BITTER SWEET An Operetta in 3 acts by by Noel Coward Produced at His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 18 July, 1929 (673 perfs) Revival - 23 February, 1988 - Sadler’s Wells SYNOPSIS Everything that wealthy London society had to offer a properly brought-up girl lay at the feet of little Sarah Millick in 1875; but she fell so desperately in love with her handsome young singing master that she threw it all away in order to be with him. In Vienna, five poverty-stricken years later, her adored Carl is killed in a duel. But his music lives on as the self-reliant Sarah earns fame throughout Europe with her singing. Finally returning to England, she marries the elderly Marquis of Shayne who has waited so patiently for her. Years later, at a madly bright party in the late 1920s, she tells her story, winning the grudging admiration of the smart young set. The Marchioness, they decide, must have been a gay old bird. STORY ACT 1 Dolly Chamberlain and her fiancé, Lord Henry Jekyll, are having a tiff whilst at a ball thrown by the Lady Shayne. Dolly is full of admiration for their hostess whose life is said to have been one of fascinating romance and adventure, but Jekyll sees Lady Shayne’s past as a disreputable thing redeemed only by her safe, social marriage to Shayne. Dolly sends her fiancé away and promptly falls passionately into the arms of the pianist engaged for the dance. She decides to abandon the stuffy Henry and elope with her pianist to lead a life of love singing his songs in cabarets and hotels. Their embrace is overseen by Lady Shayne who asks them what they intend to do and, in response to their indecision, she suggests quite firmly that the young must answer ‘The Call of Life’. Time is rolled back and we now see a younger Lady Shayne. It is 1875 and young Sarah Millick is being given a singing lesson by the dashing music master, Carl Linden. He tells her of his Austrian homeland and of how he would like to share it with her and, gradually, their secret love for each other becomes plain. Carl tells Sarah that he must leave London. Even now her mother is making preparations for the day of her forthcoming wedding to the rich and titled Hugh Devon. They turn purposefully back to the singing lesson, but their feelings are too strong to allow them to concentrate on the lesson. Mrs Millick enters with Hugh and, as Carl abruptly takes his leave, Sarah falls weeping into her mother’s arms. At the ball that night Sarah behaves somewhat erratically which causes not a little comment by the guests. Dismissing her fiancé sharply, she orders the orchestra to play something gay and gives forth with a song demanding ‘What Is Love?’, waltzing wildly around the room, alone. As the evening draws to a close, she tries to apologise for her outburst but Hugh just doesn’t understand. The last dance is played and the gentlemen depart, leaving Sarah and her bridesmaids-to-be alone to talk of marriage and men and finally to indulge in a game of blindman’s-buff. The finale begins with the girls singing themselves into the game. Sarah is blinfolded but, as the other girls hide and she begins to seek to catch whom she can, Carl Linden returns to the room to collect his music. It is around his neck that the blindfolded girl’s arms end. Taken off his guard, he kisses her and in a moment the two young people are pouring out their mutual love.