Oh, What a Lovely War!
is an epic musical
that Joan Littlewood
. It is based on The
by military historian (and future Conservative
politician) Alan Clark
, with some scenes
adapted from The Good
by Czech humorist Jaroslav Hašek
; it was also inspired by
1961-1962 documentary radio
ballad The Long Trail
. It is a satire
on World War I
by extension against war in general). The title is derived from the
song "Oh! It's a Lovely War,"
which is one of the major numbers in the production.
musical premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East on 19 March 1963.
It was an ensemble
production featuring members of the theatre's regular company,
which included Brian Murphy
and Glynn Edwards
, all of whom played multiple
roles. The sets were designed by John Bury
. The production
subsequently transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in June of the same year.
The production was
a surprise hit, and the musical was adapted by the BBC
for radio several times.
musical premiered in the United States on Broadway at the
Broadhurst Theatre on 30
September 1964 and closed on 16 January 1965 after 125
Directed by Littlewood, the cast featured
Spinetti and Murphy. It received four Tony
nominations, including Best Musical
, and Spinetti won
the Theatre World Award
The show is usually performed in pierrot
costumes and features such World War I-era songs as "It's a Long Way to Tipperary
"Pack up Your
" and "Keep the Home Fires
." Harsh images of war and shocking statistics are
projected onto the backdrop, providing a contrast with the comedy
of the action taking place before it.
The song "Oh! It's a Lovely War" was written by J. P. Long and
Maurice Scott in 1917 and was part of the repertoire of music hall
star and male
impersonator Ella Shields
lyrics of first verse and the chorus are as follows:
- Up to your waist in water,
- Up to your eyes in slush -
- Using the kind of language,
- That makes the sergeant blush;
- Who wouldn't join the army?
- That's what we all inquire,
- Don't we pity the poor civilians sitting beside the fire.
- Oh! Oh! Oh! it's a lovely war,
- Who wouldn't be a soldier eh?
- Oh! It's a shame to take the pay.
- As soon as reveille is gone
- We feel just as heavy as lead,
- But we never get up till the sergeant brings
- Our breakfast up to bed
- Oh! Oh! Oh! it's a lovely war,
- What do we want with eggs and ham
- When we've got plum and apple jam?
- Form fours! Right turn!
- How shall we spend the money we earn?
- Oh! Oh! Oh! it's a lovely war.
The play was cancelled in the summer of 2005 after it was deemed
Two renditions of the song, one from 1918, can be heard here.
- Based on the 1964 Broadway production
- Act 1
- Row, Row, Row (Lyrics By William Jerome, Music By James Monaco)
– The Ensemble
- We Don't Want to Lose You (Your King and Country Want
You)(Music and Lyrics By Paul Rubens) – The Ladies
- Belgium Put the
Kibosh on the Kaiser (Music and Lyrics By Paddy Ellerton) –
- Are We Downhearted – The Men
- It's a Long Way to
Tipperary (Music and Lyrics By Jack Judge and Harry Williams) –
- Hold Your Hand Out Naughty Boy (Music and Lyrics By Murphy and
David) – The Men
- I'll Make a Man of You (Music and Lyrics By Arthur Wimperis and
Herman Finck) – Barbara Windsor
- Pack Up
Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag (Lyrics By George Asaf) – The
- Hitchykoo (Lyrics By L. Wolfe Gilbert, Music By Lewis F. Muir
and Maurice Abrahams) – Fanny Carby
- Heilige Nacht – Colin Kemball
- Goodbye...ee (Lyrics By R. P. Weston, Music By Bert Lee) –
- Act 2
- Oh What a Lovely War – The Ensemble
- Gassed Last Night – The Men
- Roses of Picardy (Music By Haydn Wood) – Linda Loftus and Ian
- Hush Here Comes a Whizzbang – The Men
- There's a Long Long Trail (Lyrics By Stoddard King) – Ian
- I Don't Want to Be a Soldier – The Men
- Kaiser Bill – The Men
- They Were Only Playing Leapfrog – The Men
- Old Soldiers Never Die – Murray Melvin
- Far Far from Wipers (Music and Lyrics By Bingham and Greene) –
- If the Sergeant Steals Your Rum – The Men
- I Wore a Tunic (When You Wore a Tulip) – Ian Paterson
- Forward Joe Soap's Army – The Men
- Fred Karno's Army – The Men
- When This Lousy War Is Over – Colin Kembal
- Wash Me in the Water – The Men
- I Want To Go Home – The Men
- The Bells Of
Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling – The Men
- Keep the
Home Fires Burning (Lyrics By Lena Gulibert Ford, Music By Ivor
Novello) – Myvanwy Jenn
- Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts (Lyrics By R. P. Weston, Music By
Herman Darewski) – Barbara Windsor
- Chanson de Craonne (Music and Lyrics By Valliant and Couturier)
– The Ensemble
- Don't Want to be A Soldier – The Ensemble
- And When They Asked Us (Music and Lyrics By Jerome Kern) – The
- Banham (1998, 645), Brockett and Hildy (2003, 493), and Eyre
and Wright (2000, 266-69).
- The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English
Literature, ed Laura Marcus & Peter Nicholls, page 478.
Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0521820774,
- Milling and Thomson (2004).
- Arthur (2001, 47).
- Arthur, Max. 2001. When This Bloody War Is Over: Soldiers'
Songs from the First World War. London: Piatkus. ISBN
- Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to
Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN 0521434378.
- Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. 2003. History of
the Theatre. Ninth edition, International edition. Boston:
Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205410502.
- Eyre, Richard and Nicholas Wright.
2000. Changing Stages: A View of British Theatre in the
Twentieth Century. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747547890.
- Milling, Jane and Peter Thomson, eds. 2004. The Cambridge
History of British Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 397-401.