Free As Air

Music by Julian Slade
Book and Lyrics by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 October 2014

The first professional UK revival in over 50 years

Free As Air is now completely sold out for the entire run, INCLUDING the extra performances by popular demand on Mondays, 13 and 20 October 2014.

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Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the world premiere of Salad Days, and as part of the Finborough Theatre acclaimed Celebrating British Music Theatre series, Stewart Nicholls directs the first professional UK revival in over 50 years of Julian Slade’s musical Free As Air.

Among the Channel Islands, tucked away out of sight, lies the tiny island of Terhou, a treasure as yet undiscovered by the tourist trade. In this remote paradise, the happy population sings all day long, arising early to prepare for their annual Independence Day Celebration. They soon discover there is no young lady to be crowned May Queen in their Coronation Ceremony, as all the young women have played the part before.

As luck would have it, along with the boat returning from the monthly trip to gather supplies arrives a beautiful stranger – Geraldine. Yet close behind follows the love-struck Jack Amersham and the mischievous Ivy Crush, the press reporter charged with shadowing her…

Will the islanders find their May Queen, or will the peace of Terhou be disrupted forever? A charming classic British musical, Free as Air enjoyed a run of over 400 performances at the Savoy Theatre in 1957, starring Gerald Harper, Gillian Lewis and Patricia Bredin. It now receives its first professional UK revival in more than fifty years.

The Original Finborough Theatre 2014 London Cast will be released on 31st July 2020. All pre-orders of the new recording of the Original Finborough Theatre 2014 London Cast of FREE AS AIR taken before July 10 2020 will receive the 2 CD set containing the DigiMIX of the Original London Cast and the Original 2014 London Cast recordings for the price of £13.99.

From July 11th 2020, the prices for the single CD of the Original 2014 London Cast CD will be £13.99 and the 2CDs set will be £19.99. Order your copy now and receive both CD’s for this special price by clicking here.

Hear a preview of the recording by clicking here.

About The Composer Julian Slade

Composer Julian Slade (1930–2006) was also a librettist and lyricist, best known for the record-breaking musical Salad Days (1954), the longest running UK musical of the 1950s with 2,288 performances – a record at the time. It was in London that a young Cameron Mackintosh saw Salad Days with his aunt and decided to become a theatrical producer. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, Slade then joined the Bristol Old Vic, where he eventually became Musical Director, writing incidental music and co-writing two Christmas musicals, eventually culminating in the writing of Salad Days. His many other musicals include Follow That Girl! (1960), revived at the Theatre Museum by Stewart Nicholls in 2000, Hooray for Daisy (1960), Wildest Dreams (1961), adapting Winnie the Pooh at the Phoenix Theatre (1970), Trelawny (1972) with music in collaboration with Aubrey Woods and George Rowell, Out Of Bounds (1973) and Nancy Mitford's novel Love in a Cold Climate (1997).

About The Director Stewart Nicholls

Director Stewart Nicholls returns to the Finborough Theatre where he directed Ivor Novello's musical Gay's The Word, which subsequently transferred for a further successful run at the Jermyn Street Theatre and was recorded for CD. Productions Stewart has directed and choreographed include Salad Days and The Biograph Girl (London College of Music), Dorothy Squires: Mrs. Roger Moore (Edinburgh Festival), Lunch With Marlene starring Kate O’Mara (National Tour), Hetty Feinstein’s Wedding Anniversary (New End Theatre, Hampstead), Beatlemania (Gothenburg Opera House), South Pacific starring Alan Opie, Maria Ewing and Les Dennis (Birmingham Symphony Hall for BBC Radio Two), Over My Shoulder (National Tour and Wyndham's Theatre), Carousel (St David’s Hall, Cardiff, for BBC Radio Three), the première of Charles Hart’s Love Songs (Bridewell Theatre) and five pantomimes for the Hall For Cornwall, Truro.  Workshops include Merman's Apprentice starring Kim Criswell. Choreography includes Iolanthe, Princess Ida and The Mikado (Buxton Opera House and National Tour), Cowardy Custard starring Kit and the Widow and Dillie Keen (National Tour), Noël and Gertie (Cockpit Theatre) and Tim Rice’s revival of Blondel (Pleasance London). Stewart is the leading archivist of British Musical Theatre, directing, choreographing and restoring many forgotten musicals by major British writers including Noël Coward’s Sail Away (his restored version is published by Warner/Chappell Music). He produced CDs of many of these productions including The Amazons, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.

