Charles Lee comments on Twang!!:  "Spectacularly AWFUL"



Hi Diana!

James Booth has a good fan following because of "Zulu", principally.  Whenever I see it starting on television I always think "I'll just watch the opening titles, listen to the music and catch 10 minutes or so". Before I know it there are piles of twitching Zulus in front of the final redoubt. Very PC, these days.

You may be interested to know, Diana, that I was privileged to be in the audience at the very first night of "TWANG!", the Lional Bart musical starring James Booth, at the Opera House in Manchester back in the 1960s.

I have vivid memories of "TWANG!! (or "CLANG!" as the critics the next day called it). I kept waiting for those great Lionel Bart songs, and they never came. Finally, at the end, I thought "Don't you DARE rescue this mess with one glorious, unforgettable song!". Bart didn't, of course. Sad thing is, he was so arrogant and egotistical at this point that he couldn't see it was dross, kept rewriting it before the London "run" and finally parted with the rights to "OLIVER" to keep the thing going. Shame.

As far as the show itself is concerned, it was a mess in terms of plot - it didn't appear to know what it was, and for me it seemed like a cheaply put-together provincial pantomime, with cardboard cut-out trees for the forest and cliched Merrie-Men costumes. I don't recall James drying up, and I don't think he had a bad voice - that would have been the crowner for me, and I would have remembered it!
Barbara Windsor was apparently in the production, but I truly don't remember a thing about her! We all came out of the Opera House thinking "STINKER", and so it proved, poor Lionel.

I believe Joan Littlewood was involved in the staging and that too many people were cooking the broth. The core weakness was, however, the lousy Bart music. It was spectacularly AWFUL!!! heard an old LP of the original cast recording of TWANG! last year, and it was every bit as bad as I remembered.

Best wishes