Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn's musical adaptation of the Jeeves stories of P.G. Wodehouse began life as a failed musical called Jeeves in London in 1975. It was revised and remounted 20 years later with greater success as By Jeeves, opening (or reopening) in London on July 2, 1996. This time around, the show was scaled down considerably, and the score, which still included the songs "Travel Hopefully," "When Love Arrives," "Half a Moment," and "Banjo Boy" from Jeeves, was being played on only a handful of instruments and modestly sung by the small cast. The cast seems even smaller than it is most of the time, in fact, because the show consists for the most part of a dialogue between manservant Jeeves (Malcolm Sinclair) and his dim-witted master Bertie Wooster (Steven Pacey). The album contains 26 tracks, but only 14 of them have music; the other 12 are spoken-word sections in which the hopelessly complicated plot (much too much for Wooster to follow, and for the listener as well) is discussed endlessly as a succession of false identities, mixed up romantic entanglements, and other embarrassments. In the songs, Lloyd Webber clearly is drawing upon the work of 1920s and '30s show music composers; "That Was Nearly Us," for example, is dangerously similar to Rodgers & Hart's 1932 song "Isn't It Romantic?" The stupid, disengaged character of Wooster is a thin one to hang a show on, and Jeeves is too restrained to carry things. Lovers of the Wodehouse books may find the results enjoyable, but to musical theater fans this is decidedly minor Lloyd Webber.
By Jeeves -The Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical Review
by William Ruhlmann