadway without a credited librettist (never a good sign). Vincent Price starred as the artist, with Patricia Routledge as the lovely widow. The show received some kind notices, but was buried in the NY Times by a second string critic. By the time Clive Barnes and Walter Kerr had both chimed in favorably, it was too late. Darling of the Day closed after 31 performances. A few months later, Routledge won a Tony (shared in a rare tie with Leslie Uggams) for Best Actress in a Musical.

Unavailable for amateur licensing in the United States, the musical has languished in obscurity for many years. There have been concert revisions presented at Musicals in Mufti in 1998 and 2005, as well as a couple of rare regional productions. However, the musical has most lived on with the cognoscenti because of its superb original cast album, featuring the show’s two best assets: its lovely, rich score and Patricia Routledge, who is one of musical theatre’s most unsung heroines. This is the show that introduced me to the vocal wonder of Routledge, and I’ve long hoped for the opportunity to see a production of the show.

I had been following the progress of the show via Twitter, where I’d been interacting with director Paul Foster, musical director and arranger Inga Davis-Rutter and my beloved Rebecca Caine, who was cast as unscrupulous art collector Lady Vale. In the weeks and months leading up to the production’s premiere, I was following their missives from rehearsals and had some wonderful online discussions with Foster about the script and lyrics, and with Davis-Rutter about the instrumentation and vocal arranging she was going to be doing for the show. As a matter of fact, Davis-Rutter saw me in line for the show, introduced herself and proceeded to give me a whirlwind pre-show tour of the theatre, where I got to meet many of the actors during their warm-up.

The intimacy of the Union Theatre puts the audience close enough to the performers to feel as if you are in the scenes with them (most notably the Putney bar where Alice and co. kick it up). Foster’s production focused on the unlikely and enchanting romance between Priam and Alice, giving the show a great, big heart as well as some choice laughs. Matt Flint’s choreography was superb, and in many cases, downright surprising because of the limited performance space, most notably the barroom showstopper “Not on Your Nellie.”

The original book isn’t as much a liability as one might think. There are certain elements that don’t work, most notably its Gilbertian climax and ending. However, pushing past the farcical elements, there is a lovely and tender relationship at the show’s center and while it pokes satiric fun at upper classes, there is tremendous charm. Foster was given three versions of the script to use, and ultimately used the 1968 Broadway script (written by Nunnally Johnson, who refused opening night credit), aside from minor trims from that script, and the use of “An Extra Little Shilling” in place of “That Something Extra Special,” the text ran pretty much along the lines seen at the George Abbott Theatre in ’68. Foster also included “I’ve Got a Rainbow Working for Me,” which was excised from the Musicals in Mufti revision.

James Dinsmore infused Priam with dry sense of humor and class, and unlike Vincent Price, can actually sing. Katy Secombe made the audience fall in love with her the moment she opened her mouth. Secombe’s more of a Cockney belter; a contrast to the Routledge’s soprano, but everything about her performance worked beautifully – sort of the warm, charming woman young Cosette would wish Madame Thenardier to be. Caine was impeccably droll as Lady Vale, bringing unexpected and welcome soprano flourishes to the role. The entire production was superbly cast. The ensemble was packed with exceptional singers, with more harmonies than I can remember from other incarnations of the score that I have heard. A stand-out among his peers was Matthew Rowland, who played Alice’s Cockney pal Alf, a far departure from Mr. Rowland’s recent stint as Boy George in Taboo.

As I saw the show on its closing night, I was invited to join the cast in the Union Theatre’s accompanying bar for a drink. The cast was aware of me, and that I was coming to see the show – something that took me a bit by surprise. I had some lovely chats about the show and its score, and got to tell everyone just how much I enjoyed their production, and how much it meant to me to see it. I also had the opportunity to chat with Secombe and her brother Andy, also in the company, about their father: the late, great Harry Secombe. Hearing their stories growing up with one of the great voices in musical theatre was thrilling (particularly hearing what the late Mr. Secombe thought of the abysmal film adaptation of Song of Norway). My night entered another realm entirely when Caine presented me with her copy of the script, which she had signed by the entire company. My cup runneth over. (Pic courtesy of Rebecca Caine).


