The Biograph Girl

Book by Warner Brown
Lyrics by Warner Brown and David Heneker
Music by David Heneker

22 May 2018 - 9 June 2018

""You laugh at your flickers, Miss Gish. But you wouldn’t laugh at the Mona Lisa."
"The Mona Lisa’s art."
"My pictures are a new kind of art. Maybe more important."

The first professional UK production since its 1980 premiere

Commissioned by the Finborough Theatre as part of their acclaimed ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series, the first professional UK production since its 1980 premiere, The Biograph Girl by Warner Brown and David Heneker.

From the composer of Half A Sixpence, a joyous musical celebration of Hollywood’s glorious era of silent film – beginning in 1912 when disreputable “flickers” are shown in fleapits and no self-respecting actor will appear in them, and ending in 1927 with movies now a glamorous, multi-million dollar industry and the first talking pictures signal the doom of silent films.  In a breath taking sweep of just fifteen years, the great innovative directors created filmmaking as we know it today, ground breaking movie moguls laid the foundations of the entertainment industry, and trail blazing actors launched the Hollywood star system.

Weaving together the heartbreaks and triumphs of the flawed genius director D. W. Griffith and the first movie stars Lilian Gish and Mary Pickford, The Biograph Girl is a love letter to the stardust and scandals of the silent movie era.

The libretto has been especially revised for this production by its original co-writer Warner Brown and includes – for the very first time – the reintroduction of songs cut from the West End premiere production.

The Biograph Girl received its West End premiere at the Phoenix Theatre in 1980, directed by Victor Spinetti, with Lillian Gish in the audience. This production is directed by Jenny Eastop who returns to the Finborough Theatre following her production of Mr Gillie for which she received an OffWestEnd nomination for Best Director.


Composer David Heneker (1906-2001) remains best known for his classic British musical Half A Sixpence, recently revived to huge acclaim in Chichester and the West End. His other musicals include Expresso Bongo (with Monty Norman) (1958), wrote English lyrics for Irma La Douce (1958), Make Me An Offer (with Monty Norman) which won the Evening Standard Best Musical Award, (1959), Half a Sixpence (1963) starring Tommy Steele, which won Tony nominations for Best Musical and Best Original Score and was filmed, Charlie Girl  (with John Taylor) which ran in the West End for five years (1965), Jorrocks (1966), Phil the Fluter (1969), The Amazons (1970), Popkiss (1972), Hullabaloo (1972) and Peg (1984). He died in 2001.


Playwright and lyricist Warner Brown works on both sides of the Atlantic. As a bookwriter and lyricist, he has collaborated with the composers Angelo Badalamenti, Michael Feinstein, Tony Hatch, David Heneker, Michael Reed, Jimmy Roberts, Joshua Schmidt, Jim Steinman, Charles Strouse, George David Weiss and, by permission of the Cole Porter Trusts, the late Cole Porter. His work in the UK and London includes Son Of A Preacher Man (current UK National Tour), Cinderella (London Palladium), Six For Gold and The Black and White Ball (King's Head Theatre), the play The Prospero Suite (Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham),The House On The Corner (Edinburgh Festival) and the new version of Half A Sixpence. Work in Europe and the US includes Garbo - The Musical and Flickers. For BBC Worldwide and Global Creatures, Warner wrote the arena show Walking With Dinosaurs - the Arena Spectacular which won many international awards, including the Billboard Magazine Creative Content Award. Warner has extensive writing credits for the BBC and was Script Associate of the BBC Classic Musical series for which he adapted fourteen musicals and directed such artists as Anthony Newley, Barbara Cook and Tyne Daly. He is co-sponsor of The S&S Award for new musical theatre writing.


