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Privates on Parade
Original London Cast Recording


Music: Denis King
Lyrics: Peter Nichols
Performed by: The Royal Shakespeare Company
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £13.99
STAGE 9033
5 055122 19033 2
Release Date: 27 January 2014

I've made it no secret during my time reviewing for this site, that I love British Musicals, and also look forward to receiving 'lost treasures' re-issued on CD for the first time. Stage Door Records must have been listening to me then, as their latest release covers both of these nicely.

Privates On Parade is an award winning musical comedy written by Peter Nichols with music by Denis King. The plot focuses on the activities and exploits of the fictional Song And Dance Unit South East Asia (SADUSEA) who are stationed in Singapore and Malaysia during the late 1940s.

The production was first staged by the RSC at Stratford before transferring to London's Aldwych Theatre in February 1977 where it went on to win The 1977 Laurence Olivier Award for "Comedy Of The Year". The production also earned Oliviers for its leading performers Denis Quilley (Comedy Performance of the Year) and Nigel Hawthorne (Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role) with Michael Blakemore also being nominated for Best Director. The production was also honoured at the 1977 Ivor Novello Awards as 'Best Musical'.

Privates On Parade is regularly revived, most recently at the Noel Coward Theatre as part of the Michael Grandage Season in 2012/2013. The Original London Cast album, recorded in January 1978, makes its debut on CD and has been digitally remastered from the original master tapes.

There's a few reasons that I have given this CD the score that I have. Not least is the quality of the recording. All too often digital re-issues these days are no more than someone digitising an LP, and the result is less than ideal. This is quite simply the clearest and cleanest digital re-issue I have ever heard. Its clear they have gone back to the master tapes for this, and that perhaps this gives Stage Door the edge, but this sounds like it was recorded yesterday.

The material may not be to everyone's taste - think a musical version of It Ain't Half Hot Mum - but I found it very enjoyable. I've got it playing again whilst I'm writing this, and I'm still laughing at some of the lyrics. They may not be as PC as would be expected these days, and certainly risque in places, but it's all a merry old romp. The music fits the era and the genre perfectly. I love King's writing - his musical version of Stepping Out is one of my all-time favourite shows. He captures just what is needed, and it works every time. My favourite tracks - and this is hard to narrow down - are musically 'SADUSEA' (ingenious), 'Privates on Parade' (does what it says on the tin) and 'Sunnyside Lane' (sounds like a standard, which is hard to do). For comedy value, I challenge you not to laugh at 'Black Velvet' each time you listen to it...

The cast is uniformly (no pun intended) excellent - I would love to have seen Denis Quilley and Nigel Hawthorne on stage with this piece. The whole cast sounds totally at home with the piece, and it's all utterly believable. I'm guessing this is because the cast album was recorded well into the run, not before or early as tends to be the case these days.

If you only buy one cast recording re-issue this year, then you won't go far wrong by making it this one.


Ian Gude

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