One of the treasures of this experience was not only the opportunity to see a production of one my beloved forgotten shows, but also the chance to see a show in the Union. They have developed a reputation for their various productions, which receive consistently strong notices and are handsomely attended. The venue had been threatened with closure by its owner, who wanted to turn the theatre as well as other surrounding businesses into office space. That should never happen.

Sunday Night Musings

My 2013 theatergoing started with my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera in about 4 1/2 years. Out of the blue, I got a message from Roxie asking me if I was interested in seeing Turandot and I thought for about a split second before saying yes. Puccini’s music is glorious – ask me some time to tell you about my experiences playing one of Cio-Cio San’s cousins in Madame Butterfly sometime – and this opera intrigued me. I only new the famed “Nessun Dorma,” a showstopper if there ever was one but I was curious since I knew it was Puccini’s final work, and that he died leaving it unfinished. I was captivated by this bizarre piece with its antiquated gender politics, bizarre Asian aesthetic and similarities to The Taming of the Shrew. Also, I was amused that they stopped to sing to the moon for what felt to be fifteen minutes. But, oh those melodies! And that glorious singing! Zeffirelli’s production is first-rate, and that set is to-die-for; however I had forgotten that Met Opera intermissions are longer than the norm. Here, the first intermission was 45 minutes, longer than the first act itself. It didn’t detract as it allowed Roxie and I the chance to catch up on other things, and to plan future visits to the opera, as I don’t intend on staying away another four and a half years.

Walking through Midtown recently, I noticed that the Music Box Theatre has replaced its traditional marquee with a digital one since the closing of One Man, Two Guvnors. It’s not the first one I’ve noticed; I don’t know when it happened but the classy New Amsterdam Theatre now houses one as well. Now, I understand that digital is the way of the future, but there’s an utter charmlessness in these LED screens. Instead of a billboard or sign that stands out, these two theatre marquees become just more billboards for tourists to ignore. And frankly, for being all state of the art, the quality is cheap. Let us hope this lunacy is just a trend.

I recently read Maurice Walsh’s short story “The Quiet Man,” which later became the basis for the eponymous film classic – and one of my all-time favorites starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The 1952 Oscar-winner is receiving its long-overdue Blu-ray release this month (and by all accounts it looks exquisite) so I’ve been paying attention and felt it time to check out the brief, 20-something page story about short boxer Paddy Bawn Enright, his wife Ellen Roe Danaher and his feud with his brother-in-law Red Will Danaher. And as fate would have it, the Irish Repertory Theatre will be presenting the first NY revival of the musical adaptation of the film/short story, called Donnybrook! with a score by Johnny Burke and book by Robert McEnroe, starting in February.

The show ran only 68 performances in 1961, but featured lovely songs and performances from Art Lund, Joan Fagan, Susan Johnson and Eddie Foy, Jr. (Also in the cast was Philip Bosco as Will Danaher). The original cast album has never been officially released digitally (though some rogue labels offer an mp3 for sale on iTunes and Amazon), but I was fortunate to receive a cassette tape copied from the record album. (Side B was the musical version of How Green Was My Valley  – another Maureen O’Hara classic – called A Time for Singing). I later acquired the Kapp Records gatefold LP, which I continue to play every so often. The cast, headed by James Barbour and Jenny Powers looks to be top notch, so I look forward to checking that out soon.

In other flop musical news, both Dear World and Darling of the Day are getting their first UK productions in the next couple of months. The wondrous Betty Buckley will play the Madwoman of Chaillot, which is cause for much excitement, at the Charing Cross Theatre through February and March. The latter, however, interests me more on a personal level. I have long been a champion of Darling of the Day, unavailable for licensing since its 1968 premiere, ever since I first heard the original cast album (which is a must for any show music fan). The Styne-Harburg score is delightful, and Tony-winning star Patricia Routledge is the pinnacle of loveliness as the show’s leading lady. So I am hoping to fly out to see this one, which will star Kate Secombe as Alice Challice (the Routledge role) and Rebecca Caine as Lady Vale. No word on the gents just yet, but the show plays the Union Theatre from March 20 to April 20.

Funny Women: Patricia Routledge

One of the joys of Netflix (and possibly its downfall as well) is finding shows streaming in their entirety. One of these shows is the British hit Keeping Up Appearances starring the one and only Patricia Routledge as the one and only Hyacinth Bucket, the irrepressible social climbing snob. While the writing is rarely up to the quality of the cast, the show is often quite funny with Hyacinth getting carried away with herself and foiled by her down-to-earth relatives and friends. One of my favorite episodes is the one where she was desperate to get a part in a local production of The Boy Friend and spontaneously burst into song at the drop of a hat.