Director Jenny Eastop returns to the Finborough Theatre following her production of Mr Gillie for which she received an OffWestEnd nomination for Best Director. She is Artistic Director of Mercurius Theatre for whom she has directed The Waiting Room (Leicester Square Theatre and Above the Arts Theatre), The Alchemist, The Devil Is An Ass, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and A Trick to Catch the Old One (all at The Rose Playhouse, Bankside), Anton Chekhov’s Vaudevilles (Jermyn Street Theatre), and School for Wives (White Bear Theatre) for which he received an OffWestEnd nomination for Best Director. Jenny has also directed for companies such as Shakespeare’s Globe, National Theatre Studio and London New Play Festival, including the premiere of Peter Nichols’ new play So Long Life (Tobacco Factory, Bristol), Warde Street (Park Theatre) for which she received an OffWestEnd  nomination for Best Director, and Henna Night (Leicester Square Theatre). Jenny has worked as Associate Director to Michael Blakemore on The Life (Southwark Playhouse), Blithe Spirit, with Angela Lansbury (Gielgud Theatre and US Tour),  Embers, with Jeremy Irons (Duke of York’s Theatre), Democracy (National Theatre, Wyndham’s Theatre, Broadway, and Sydney Theatre Company), Afterlife (National Theatre), Three Sisters, with Kristin Scott Thomas (Playhouse Theatre).  Resident Direction includes working with Roger Michell on Blue/Orange (Duchess Theatre) and The Homecoming (National Theatre), and Matthew Warchus on The Devil Is an Ass (Royal Shakespeare Company).


The Finborough Theatre’s ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series has seen a host of acclaimed productions of British music theatre including both rediscoveries and premieres. Rediscoveries include Leslie Stuart’s Florodora, 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 (which transferred to Jermyn Street Theatre), and Valley of Song, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke and Princess Ida, Edward German's Merrie England,  Rutland Boughton's 1914 "music-drama" The Immortal Hour, Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds' Free As Air, and Alan Price and Trevor Peacock’s Andy Capp – The Musical. Premieres have included Grant Olding’s Three Sides, Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds’ When Midnight Strikes, Paul Scott Goodman's Rooms: A Rock Romance, Phil Willmott's Princess Caraboo and Lost Boy (which transferred to Charing Cross Theatre), and Craig Adams and Nona Sheppard's Thérèse Raquin (which transferred to the Park Theatre). The Finborough Theatre cast recordings of When Midnight Strikes, Gay’s The Word, Valley of Song and Thérèse Raquin are all available on CD.


★★★★ Upper-Circle
★★★★ London Theatre 1

Nominated for an OffWestEnd Award
Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role (Musical) - Emily Langham
Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role (Musical) - Matthew Cavendish

“A fascinating piece.” Paul In London

“An intriguing path through the early days of Hollywood.” Matt Breen, Time Out

“A really refreshing and solid musical, let us hope this revival brings it to the masses as it deserves.” Shanine Salmon, View from the Cheap Seat.

“There are at least two wonderful, iconic musicals about silent movies such as Mack & Mabel and Singing In The Rain and The Biograph Girl is right up there with them.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“A surprisingly progressive look at the silent film industry, focusing on the women who lead the way.” Shanine Salmon, View from the Cheap Seat.

“Witty lyrics by Brown.” Julia Rank, The Stage

“The twenty-one songs are all excellent encompassing silent movie music, a pastiche or two and some modern ballads.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“Matthew Cavendish’s Sennett is brimming with physical comedy, and his mime routine, pratfalls and all, is one of the musical’s highlights.” Scott Matthewman, Musical Theatre Review

“Matthew Cavendish is a superb one-man Keystone movie.” Johnny Fox, My Theatre Mates

“Matthew Cavendish’s pratfalling, scene-stealing performance.” Stephen Bates, Reviews Hub

“Matthew Cavendish gives a great comedy performance.” Shanine Salmon, View from the Cheap Seat.

