Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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WILSON, Sandy

(b Alexander Galbraith Wilson, 19 May '24, Cheshire) Composer of musical shows who writes book, music and lyrics himself. Wrote for revues at Oxford U, then in London; NoČl Coward said to him, 'There are really only three witty lyric writers now. There's Cole Porter. There's me. And there's you.' His show The Boy Friend '53 was a pastiche of the '20s with a jolly story and good tunes, one of the longest- running British shows ever (five years in the West End), prod. on Broadway '54 and revived many times since. Like Rick Besoyan's Little Mary Sunshine '59 (which sent up operettas with mounted policemen and fair damsels in distress), The Boy Friend was an intelligent and affectionate spoof: the blue- rinse ladies could take it straight while the more sophisticated chuckled at the knowledge of the period. It was filmed '72 by Ken Russell, who swamped the show's charm with his ego; it starred Twiggy. (Recordings incl. '54 Broadway OC on RCA, a '63 version on Broadway Angel, a London cast recording '84 on TER and highlights sets on Tring and Koch.)

Several more shows incl. Valmouth '58, perhaps his best, based on the Ronald Firbank novel; the Chichester Festival Theatre prod. on TER stars Bertice Reading as Mrs Yajnavalka, a black masseuse with magic fingers in an English spa town. A sequel to The Boy Friend was Divorce Me, Darling! '65, with the same characters ten years on, but that was the height of 'Swinging London' and the revival of interest in the '30s hadn't begun; it only ran three months. Unproduced shows incl. one based on Compton Mackenzie's novel Extraordinary Women, considered daring in its day, set in Capri in the '20s; and another on Cecil Beaton's My Royal Past, a Ruritanian sendup. This show was written for New York, to star Hermione Gingold and Jeanette MacDonald, who turned out to have no sense of humour, then complained when Gingold got all the laughs at a read-through that her part wasn't funny enough. Wilson's revue style is eminently revivable and his songs deserve wider currency; Chichester revived Darling '97.