H.G. Wells was known for his often dark, frightening, futuristic, sci-fi novels, like The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. So, it's a bit odd to think of him in terms of the tap-tap-tapping your troubles away world of musical comedy. Yet there are two musicals (that I know of) based on his novels.
One of them, in fact, was a huge hit, Half a Sixpence. Based on his novel, Kipps, it told a story of class structure and social mores, a topic dear to his heart, following the life of Arthur Kipps, a lower-class orphan who later in life inherits a fortune. With a score by David Heneker, iIt opened in London's West End and starred a young rock-n-roll star, Tommy Steele. He brought the show over the U.S., where it played on Broadway for 511 performances, starred in the Hollywood adaptation and became an international star.
But there's also another, far lesser-known show based on a novel by H.G. Wells. It never made it to the U.S., but did play in London in 1969, Ann Veronica. The story is one of women's emancipation around the turn of the century (Wells was an ardent feminist), as a young girl wants to make her way in the world and rebels against her Edwardian father.
I came across Ann Veronica because the music is by Cyril Ornadel, who wrote one of my favorite shows, the oft-mentioned here Pickwick (which starred the even more oft-mentioned Harry Secombe). So, my research turned it up, and after quite a bit of searching tracked it down. The score isn't terrible distinguished -- the lyrics are by David Croft -- through there are several songs which are enjoyable. The title song is very affectionate, and this song, "They Can't Keep Us Down," is a rousing production number, performed by the wonderful Hy Hazell, a sort of Ethel Merman-like performer who I've written about in the past and embedded one of her songs here. (To make things a complete circle, one of her shows that I wrote about and also saw her in was the very long-running Charlie Girl -- which has a score co-written by the above-mentioned David Heneker.) In the title role is a young actress named Mary Millar, who alas I can't tell you anything about.
And so, get in your time machine and return to 1908 London, and the musical comedy stylings of H.G. Wells.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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