“Matthew Cavendish is a one-man slapstick powerhouse.” Paul In London

“Matthew Cavendish tumbles, stumbles, trips and pratfalls, just like the Keystone Cops did, and display the vocal and comic skills of a young Donald O’Connor.” Bill Hagerty, Fulham Gazette

“Sophie Linder-Lee plays Pickford with a Bette Midler style and level of comic energy that is delightful.” Gerald Berkowitz, Theatre Guide London

“Sophie Linder-Lee is a bright and breezy Pickford, fizzing with charm and making every line of Brown’s book pop.” Scott Matthewman, Musical Theatre Review

“Fall in love with the burst of energy that Linder-Lee brings.” Yasmin Simsek, Upper-Circle.

“Sophie Linder-Lee sings wonderfully.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“Sophie Linder-Lee as Mary Pickford is terrific as the movie star and canny businesswoman. She steals the show with her tap dancing and steely determination.” Paul In London

“Strong vocals (especially from Linder-Lee), solid direction and tight choreography.” Matt Breen, Time Out

“Excellent performances. In the cast of nine, everyone is engaging, focused and talented with tremendous collective energy – ex-Glinda Sophie Linder-Lee makes Mary a likeable combination of winsomeness and steel.” Johnny Fox, My Theatre Mates

“One particular highlight is Joshua C. Jackson’s heartfelt rendition of ‘Rivers of Blood’, a politically charged number that was cut from the original production.” Jonathan Evans, The Spy in the Stalls.

“David Heneker’s catchy numbers performed with passion by Joshua C Jackson.” Shanine Salmon, View from the Cheap Seat.

“Played with a cool assurance by Jonathan Leinmuller.” Jonathan Evans, The Spy in the Stalls

“Jonathan Leinmuller is in fine voice and movingly captures the distress of the master movie-maker.” Bill Hagerty, Fulham Gazette

“Jonathan Leinmuller is a splendidly laid-back D W Griffith.” Johnny Fox, My Theatre Mates

“Jonathan Leinmuller sings beautifully.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“Great performances, particularly from its leads Langham and Leinmuller as the creative double act of Gish and Griffit.” Shanine Salmon, View from the Cheap Seat.

“Emily Langham is delightful.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“Excellent performances.” Stephen Bates, Reviews Hub

“The cast injects the piece with endless energy.” Paul In London

“Incredible performers.” Yasmin Simsek, Upper-Circle.

“The performances are all terrific.” Alan Fitter, LondonTheatre1

“Jenny Eastop’s unfussy, sweetly sung production.” Julia Rank, The Stage

“All the cast excel in performing Holly Hughes’ effervescent choreography.” Scott Matthewman, Musical Theatre Review

“Holly Hughes’s bubbly choreography.” Julia Rank, The Stage


“A most excellent, delicate and perceptive entertainment…after fifty years of play going I was taken by delighted surprise. I would ask all London to go and see it." Sir Harold Hobson, Drama

“Tuneful, witty and sophisticated.” Francis King, Sunday Telegraph

“A sweet lament for lost innocence ... this delightfully unassuming show contains the same naive charm as those early flicks' themselves. A minor miracle.” Jack Tinker, Daily Mail

“A joyous celebration of the silent screen ... a delight. It captures moments of sheer exuberant nostalgia.” Sheridan Morley, International Herald Tribune.


“Beautifully brought to light in the detailed direction of Jenny Eastop” ★★★★ The Arts Desk on Mr Gillie

“Eastop's production is warm and big-hearted” Broadway World on Mr Gillie

“Great credit to the show’s director Jenny Eastop” ★★★★★ LondonTheatre1 on Warde Street

“Bang on direction by Jenny Eastop” ★★★★ WhatsOnStage on Warde Street

“A very tight production” ★★★★★ LondonTheatre1 on The Devil Is An Ass

“Director Jenny Eastop…distilled whisky-strong, plastic-melting performances”   ★★★★ QX Magazine on The Waiting Room

“This production is further proof of the exceptional theatre we have in the UK” ★★★★★ The New Current on School for Wives

22 May 2018 - 9 June 2018

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm (from 2 June 2018)

2hrs and 30mins with an interval of 15 mins