Wednesday, 26 December 2012


In Britain, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day, as we call it) is traditionally the day when families head off to the theatre for a seasonal outing.

So, as a treat for my blog readers (and as requested by some of you, following previous postings of John Moffatt and Elisabeth Welch performing songs from the show) here is Hit the Heights, a revue that I compiled for the BBC sometime in the '90s as part of their Christmas programming on Radio 4.

For the year in question, the output of the radio drama department was themed to the 1920s with a fictional family spending each night at the theatre, 'seeing' a show which opened during that decade. I was asked to put together a revue that reflected the many such shows that proliferated in the London West End and on Broadway at the time.

I did my research at the Westminster Library, where thousands of play and show scripts are kept that were once part of the Lord Chamberlain's office, in the days when scripts for public performance had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for approval or censorship.

I took advantage of having the scripts in this form to put back a number of lines and jokes that were originally thought too risque for an audience and were excised by the Chamberlain's infamous 'blue pencil'.

What is fascinating is how the writers got around the threat of censorship by the cunning use of innuendo – as you'll hear in the sketch about the house with a room where George Washington slept!

I was particularly surprised to discover that Noel Coward's well-known and much performed song 'Poor Little Rich Girl' was originally sung as part of a dramatic interlude in which a 'street-walker' offers a warning to a young society girl who almost gives in to the desires of her boyfriend.

Anyway, here is Hit the Heights with songs by Porter, Gershwin, Coward, Rogers and Hart, and starring a company led by John Moffatt, Una Stubbs, Charles Kaye, Nikolas Grace and Elisabeth Welch.



Boll Weavil said...

I still listen to this at least once a year.When I do, I usually find something new I hadn't heard before to appreciate.I know you don't like the intro but for me, it's all part of it !

JakeTucker said...

Many thanks for this Brian. Re my earlier post I did check in just before Xmas hoping you'd posted it. Over Xmas I didn't use the PC much though.
Thanks again. Great stuff.

Brian Sibley said...

Boll – Glad you still listen to it after all these years. The reason I don't much like the framing device (used to top and tail all the Radio 4 drama productions that week) is – apart from the fact that I didn't write it! – because it a) sounds phony (actors doing silly period voices!) and b) because the conceit that members of a '20s theatre audience could meet a bunch of actors (and a writer) who have not yet been born is so incongruous that it ruptures the suspension of disbelief... But I may be totally wrong!

Jake – So glad you got to hear it –– and enjoyed it!