It saddens and sometimes maddens me to hear a recipient of a Novello award (known as an Ivor with no familial ties to Oscar) declaring they didn't know who he was - and in one case I heard an interview with an Ivor winner who said "I've no idea who she is (referring to their new award) but I'm pleased to have got it". I bet.
Having toured in the last major production of King's Rhapsody in the 1970s with one of Ivor's leading ladies, Olive Gilbert, she was in her 80s playing her original role, the Countess Vera, I discovered the most glorious music.
The finale of the show, the Coronation, is a joy of musical contrasts ranging from Eastern Orthodox chants to a soaring aria, 'Mother of Heaven'. But if the music lives on then the librettos are dated being of another age: for Ivor to live again the estate need to allow the stories to be re-written with a contemporary finish. The storyline of King's Rhapsody is remarkably the real-life tale of Diana, Charles and Camilla.
I became an Ivor Novello devotee from the first day of rehearsals from that moment on (I know, Kiss Me Kate!) avidly soaking up info on him as a movie star, composer (to me he is the British/Welsh Lehar and his waltzes as lilting as Strauss') and actor. On meeting Ross Leadbeater earlier this year and David Mahoney (leader of the Novello orchestra in Cardiff, Ivor's home town) I was heartened to see that two young men wanted to see Ivor's music back in the West End and more mainstream again. My collaboration with Ross, writer Martin Milnes and choreographer Philip Joel led to a successful show at the St James' Theatre, Victoria this summer.
In August BBC Radio 4 asked me to talk about my musical hero on Great Lives with Matthew Parris - here's the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b037tnxp if you missed it. The joy to be transferring, albeit for one night only, to the London Hippodrome with an expanded cast and giving a West End audience a chance to hear Novello's music and story on Saturday November 16th is good news for musical theatre fans. I have a plan for King's Rhapsody which I hope will one day tell a more contemporary royal story (you know the one I mean) with its timeless musical score from the man whose musicals perhaps more accurately operettas, saved the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from going out of business. Want to join me in my quest to recognise the true genius of this star of movies and music? We can start at the Hippodrome on November 16th if you like?