"beatrice lillie in set to music"

Published January 29, 1939





In October 1938, Noël boarded the S.S. Normandie for the trip to New York, where he was going to direct Set to Music, a revue for which he wrote sketches, music, and lyrics.  Beatrice Lillie (Lady Peel) was to star, and Noël already had experience with Bea’s cavalier attitude to learning lines. He sent a cable to Beatrice Lillie who was sailing on the Queen Mary:

Pretty witty Lady Peel
Never mind how sick you feel
Never mind your broken heart
Concentrate and learn your part

To which she responded:
Thanks musty dusty Noël C
For beastly wire to Lady P
To concentrate is hard I fear
​So now she’s crying in her beer

Morton Eustis, writing about Set to Music in Theatre Arts Monthly, gave an in-depth account of Noël as director: “His versatility, his theater sense, is nowhere seen to better advantage than in the grind of day and night rehearsals. He is everywhere; he does everything; he knows exactly what he wants. He infuses the whole cast with a sense of his enthusiasm and craftsmanship as he drills them mercilessly, but with patience and good humor.”

The show, which introduced “I Went to a Marvelous Party,” was a great success. Brooks Atkinson writing in The New York Times called the show “a revue that represents the quintessence of style and skill, with Noël Coward and Beatrice Lillie as the presiding geniuses.”

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