I had only planned to post those two other of these lesser-known, but wonderful love songs. I thought about posting a glorious song, "I Know Now," from the British musical, Robert and Elizabeth, which is one of my all-time fave love songs, but I'd posted it a couple times in the past and figured not today. But for reasons I will explain -- well, bear with me.
Robert and Elizabeth is about the great poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street. My folks saw it in London in 1964 and brought the cast album home -- and it has one of the most glorious, elegant scores on a par, I think (for my taste) to My Fair Lady. Then again, if you're going to write a musical about two of the English languages most-famous poets, you'd better put some pretty good words in their mouths to sing. It was written by Ronald Millar, who did the book and lyrics, and Ron Grainer, who wrote the music. (He also wrote the theme music for the classic TV series, The Prisoner.)
The show had a long run on the West End of 948 performances, over two years. Alas, the musical never came to the United States. Years later I finally found out the reason, which had to do with the copyright. They had the stage rights to adapt the play in England....but for whatever reason, not in the U.S. And again for whatever reason, that never could get worked out. So, I've never had a chance to see it. I've been limited to hearing the score over and over, and reading the book of the musical. (And watching the movie of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, with Charles Laughton as the monstrous father. You can easily hear where all the songs fit in) Unfortunately, the musical remains largely unknown in the United States. (Oddly, I've read of two productions in the U.S. A small one in Chicago in 1974, and another at the well-regard Paper Mill Playhouse in 1982. But I know of no other in the U.S. From what I've read, it's unclear but possible that the copyright prohibition was limited to just Broadway.)
The show starred Keith Michell and June Bronhill. Most American audiences know Michell from The Six Wives of Henry VIII on Masterpiece Theatre (which won him an Emmy Award), and also in a semi-recurring role on Murder: She Wrote as a visiting detective 'Dennis Stanton.' He had a long career, including starring in the original London production of Man of La Mancha. He also starred in the original production on Broadway of Irma La Douce. June Bronhill was an Australian opera singer. Much of her early work was in opera, though she repeated her Robert and Elizabeth role in Australia, opposite the actor Denis Quilley. And she also starred there in The Sound of Music. Years later she returned to The Sound of Music on London's West End, though this time as the Mother Abbess. And she too had a long career.
It turns out that, as far as I can tell, Keith Michell did a TV special in London. And one of his guests was June Bronhill. And for the show -- they recreated their soaring ballad, "I Know Now," and in full costume!
This is a major treat. I'm absolutely thrilled it exists and to have found it.
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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