Routledge was the subject of an episode of the BBC series Funny Women, which profiled some of the funnier female stars of British stage and television, including Maureen Lipman and Prunella Scales. I relish in every opportunity I have to see Routledge’s film and TV work, as I was not yet born when her stage career was at its peak in the mid-70s and early 80s. Even if the shows themselves failed (as was the case with her Broadway career), critics and audiences fell in love with the vivacious comic soprano. She won a Tony for Darling of the Day, which lasted 31 performances in 1968 (and should be the next Jule Styne score heard at Encores!). The star could have taken the audience home in her pocket after her memorable “Duet for One” in the otherwise loathed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (which ran only 7 performances).

The half hour episode briefly touches on her whole career, but focuses mostly on her TV work featuring interviews with the Ms. Routledge, Alan Bennett, Michael Frayn, Nigel Hawthorne and TV leading men Clive Swift and Dominic Monaghan. One of the things I especially loved was that people came up to Hawthorne after a gala performance and exclaimed “I never knew Patricia Routledge could sing!” I’ve had the same conversation myself many, many times. (And I would just love to have the entire clip of her singing “I Want to Sing in Opera”). Enjoy.



It’s Enough to Make a Fellow Fall in Love

Here’s a press shot of Patricia Routledge in her Tony-winning performance as Alice Challice in the failed Jule Styne-Yip Harburg musical Darling of the Day. The show lasted 31 performances at the George Abbott Theater (now the site of the Michelangelo Hotel) in 1968. In spite of the musical’s fast failure (which lost an astronomical $750,000), there are many merits within the show and score; friends and fellow bloggers know that I have long championed a revival.

Alice Challice is something of an unsung heroine of the musical theatre. She’s warm, vibrant, vivacious and pragmatic – a young widow living quietly in Putney who refuses to conform to the loneliness of widowhood. Endeavoring to get married, she uses a marriage broker to establish a correspondence with a nobleman artist’s valet. The role calls for a sensible, yet fun-loving comic soprano, “youngish,” whose material runs the gamut from tender ballads to raucous music hall numbers. There aren’t too many theatre fans familiar with Alice, but if they were it’s likely they would fall madly in love with her.

The show, which was a troubled vehicle for Vincent Price (!), failed rather miserably. It was based on Arnold Bennett’s comic novel Buried Alive about a shy British artist (Price) who switches identities with his dead valet “get out of the world alive” In doing so, he also takes up the deceased’s association with the Widow Challice, with whom he falls in love. An expectedly convoluted farce ensues where he paints under his pseudonym and is found out by snobbish art dealers, when all hell breaks loose.

Out of town reception was rather bleak, with critical pans in Toronto and Boston (in the latter city, Peter Filichia said it was one of the worst musicals he had ever seen, but much improved when he saw it in NY). There was a lack of steady direction, with four directors, two choreographers and five bookwriters. (Nunnally Johnson removed his name prior to opening night leaving the libretto without a credit). In spite of all this trouble the musical actually received a surprising amount of positive reviews. The only full-out pan was the estimable New York Times. Clive Barnes opted out of reviewing the show for the paper and it went to second stringer Dan Sullivan instead, who filed his wholly negative assessment. Barnes himself actually visited the show shortly thereafter and looked on it favorably. The Times also had Walter Kerr in the show’s corner, offering his Sunday column as a valentine to her many abilities. Kerr gave the leading lady one of my favorite pull-quotes of all time: “If you don’t catch her act now, you’ll someday want to kill yourself.” (He immediately added “I’ll help you.”)

Lying in the rubble of the show was Routledge’s Tony win (an award she shared with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby!) is the show’s original cast album, which is a charming delight and showcases two major assets – Routledge and the elegant and vibrant score by Styne and Harburg (Styne considered this his “Lerner & Loewe” score and his second favorite of his own musicals behind Gypsy). The show has been rather well-received recently in a couple of engagements at Mufti, which saw revisions made to the book and score in an attempt to refurbish the vehicle. Those revisions were supervised by Erik Haagensen, playwright and Backstage critic, who also made an attempt to fix Routledge’s other failed Broadway musical, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the early 1990s.