About Aria Entertainment

Producer Aria Entertainment is run by Katy Lipson, whose productions include Marry Me A Little (St James Studio), The Return Of The Soldier (Jermyn Street Theatre), The Mystery Of Edwin Drood (Arts Theatre), The Secret Garden (National Tour) as well as the From Page To Stage season of new musicals.

Celebrating British Music Theatre Series

In 2006, the Finborough Theatre began the Celebrating British Music Theatre series with a sell-out production of Leslie Stuart’s Florodora. Productions since then have included sell-out rediscoveries of Lionel Monckton’s Our Miss Gibbs, Harold Fraser-Simson’s operetta The Maid of the Mountains, A "Gilbert and Sullivan" Double Bill featuring Gilbert’s play Sweethearts and Sullivan’s opera The Zoo, Dame Ethel Smyth’s opera The Boatswain’s Mate, Sandy Wilson’s The Buccaneer, Oscar Asche’s Chu Chin Chow, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream, Gay's The Word and Valley of Song, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke, Edward German's Merrie England and Paul Scott Goodman's Rooms: A Rock Romance.

The Press on Free As Air

“The Finborough Theatre is well known for its rediscoveries of long lost plays, but it has also been making great strides in reclaiming neglected musical gems. Composer Julian Slade may be best known for Salad Days, originally premiered in 1954, but the forgotten Free As Air, from 1957, is an equally infectious, loopy delight.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“A shining example of a neglected piece of British musical theatre history, Free As Air is just delightfully good fun.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“A wonderful upbeat show for a lovely evening out.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Slade & Reynolds’ unashamedly old-fashioned yet still entertaining - and endearing - show.” Raymond Langford Jones, Sardines Reviews

“Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade’s Free As Air hasn’t been seen professionally since 1974 but in the sure hands of Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainments and Neil McPherson’s Finborough Theatre, director/choreographer Stewart Nicholls makes a compelling case for its revival.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“Much of the joy of these musicals that the Finborough has resuscitated with their ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series comes from the thrill of unamplified ensembles filling this most intimate of theatres with the joy of song. And with a cast of 17 here, Nicholls and musical director Ben Stock pitch it just right, capturing the endearing glee that comes from something so determinedly old-fashioned yet utterly sincere in its delivery – it would be easy to bandy the word ‘twee’ about but there’s a real emotional honesty to the playing here.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“High in drama it is not, and that’s rather refreshing. The whole show is a little bit silly and it knows it, but is so joyous and full of life that it wins you over in no time and has you smiling until the end.” Catherine Duffy, Bargain Theatre Land

“This gem of a show more than deserves a full length run of its own. It is sweet and charming and thoroughly enjoyable, filled with daft plots and loveable characters it is pure escapism at its finest and is impossible to resist.” Catherine Duffy, Bargain Theatre Land

“‘Generous’ and ‘good-natured’ were the words that came to mind as I left the theatre. There was a really warm and friendly atmosphere in the audience” Clare Annamalai, Everything Theatre

“The big plus that comes from productions in small venues is that there is no need for amplification of any kind. And with an MD of the calibre of Ben Stock, as here, we are fully able to appreciate Slade’s delightful harmonies and choral work, whilst the clear, strong singing voices in the leading romantic leads played by Ruth Betteridge Molly), Dan Stevens-lookalike Josh Little (Jack), Daniel Cane (Albert)and Charlotte Baptie (Gerladine), enable us to relish each glistening note of the songs” Raymond Langford Jones, Sardines Reviews

