Saturday, October 9, 2010

At the Music Hall: Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?

Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence
in The Red Peppers from
Tonight at 8:30, 1935
Has anybody seen our ship?
The H.M.S. Peculiar
We've been on shore for a month or more
And when we see the Captain
We should get what for

Heave ho, me hearties
Sing Glory, Hallelujah

A lady bold as she could be
Pinched our whistles at the Golden Key
Now, we're in between the devil and the big blue sea
Has anybody seen our ship?

In 1935, celebrated composer, playwright, actor, director and general bon vivant Noel Coward introduced a series of ten short plays collectively entitled Tonight at 8:30. The cycle was intended to be performed over a three night period. The cycle opened in Manchester and played in London, New York and Canada until 1938. Since then, many revivals have popped up.

Originally, Gertrude Lawrence played opposite Noel Coward (who rather enjoyed performing in his own plays). One of the ten plays was called, The Red Peppers and centered around a husband and wife musical act. For this comic tale of theatrical dysfunction, Coward wrote two new songs in the style of traditional music hall numbers. One of these was Has Anybody Seen Our Ship? Coward and Lawrence performed the song dressed as sailors—in character as George and Lily Pepper. Audiences enjoyed the song, but especially the Vaudevillian patter between the verses.

In the 1968 film, Star!, based on the life of Gertrude Lawrence, Julie Andrews and Daniel Massey perform Has Anybody Seen Our Ship? as Coward and Lawrence. For today, however, we’ll go to the original source. Enjoy this 1935 recording of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence performing Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?

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