There was a shoddy live recording made of the show’s opening night performance which plays like a raucous hit. The audience lapped up the stars, doling out entrance applause for the two above the title, as well as character actress Brenda Forbes. The most vociferous reactions were reserved for Routledge, who stopped the show with her first number “It’s Enough to Make a Lady Fall in Love, as well as her reflective “That Something Extra Special” towards the end of the first act. The actress all but reduced the theatre to rubble with her eleven o’clock number “Not on Your Nellie.” During her ovation for the latter (which lasted a full minute), she can be heard very faintly asking incredulously “Is this all for me?” then after a beat pleading the audience “Ladies and gentlemen, if you please.” The audience took this as a cue to give one more cheer before allowing the company to the continue.

As I sit here writing, I realize that the musical opened on this day forty-two years ago. It’s a show that isn’t licensed for stock/amateur performances and has had very few revivals, the RCA cast album has been out of print for many years, but has resurfaced recently via ArkivMusic. The show remains off the beaten path, a lost gem that has brought me a great deal of joy.

Should Encores! (as I want to hear those vibrant orchestrations from Ralph Burns) take up the show, there is only one person in my estimation who should play Alice Challice (and I have Ken Mandelbaum’s agreement on this front) and that is Victoria Clark. What strikes me the most about this particular press shot is the uncanny resemblance between Clark and Routledge, as they share a similar voice type, sensibility and the honor of the Best Actress in a Musical Tony. By extension, I think David Hyde Pierce is ideal for the artist. Then I’d toss in Gavin Lee for the music hall numbers, and Edward Hibbert and Judy Kaye as the noblesse-oblige for good measure.

Darling of the Day is a gem just aching for rediscovery.

Kate Baldwin: "Let’s See What Happens"

Christmas came early this year. It started in October when Kate Baldwin released her sublime solo CD “Let’s See What Happens.” The album features Baldwin singing the songs of Lane & Harburg, the men responsible for her current success in the Broadway revival if Finian’s Rainbow, and is a disc that I find myself listening to on a regular basis. I treated myself to a rather luxurious Christmas present: an evening at Feinstein’s hearing Kate singing selections from her album.

Truth be told, I actually met Kate Baldwin the person before I became familiar with Kate Baldwin the artist. We were introduced to one another by SarahB last November at Birdland, where she and I simultaneously geeked out when Jonathan Tunick conducted the Broadway Moonlighters in the Merrily We Roll Along overture. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat star struck by her warm, gracious and effusive personality.

The first opportunity I had to see the actress at work was in the Encores! presentation of Finian’s Rainbow last March. There was something ethereal in the moment she opened her mouth to sing the first few measures of “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” The quality of the vocal timbre, the tone, vibrato and underlying emotion were fused in this beguiling sense of entrancement. Her understated, showstopping delivery was one of the highlights of the musical, which charmed enough critics to warrant a Broadway transfer. Kate Baldwin entered, as she calls it, “Leading Lady Land.”

While Baldwin has amassed some impressive credits over the past ten years, she has remained mostly on the periphery. She has appeared in some shows off-Broadway and Encores, but mostly understudied major roles on Broadway in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Wonderful Town, plus noted turns in Opening Doors at Carnegie Hall and at Wall to Wall Sondheim. In regional theatres around the country, she has had the opportunity to play many of the classic musical theatre heroines: Nellie in South Pacific, Maria in The Sound of Music, Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, Amalia in She Loves Me, etc, etc. and so forth. Kate is a performer of such versatility that she can easily be both ingenue and soubrette. In fact, were she born in the Golden Age of musical theatre, the creators of these shows would have breaking down her door to write for her. It is the unexpected and deserved success of Finian’s Rainbow that has catapulted her into the big leagues and is likely to be a serious contender for a Tony nomination this spring.

Sarah informed me of Kate’s plan to record a solo album, which would homage the canons of both Burton Lane and Yip Harburg, the men responsible for the Finian’s score. It was the news that she would record “That Something Extra Special” from Darling of the Day had me about as thrilled as you can imagine. That show, which featured Harburg’s lyrics set to Jule Styne’s music, is one of my all-time favorite scores. It was a fast failure in 1968, but earned Patricia Routledge a Tony, and became a cult favorite of many musical theatre enthusiasts, Baldwin included.

