This rather notorious show is Webber’s attempt to somehow resuscitate the even more notorious Jeeves, which was his first flop and to date his only one in his home country. The original show was by all accounts a very cleverly put together pastiche of P.G. Wodehouse’s trademark farce plots, but suffered the extremely unfortunate flaw of being over four hours long and duller than wallpaper paste. The obvious strategy in such a case would be to make some judicious cuts, but the original show’s plot was simply too intricate and convoluted to trim.
The renamed revival version finally managed to reduce the show to a more workable two and a half hours, but at the price of turning the clear but tedious plot of the original into an incoherent mess. The show was presented within a tortuous and extremely contrived framing device that allowed stretches of the plot to be narrated by the character of Jeeves. Worse, it’s _still_ boring…there’s a live video version of the show, and even the on-camera audience’s blank stares, mild laughter and lukewarm applause attested to how little they were being entertained.
The show has never had any real success in any incarnation…even its London ‘revisal’ was a massive disappointment by Webber’s standards…but Webber seems Hell-bent on making it into a hit, even bringing it back to London in 2011. I can only chalk up Webber’s obsession with the show to its having been his first taste of failure, as it has no especial value that justifies the continual revision and revival.
Even the score, while pleasant, is not really a top-notch one as cult flops go. Normally, the cult flops that get this kind of treatment have legendary scores…Candide, Mack and Mabel, Merrily We Roll Along. But apart from the beautiful “Half a Moment”, the hilarious “It’s a Pig!”, and perhaps the title-song, this score is really nothing to write home about.
There are some agreeable items…the lazily attractive “Travel Hopefully”, the jaunty “Love’s Maze”, the very Wodehousian “Hello Song”, the melodious “When Love Arrives”, the Kern-influenced “Banjo Boy”…but nothing to compare with the scores of other Webber cult flops such as Aspects of Love or Whistle Down the Wind. Yet even Aspects, which Webber has publicly declared his favorite of his own scores, hasn’t received the kind of attention he’s given to this overexposed disaster, and frankly, in the unlikely event that he’s reading this, I think the time has finally come to give up on it.