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Cover to the World Records Original London Cast RecordingThe Water Gipsies

A play with music in 2 acts by A. P. Herbert. Music by Vivian Ellis.

Theatre Royal, Nottingham - 2 August, 1955 - toured through Manchester, Birmingham.

Winter Garden Theatre, London - Opened 31 August, 1955; closed 24 March, 1956. (239 perfs)


The story concerns the daughters of Albert Bell, an out-of-work Music Hall pit orchestra trumpeter in love with Mrs Higgins, licensee of the local pub. Daughter number one, Lily, who incidentally loathes her name, is a good-natured good-time girl with no real faith in the opposite sex at all; a fact that she demonstrates in her account of her evening out with her flashy boyfriend, Bunny, her duets with him and her final summing up. However, the main interest is the second daughter, Jane. She has three suitors, Mrs Higgins son Ernest, a priggish radical, George Bryan, a posh artist who has come to work in the rural riverside of Hammersmith, and a young illiterate bargee, Fred, who has the soul of a poet and can rhapsodise about life on the canal in the traditional ornamental boats, the pride of bargee life, towed, of course, by the old grey mare. Before Jane, who is essentially an unsophisticated dreamer can end up in honest Fred's arms, she has to dispose of the truculent and possessive Ernest and her own infatuation with artist Bryan. In fact, it is Bryan's final realisation of her innocence that makes him refuse to take advantage of her and send her back to the trusting Fred.

Original Cast

  • Albert Bell - Jerry Verno
  • Mrs Higgins - Doris Hare
  • Mrs Fox/Ruth Walker/Girl in telephone box - Prudence Hyman
  • Mr Fox/Waiter - Ian Frazer
  • Mr Ponder - Bobby Webber
  • Mr Pewter - William Clothier
  • Mrs Pewter - Phyllis Bridgwater
  • Daisy Fig - Vivienne Martin
  • Mrs Fig/Shepherdess - Joyce Endean
  • Mr Fig - Griffith Lewis/Alan Martell
  • Sailor - John Deighton
  • Soldier - John Delaney
  • Potman - Tom Swift
  • Jane Bell - Pamela Charles
  • Mr Bryan - Peter Graves
  • Ernest Higgins - Wallas Eaton
  • Mervyn Swallow/Mr Oliver - Michael Anthony
  • Fay Meadows - Georgina Cookson/Joan Pethers
  • Greta Clare - Hazel Jennings
  • Michael Dew - David Rees
  • Lily Bell - Dora Bryan (Vivienne Martin)
  • Mr Mountain/Romeo - James Perry
  • Fred Green - Laurie Payne
  • Miss Mary Austin - Molly Greenwood
  • Miss Katie Austin - Patricia Martin
  • Bunny Moss - Roy Godfrey
  • Mr Green - Ernest Butcher
  • Mrs Green - Margo Cunningham
  • Mr Walker - George James
  • Norman - Norman Hackforth
  • Betty - June Clare
  • Gladys - Maureen Shelley
  • Maisie - Marie Livann
  • Aileen - Joan Pethers
  • Nitty - Alan Martell/Griffith Lewis
  • Floor Waiter - Richard Ryan

Musical Numbers

  1. Why Did You Call Me Lily - Lily
  2. Clip Clop - Fred
  3. I Should Worry - Bunny & Lily
  4. When I'm Washing Up - Jane
  5. Jane's Prayer - Jane
  6. Lily's Tale - Lily
  7. He Doesn't Care - Jane & Mr Bryan
  8. Castles and Hearts and Roses - Fred
  9. Peace and Quiet - Mr Green
  10. The Little Boat - Jane
  11. Why Should Spring Have All The Flowerrs? - Mrs Higgins & Albert Bell
  12. This Is Our Secret - Mr Bryan & Jane
  13. It Would Cramp My Style - Lily & Bunny
  14. You Never Know With Men - Lily