On the night of the first preview of Finian’s Rainbow, I had the pleasure of talking with Kate about the songs on her album, our mutual admiration for Patricia Routledge and many long-forgotten scores that languish in obscurity. There is a great similarity between her and the great Maureen O’Hara. Both are feisty, independent yet always feminine (and both excellent singers) Such is the case I think Encores! should revive Donnybrook! (the underrated musical version of The Quiet Man) for her. She is also exceptionally well-versed in the history of musical theatre, and is one of the few people able to keep up with my inherent esoteric rambling. (Like true musical theatre geeks we finished each other’s sentences about various shows and various composers). One of the beautiful things about her solo album is that most of the song selections are obscure gems that have long been waiting for rediscovery.

The album was released in October by PS Classics, just before opening to unanimous raves from the NY critics. The disc is a necessity for any musical theatre fan. Not only is it an auspicious debut effort, but it’s also one of the best solo albums I’ve heard in quite some time. The first cut is the aforementioned “That Something Extra Special,” which establishes the intimate tone for what’s to come, and is also an apt description of Kate’s vocal styling. Kate possesses a voice that is as at ease in soprano ballads as it is in uptempo jazz. She also enlisted many of the friends she’s made for orchestrations, including Jason Robert Brown, Rob Berman (her musical director and pianist at Feinstein’s), Georgia Stitt, and EGOT winning Jonathan Tunick (who also played clarinet for one of the cuts – even Benny Goodman would eat his heart out!).

It’s hard to pick out favorites, as I don’t think there is a single track on the album that I don’t enjoy. But my love goes out to the combination of “Let’s See What Happens,” also from Darling of the Day and “Open Your Eyes” from Royal Wedding, combined in a simple, elegant piano arrangement by Berman (who fuses the songs with the unexpected but brilliant “Emperor’s Waltz” by Johann Strauss). There are upbeat readings of “Come Back to Me” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Lerner & Lane), “I Like the Likes of You” from Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 (Vernon Duke & Harburg) and “Have Feet, Will Dance” from the 1957 TV musical Junior Miss (Lane & Dorothy Fields). Contrasting are plaintive readings of “Here’s to Your Allusions” from the infamous Flahooley (Sammy Fain & Harburg) and “Paris is a Lonely Town” from Gay Purr-ee (Harold Arlen & Harburg). She also plants the tongue firmly in cheek as she takes on Lena Horne’s unusual eleven o’clock number “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today” from Jamaica (Arlen & Harburg), an infectious calypso dismissing suicide. The album ends with a stunning “The World in My Arms,” originally from Hold on to Your Hats (Lane & Harburg). Her reading of the song is so intimate and so personal, it’s like stumbling across a love letter that fell out of the pages of a diary.

Being at Feinstein’s last night felt like a sort of throwback as we watched Kate Baldwin the Broadway star became Kate Baldwin the chanteuse. It was her first time performing at the venue, and apparently her first attempt at cabaret. She delighted with her effortless charm and offbeat sense of humor, all the while radiating a luminescent star quality. Her banter included lots of love for her husband, the equally charming and gracious Graham Rowat, as well as stories from her musical theatre background. The audience was smitten from the very start and laughed amiably as she recreated her high school performance as Evita (completely with all operatic head voice and absolutely no chest voice), a summer camp performance as Gloria Rasputin in Bye Bye Birdie as well as stories about looking up various fans on Facebook.

She set list for the evening contained mostly gems from the CD, delivered with the same intimacy and compelling intelligence found on the record (did I mention she referred to it as her “record” all evening? Points for period charm). Poised, patrician and elegant she was at ease with a ballad as she was with an uptempo number; transforming before our very eyes into a girl singer along the likes of Rosemary Clooney. She also added a few numbers not found on the album: “Too Late Now,” the gorgeous ballad by Lerner & Lane from Royal Wedding and a charming rendition of “The Merry Old Land of Oz” from, well, you know, but that included some tongue in cheek nods to other’s songs in Finian’s Rainbow. She also interrupted herself during Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields’ “I’m the Bravest Individual” from Sweet Charity to relay amusingly self-deprecating anecdotes of the unintentionally back-handed compliments she’s received over the years. Which leads me to a question: when will Ms. Baldwin record an album of Coleman songs?

