A rare revival of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurent’s musical satire ANYONE CAN WHISTLE will follow Tracy Letts’ adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters as part of The Phil Willmott Company’s new season at London’s Union Theatre. It runs from 8 February to 11 March 2017, with press nights on 11 and 12 February.
ANYONE CAN WHISTLE is political allegory in musical comedy form that tells the story of a town that’s gone bankrupt because its only industry is manufacturing something that never wears out. In order to revive her town Mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper and her town council fake a miracle – water flowing from a rock – to attract tourists. When patients at the local mental hospital escape and mix with the townspeople and tourists, chaos ensues whilst J. Bowden Hapgood, a fake psychiatrist falls in love with Fay Apple, a nurse at the asylum who has disguised herself as a miracle verifier sent from Lourdes.
The show contains a raft of classic Sondheim numbers including Me and My Town, Anyone Can Whistle, There Won’t be Trumpets, Everybody Says Don’t and With So Little to be Sure Of.
After writing lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, Sondheim had made his Broadway debut as a composer in 1962 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. But with ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, the world saw the first glimpse of Sondheim’s rebel genius in the kind of dissonant, electrifying music he used more confidently in Company (1970) and his later shows.
A spectacular flop when it first hit Broadway in 1964 the plot of ANYONE CAN WHISTLE was not just breaking the rules of traditional musical comedy, it was thumbing its nose at them and at an audience who could see easier to understand, more immediately likeable new Broadway musicals like Hello, Dolly! and Fiddler on the Roof. However a cast recording ensured that the show has become a cult classic over the ensuing years.
The Phil Willmott Company’s revival will be the first UK production of ANYONE CAN WHISTLE in six years and follows Willmott’s sell-out, critically acclaimed Union Theatre production of Sondheim’s Road Show in 2017.
The company season is directed by Phil Wilmott, with design by Penn O’Gara, musical direction by Richard Baker, choreography by Holly Hughes and casting by Adam Abraham. It’s produced by the Union with the production managed by Toby Burbridge.
Stephen Sondheim (born March 22, 1930) is an American composer and lyricist known for more than a half-century of contributions to musical theatre. Sondheim has received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has been described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater” and Cameron Mackintosh has called Sondheim “possibly the greatest lyricist ever.” His best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.