“There’s a great deal of pleasure being had on both sides of the footlights. The strong-voiced ensemble give it musical heft under the direction of Ben Stock, and there are irresistible turns from Charlotte Baptie, Joanna Munro, Josh Little and Jane Quinn.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“The company sound simply glorious – Charlotte Baptie’s shimmering soprano leads beautifully as Geraldine but there’s also great support from Daniel Cane as the smitten Albert, Ruth Betteridge as a bicep-feeling village maiden and Josh Little as the handsome tart who likes the attention, and the sweetly played late-blooming (but long in the gestation) romance between Joanna Monro and Ted Merwood’s islanders” There Ought To Be Clowns

“The quality of the cast really does shine through from top to bottom.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“Betteridge sings her heart out as Molly.” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Ruth Betteridge as Molly makes a powerful contribution that could set bells ringing” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“As the heiress Geraldine, Baptie not only looks the part but sings it really beautifully, her solo ‘Nothing But Sea and Sky’, a highlight. All the singing is of an exceptionally high standard” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Charlotte Baptie as Geraldine has a true heroine’s voice with a touch of a velvet glove” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“There are some terrific performances to witness and marvellous voices to hear.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Josh Little as Jack is a fine tenor with a nice line in insouciant humour” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Richard Gibson as the latter is excellent as the rather shambolic head of the island, demonstrating his comic abilities and a fine singing voice in ‘Let the grass grow’ and ‘The boat’s in’.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Stewart Nicholls’ tightly directed and choreographed ensemble revival shows, not only does its well-made book have a timeless innocence and charm...Salad Days was no flash in the pan” Raymond Langford Jones, Sardines Reviews

“Director/choreographer Stewart Nicholls has staged it with engaging sincerity. He fields a 17-strong cast on this tiny stage to bring it to vigorous life.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“Special mention has to go to Nicholls’ choreography though, for some outrageously entertaining routines that simply shouldn’t work in so small a space” There Ought To Be Clowns

“Nattily choreographed by Nicholls” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“His production of Free As Air plays to its strengths and gives us a most welcome opportunity to reassess its not inconsiderable merits.” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Choosing musicals to share the Finborough’s tiny playing area with heavyweight drama (currently Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel) is indicative of the theatre’s chutzpah” Bill Hagerty, Chiswick W4

“It’s always good to catch up with rarities such as this. One can only be grateful to Neil McPherson (Finborough Theatre) for reviving these forgotten British musicals. If he didn’t, then nobody else would.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

The Press on Director Stewart Nicholls' Production of Gay's The Word at the Finborough Theatre and Subsequent Transfer to the Jermyn Street Theatre

“Stewart Nicholls' guiltily enjoyable production...the show's irresistible...the evening's a treat.” Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

“Stewart Nicholls' choreography is neatly devised to fit the compact space.” Jane Shilling, The Telegraph

“Gay's The Word, that originally opened in 1951 has never been professionally revived since until the ever-amazing Finborough squeezed a cast of 19 onto its tiny stage.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“It can…be recommended for its place in the history of the British musical…some terrific tunes and, yes, vitality.” Tom Vallance,

The Press on the Original 1957 Production of Free As Air at the Savoy Theatre

"The music is catchy and one song ‘Let The Grass Grow’ is enchanting: it is Chekhov turned inside out." The Observer

"Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade have done it again...those who were drawn to the originality, taste and unmaliciousness of the first show (Salad Days) will fill the Savoy for the second (Free As Air), coming away even better satisfied.” The Stage

"The tunes...and delicious lyrics are charming or witty or both." Plays and Players

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 October 2014

Tickets and Times

Monday 7:30pm
Tuesday 2:00pm
Sunday 7:30pm

Approximately 2 hours with an interval