Kate ended her set with “The World in Your Arms,” which is, as I have been known to put it, musical theatre zen. Her encore was the delicate arrangement of “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” from her album, which brought the enchanted crowd to its feet. If Mr. Feinstein is smart, he should already be arranging her next engagement before the Cafe Carlyle and Metropolitan snatch her up (which given her exceptional year, is an inevitability).

The season of Kate Baldwin, as Sarah has dubbed it, continues as Kate, Cheyenne Jackson and the cast of Finian’s recently recorded their revival cast album, which will be released by PS Classics early next year. Last night wasn’t just Kate’s first time at Feinstein’s, but also mine. (I even wore a suit for the occasion, and those who know me well know that’s a feat in itself). I couldn’t imagine a better first experience than hearing Kate, while sharing more laughs and good times with those good and crazy people, my friends Sarah, Kari and Roxie. Fortunately, this time no one yelled at us, nor did Roxie yell at anyone famous. So in all, it was an evening I shall never forget. Oh – and one more innocent confession: I’m a little bit in love with Kate Baldwin. (I hope you don’t mind, Graham). But truth be told, is there anyone out there who isn’t?

Critical Round-Up on Patricia Routledge

As promised, I spent some time in the campus library at SUNY New Paltz investigating their periodicals that consist of theatre reviews from the major news sources, mostly in the newspaper, but also some from transcriptions from television newscasts. (Which unfortunately meant that there was nothing about out of town shows in these volumes, so there was no Prettybelle for me to bring back for our beloved Sarah).

Here is the round-up on Patricia Routledge in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Darling of the Day:

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – 1976

“…and Patricia Routledge was often deliciously funny (although in an accent usually doggedly and oddly British) as all the First Ladies.”

– Clive Barnes, NY Times

“On the evidence of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, last night’s musical at the Hellinger, both the show and history would have been more fun if our Presidents had been women.
Certainly the liveliest sally of the evening, which whisks us through a hundred-year tour of the White House, is provided by Patricia Routledge who, as Rutherford B. Hayes is taking the oath of office, plays both a fluttery Lucy Hayes and a caustic Julia Grant in a Leonard Bernstein-Alan Jay Lerner number called ‘Duet for One.’
That’s fun.”

– Douglass Watt, NY Daily News

“But Lerner’s book was potted historyballs and his lyrics swing dizzyingly between very bad and very good, the best being a one-person duet in which Patricia Routledge played both the outgoing First Lady, boozy Mrs. U.S. Grant, and the incoming one, flibberty Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes. Ms. Routledge would have stopped the show, if there had been one to stop.”

– Jack Kroll, Newsweek

“The second and best of the two acts contains a glorious piece of vocal and histrionic foolery by Patricia Routledge. It occurs in a number called ‘Duet for One.’ With a toss of her head and an instant transformation of manners, Miss Routledge alternates between a feisty Julia Grant and a mincing Lucy Hayes. The resultant hilarity is worthy of Bea Lillie. You can’t do better than that.”

– John Beaufort, Christian Science Monitor

“And only once did a song hint at any real sass: The estimable Patricia Routledge, playing all of the Presidents’ wives to Ken Howard’s recurring husbands, was relieved of her whining matronly duties just long enough to engage herself in a one-woman duet in which a very blunt Julia Grant made mincemeat of a successor so refined that her very fingers were made of ‘delicate bamboo.'”

– Walter Kerr, Sunday NY Times, Stage View: “Moralizing is a Bore; But Good Music Helps”
Darling of the Day – 1968

“And then the widow, depressed on learning that she has wed a great artist instead of a lowly valet, repairs to the pub, gets tipsy all alone, and begins an ebullient song, ‘Not on Your Nellie,’ which is a real showstopper. This is Patricia Routledge in her prime.”

– John Chapman, NY Daily News

“Miss Routledge, who really can sing, has more to work with as the young widow slightly past her prime, and it is a joy to watch her. With those rosy cheeks and that comfortable bosom, she makes you think inevitably of buttered toast, crisp linen and good smells from the kitchen. Every artist’s dream wife-mother, in short: all common sense and unselfish solicitude.
But a lively wench with a couple of beers in her. The high point of Darling of the Day is a thumping good production number in the local pub (‘Not on Your Nellie’), in which Miss Routledge, somewhat sozzled, kicks up her heels with a bunch of boys. It would stop a livelier show; it starts this one, for a moment.”

