A leading songwriting team for the British theatre, composer George Stiles (b. 9 August 1961, Sussex, England) and lyricist Anthony Drewe (b. 22 March 1961, Berkshire, England), first met when they were students at Exeter University in 1980. After graduating (George in Music, Anthony in Zoology), they wrote their first show together, Tutankhamun, which was based on the discovery of the Boy-King’s tomb. It was well received at the Northcott Theatre on the University campus, and later in a spectacular concert version at the Imagination Building in London. Stiles and Drewe first came to notice in 1985, when their musical, Just So, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, won the final of that year’s Vivian Ellis Awards. With encouragement and financial support from producer Cameron Mackintosh, Just So was subsequently presented at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury, the Tricycle Theatre, London, and had its American premiere in November 1998 at the Norma Terris Theatre, Goodspeed-at-Chester, Connecticut. Stiles and Drewe’s next musical began its life in 1993 as The Ugly Duckling, (Or The Aesthetically Challenged Farmyard Fowl). Based on Hans Andersen’s tale of The Ugly Duckling, it had changed its name to Honk! by the time it reached the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, two years later. The team were then commissioned to write the score for (yet another) new musical version of Peter Pan (‘Just Beyond The Stars’, ‘Neverland’, ‘Good Old Captain Hook’, ‘The Lost Boys’), with book writer Willis Hall. It won Best Song (Hook’s tour de force, ‘When I Kill Peter Pan’) and the Orchestra’s Prize at the 1996 Musical Of The Year awards in Denmark. Second place in the competition went to The Three Musketeers (‘Lilacs’, ‘Any Day’, ‘The Life Of A Musketeer’, ‘Riding To Paris’, ‘The Challenge’), a collaboration between Stiles, Paul Leigh, and Peter Raby. Stiles and Leigh had collaborated earlier on Clare Luckham’s adaptation of the Daniel Defoe novel, Moll Flanders, for which Stiles used The Beggar’s Opera as the source of his tunes. When the production played the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1993, leading cast members included Josie Lawrence, Issy Van Randwyck, Angela Richards, Peter Woodward, and Darryl Knock. It won the 1995 Martini TMA for Best Musical, and Stiles and Leigh worked together again on another time-honoured eighteenth-century classic, Henry Fielding’s bawdy, satirical novel, Tom Jones, which premiered in 1996. In the same year Stiles composed the music for Habeas Corpus, which Sam Mendes directed at the Donmar Warehouse.
Anthony Drewe’s work apart from Stiles has involved him in writing lyrics for the 1992 revival of The Card, the musical which had a score by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent when it played the West End in 1973, and for The Canterville Ghost (with James McConnell, co-winner of the Vivian Ellis Awards in 1987). He has also appeared in Rogues To Riches, a musical version of The Beau Stratagem, written and starred in the murder mystery musical, A Twist Of Fate (Singapore Repertory Theatre, Raffles Hotel, 1997 and 1998), and directed revivals of Snoopy (Watermill) and Cowardy Custard (Royal Academy of Music). Stiles and Drewe took their own show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 1987, and have since appeared on many television and radio programmes. They also created and starred in two revues, Navel Fluff And Other Trivial Pursuits and Warts And All, and contributed a good deal of material to the RSC’s Shakespeare Revue.