The Man Who Came To Dinner

by Moss Hart and George S. Kauffman

directed by Tony Bull

Performed in the

Theatre Royal, Winchester

on

17th to 21st October 1995


The play was first produced on October 16th 1939 on Broadway and ran for 739 performances. Like You Can’t Take It With You it was one of the most successful of all the plays from the celebrated collaboration of Kaufman and Moss. It was later presented in the West End during the Second World War with Robert Morley in the lead role. A later film version was made starring Monty Wooley.

The central character in this play is one Sheridan Whiteside who is based entirely on Alexander Woollcott, a well respected New York theatre critic, newspaper columnist, a most feared and relentless gossip and an accomplished raconteur. These qualities made Woolcott a radio personality and a leading member of the Algonquin Round Table. He became famous, wealthy and more ruthless and domineering than ever and was a frequent guest at the White House. Woolcott was also a regular visitor to Moss Hart’s new Bucks County estate and apparently bullied the servants, condemned the food, invited guests of his own from Philadelphia to Sunday dinner and wrote in Hart’s guest book “This is to certify that on my first visit to Moss Hart’s house I had one of the most unpleasant times I ever spent.”

He also suggested that Hart write a play in which he could star. Later when Hart was describing Woollcott’s behaviour to Kaufman he commented “wouldn’t it have been horrible if he had broken a leg or something and been on our hands the rest of the Summer?” The collaborators looked at each other with dawning light and took the cover off the typewriter.

The idea of setting up a group of disparate types in a confined setting and allowing them to react to each other was one which continually fascinated Kaufman. In the play Sheridan Whiteside completely takes over the home of wealthy businessman Earnest W Stanley following an enforced stay. We are introduced to such widely differing characters as Lorraine Sheldon the movie star who is an amalgam of all the overpowering actresses of the day; Banjo is recognisable as Harpo Marx and Beverley Carlton a thinly disguised Noel Coward. Add to this a supporting cast that includes Professor Adolph Metz, the world’s greatest authority on insect life, three convicts, their armed escort, several radio men, six choirboys, a crate of penguins and a colony of cockroaches.

Cast
Mrs. Earnest W Stanley Hazel Burrows
Miss Preen Sarah Walker
Richard Stanley Paul Riddell
June Staniey Melanie McCoustra
John Alan Watson
Sarah Christine Baker
Mrs. Dexter Ann Frost
Mrs. McCutcheon Sheana Carrington
Mr. Stanley Albie Minns
Maggie Cutler Belinda Drew
Dr. Bradley Harry Tuffill
Sheridan Whiteside Ken Spencer
Harriet Stanley Marion Westbury
Bert Jefferson Martin Humphrey
Professor Metz David Pike
Mr. Baker James Portman
Luncheon Guests Peter Pitcher, Derek Burrows, Mohammad Ashraf
Expressmen Peter Pitcher, David Allington
Lorraine Sheldon Jan Shrouder
Sandy Kevin Mitchell
Beverley Carlton Ben Odonhoe
Westcott James Portman
Banjo Graham Buchanan
Radio Technicians Derek Burrows, Mohammad Ashraf, David Allington, David Pike
Choirboys Philip Bell, William Carruthers, Thomas Gilbert, Richard Harrisson, Edward Horde, Nicholas Martin, Richard Hutton, Dominic Reynolds, Sam Parker, Aelred Smuland, Geoffrey Stanning, John Tew, Alastair Tolley, Charles Wilson

 

Moss Hart (1904-1961) began his career as office boy to the impresario Augustus Pitou, to whom he sold his first play The Beloved Bandit. His second play, Once in a Lifetime, introduced him to George S. Kaufman, with whom he was asked to collaborate on rewriting before the play was accepted and produced at the Music Box Theater in New York in 1930. With Kaufman, Hart went on to write over a dozen hit comedies, including Merrily We Roll Along (1934), The Pulitzer prize winning You Can’t Take It With You (1936), I’d Rather be Right (1937), and The Man Who Came To Dinner (l939). Hart’s solo works include Face The Music (1933), Lady in The Dark (1941), Winged Victory (1943), Christopher Blake (1946) and Light Up The Sky (1947).

Hart was a prodigious producer as well as a writer and in addition to some of his own plays he was responsible for Dear Ruth (1944), Anniversary Waltz (1954), My Fair Lady (both in NewYork, 1956, and London, 1958) and Camelot (1960). His autobiography Act One, covering his early life up to the opening of Once in a Lifetime, was published in 1959. He was married to the actress Kitty Carlisle and had two children.

 

George S.Kaufman (1889-1961) moved swiftly from cub reporter on the New York Tribune to drama editor of The Times, contributing satirical pieces to other periodicals along the way. He had already written one play when he met Marc Connelly who became the first of his several collaborators: in a partnership lasting five years they had many hits including Beggar on Horseback (1942). Kaufman also worked with several of the writers who, like himself, were members of the famous Algonquin Round Table of wits: with Ring Lardner he wrote June Moon (1929), with Dorothy Parker Business is Business (1925), with Alexander Woollcott The Channel Road, and with Edna Ferber The Royal Family (1927), Dinner at Eight (1932), and Stage Door (1936). He also wrote for the Marx Brothers. His most fruitful collaboration, though, was that with Moss Hart, which lasted throughout the thirties and produced so many comedy successes.

Kaufman was an excellent Director and also an actor, appearing as Lawrence Vail, the playwright, in the original production of Once in a Lifetime. He was twice married, first to Beatrice Bacrow and then, after her death, to Leueen MacGrath

For the Maskers
Produced and Directed Tony Bull
Designer Ken Spencer
Technical Director Ron Tillyer
Stage Manager Ann Frost
Deputy Stage Manager David Allington
Set Construction Bryan Langford, Geoff Cook, Douglas Shiell
Lighting Design Ron Tillyer
Lighting Operation Vicky Holbrook-Hughes
Sound Lawrie Gee, Andy Roberts
Properties Ella Lockett
Furnishings Polly Morris
Wardrobe Christine Baker
Publicity Ken Spencer, Harry Tuffill, Michael Patterson
 
 

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