– Dan Sullivan, NY Times

“Darling of the Day is a superior musical comedy, and Miss Routledge is a treasure.”

– Richard Watts, Jr., NY Post

“No such problems with Patricia Routledge, who played the wife as if an apple on a string, rosy bouncing and delicious. Miss Routledge had all the musicality the show hadn’t, not merely because of a strong singing voice (which could be legitimate when she chose) but because of her consuming sense of music and performing. She may have been the commoner but she had all the class.”

– Martin Gottfried, Women’s Wear Daily

“The chief attraction of the evening is the English actress Patricia Routledge, who secures her man through a matrimonial agency. Miss Routledge, equipped with a genuine English accent of the class and area she is supposed to represent (although Professor Henry Higgins might argue about it), is a joy all the way through. She is brisk, fresh and appealing, a comfortable yet lively youngish woman who can kick up her heels with a beer or two in the pub when the occasion arises. She projects a sort of jaunty domesticity in her pretty little Putney cottage.”

– Richard P. Cooke, The Wall Street Journal

(and my personal favorite:)

“And when she hiccups her way into a showstopper called “Not on Your Nellie” – this is a real showstopper, not a clamoring bargain-basement job that has figured out all the pressure points – she hiccups like a woodwind stealing into the pit at dawn. Becoming a coloratura in her cups, she lets you know the cups are mint Sevres. It’s all needlepoint, and nifty, and I warn you: If you don’t catch her act now, you’ll someday want to kill yourself. I’ll help you.”

– Walter Kerr, Sunday NY Times, Stage View: “Patricia is My Darling”

Quote of the Day: ‘At Large’ Elsewhere…

From Peter Filichia’s Diary on 10.10.08:

Kevin Daly did Encores! a favor by casting Darling of the Day for them. Now all that Encores! has to do is do the show. Daly wisely chose David Hyde Pierce as Priam Farll, Victoria Clark as Alice Challice, Judy Kaye as Lady Vale, and Gavin Lee as Alfie. I’m interested; aren’t you? Hope the powers-that-be at City Center are listening.

Would I chuck the old acquaintance?

Ditch the auld lang syne…?

So it has been 525, 600 minutes since I inaugurated the “Theatre Aficionado at Large” blog. First of all, I’ll write this inane sentence for those who know me in order to give them a chance to get over the fact that I have referenced Rent for the first time in my writing. Anyway, it started one year ago today. It seems that a brief retrospective on the first year of blogging is absolutely obligatory and I would not want to overlook the opportunity to look back and contemplate the experience.

It had started on Sept. 30 of last year. I was at the Sunday evening performance of Spring Awakening and went to Starbucks with Sarah and Noah afterward. It was during our discourse that both insisted that I should be writing – and Sarah especially insisted that I should jump on the blog bandwagon. I’d been keeping up with her blog for the few months prior and it certainly seemed like an interesting. Anyway, I thought about it for a couple of days and this site was born. I had no expectations, I just figured I’d do it.

Truth be told, I never thought that my blog would have any sort of longevity, which is why the first few several months didn’t have that many posts. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would write about, nor if I would have the time or discipline to keep it up. So the person most surprised that I’m keeping this up is me.

Blogging has proven a most incredible opportunity. I have met so many people who’ve become an integral part of my life whether it be here online or over brunch in Joe Allen’s. There’s this unending generosity of spirit and conversation that ensues whenever we meet, greeting strangers like old friends and carrying on as if these friendships had existed always. There’s also the added bonus that none of the bloggers I’ve encountered so far have likened themselves to the cattier posters on the All That Chat and Broadwayworld messageboards. Suffice it to say, it’s nice to be able to share what I know and what I think with such stellar company. So to Esther, Steve & Doug, Chris, Alicia, Kari, Eric, Jimmy, the immortal Roxie and especially my beloved Lady Iris, Sarah, thanks for a merciful year. And to all of you, thanks for reading. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Now if this blog entry were a musical, this would be heading into a raucous eleven o’clocker right now. And if you haven’t guessed it already, I feel Patricia Routledge summed it up best with hers in Darling of the Day. Enjoy.

Also note: The song is also among the tracks in my brand new shiny playlist courtesy of BroadwaySpace in the upper right hand corner. So now you can listen to some of your favorites – and mine as you read.