A Tanner's Worth of Tune

A Tanner's Worth of Tune

Rediscovering the Post-War British Musical

Adrian Wright

Personal eBook

Boydell Press



This book is not an encyclopaedia of the British musical in the twentieth century but an examination of its progress as it struggled to find an identity, stepping out of the shadow of its American counterpart. Illustrated with a wealth of contemporary photographs and memorabilia, it examines the contribution of key figures - from Ivor Novello to Lionel Bart - in Adrian Wright's lively and engaging prose.
A Tanner's Worth of Tune is the first book to be written on the post-war British musical, and the first major assessment of the British musical for a quarter of a century, reviving interest in a vast archive of musicals that have been dismissed to the footnotes of theatrical history. This timely reappraisal of the genre and its social background, before the "international" British musicals began appearing in the 1970s, argues for a radical understanding of the shows and their writers, and a rethinking of our attitude towards them.
The musical plays of Ivor Novello and Noel Coward - both pre- and post-war - are discussed in detail, as are the two composers who came to dominate the 1950s, Sandy Wilson and Julian Slade, and the little school of plein air musicals that threaded through that decade. The book brings together 'adopted' British musicals, discusses the rise and fall of the British "verismo" and the biomusical, whether of Dr Crippen or the Rector of Stiffkey, finally charting the collapse of the British musical's nationalism in the 1960s as witnessed by John Osborne and Lionel Bart. The book draws on Adrian Wright's lifelong passion for British theatre music, its writers, composers, performers and craftsmen. Provocative, idiosyncratic and unfailingly entertaining, A Tanner's Worth of Tune makes a compelling plea for a rediscovery of an era of pleasures which have too long been forgotten.

ADRIAN WRIGHT is the author of Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley ((1996), John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure (1998), The Innumerable Dance: The Life and Work of William Alwyn (2008) and the novel Maroon (2010). He lives in Norfolk, where he also runs Must Close Saturday Records, a company dedicated to British musical theatre.


38 black and white illustrations
320 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Personal eBook, 9781782042198, June 2010
Hardback, 9781843835424, June 2010
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Before and After
Delusions of Grandeur: Ivor Novello
Mastering Operetta: Noel Coward
Pastiche and Esoteric: Sandy Wilson
Resounding Tinkles: The Plein Air Musicals of Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds, Geoffrey Wright and Donald Swann
Away from Home: Adopted British Musicals
Community Singing: Realism and the British Verismo Musical
Specifically British: David Heneker, Monty Norman, Julian More and Wolf Mankowitz
To Whom it May Concern: The British Biomusical
Fin de Partie: John Osborne, Lionel Bart and after


(A)n invaluable book about the post-war British musical (...) Wright (...) has a well-rounded knowledge of the shows of this period. He covers hundreds of musicals from roughly 1945-1972, sharing information and insights with us in an entertaining manner. PLAYBILL.COM

(A)n absolute delight of a read. It is the first book to be published on this subject (...) The quality of the writing is superb as are the photographs and illustrations throughout, but as a reference book for that genre, it has no rival. MUSICAL STAGES

An instant must-have for any lover - or indeed student - of musical theatre. THE STAGE

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