A forgotten Broadway musical will get its European premiere after a University of Sheffield student worked through boxes of neglected manuscripts to reconstruct the score, which has not been heard anywhere in the world since 1962.
Masters student Matthew Malone sorted through dozens of boxes filled with sheet music from three US archives to piece together a full orchestration of Subways are for Sleeping – a musical by renowned composer Jule Styne, which only ran for 205 performances.
Matthew will now conduct a 30-piece orchestra during two concert performances of the show’s music, featuring staff and students, at the University’s Firth Hall on Tuesday 29 April and Wednesday 30 April.
Subways are for Sleeping was composed by the late Styne, best known for the music of Gypsy, Funny Girl and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, while the lyrics and script were written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote the screenplay for Singin’ in the Rain.
But despite this impressive pedigree, the show – based on an article and book that described the real-life exploits of homeless people living on New York’s underground system – struggled during previews and the script was partly rewritten.
The critical reception was mixed and, in an attempt to boost ticket sales, the show’s producer David Merrick paid several New Yorkers with the same names as the leading theatre critics of the day to provide positive quotes about the show for publicity.
The show opened on 27 December 1961 and ran for 205 performances, but it never toured. There was a short semi-staged revival in 2009, but this used only piano accompaniment, and there has never been a European production.
The complete original orchestrations of the show have now been reconstructed for a new critical edition using sources from the Library of Congress, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and Tams-Witmark Music Library in New York.
The planned publication of this edition means the score will be available for others to perform around the world in the future.
The two performances in Sheffield are produced by Dr Dominic McHugh, of the University’s Department of Music, who will use only brief excerpts of the script alongside a newly-written narration.
He said the score is a “neglected masterpiece” and contains several songs that became very popular at the time – in particular, Judy Garland’s hit song Comes Once in a Lifetime.
He added: “It has been a privilege to be allowed to revive this score for the first time since the original production in 1962. Academia seems the perfect home for the revival.
“Matthew's reconstruction of the score is based on manuscripts from three different American archives, and the concerts will have a full orchestra of almost 40 players.
“The performances are the result of a year's planning, research, editing and rehearsal: a process that would simply be too complicated and expensive for the commercial sector, in spite of the high quality of the composition.
"We are incredibly grateful to the Jule Styne and Comden and Green estates for their support of our project."
Matthew said: “I feel very lucky to be able to bring this fantastic score to a fresh audience that would otherwise not be able to hear it.
“It has been inspiring to work under Dominic's supervision on this university-wide, once-in-a-lifetime community event."
Tickets can be booked at http://sivtickets.com/event/subwaysareforsleeping and cost £8.50, £6 (concessions-over 60s), £3 (under 26s, students, unwaged).
The University of Sheffield
With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
For further information, please visit www.sheffield.ac.uk