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On the Level

Cover to Original Cast Album

A musical in 2 acts by Ronald Millar: Music by Ron Grainer.

Saville Theatre, London - 19 April, 1966 (138 perfs)


This is. a story of today - of perfectly normal parents and their perfectly normal children - caught up in the favourite British academic obstacle race - exams.

Act I

The story begins in any examination hall - in fact, in several. But - no gloom, no desperation - because all the candidates know both the questions and the answers beforehand. Children and parents mock the whole examination system.

Authority demands an explanation - in the first place, from Clancy Pettinger, the Security Officer in charge of the exam papers. Clancy takes us back nearly a year. He is with his secretary, Kathie Parker at the last night of the Proms. A young stranger faints into her arms; Clancy and Kathie take him back to his flat, where the boy, Joe Whitby, explains that he's desperate with worry about his G.C.E. It's Joe's third attempt; he must pass if he's to fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor. Kathie and Joe realise they are failing in love. Kathie's brother Mike is at school with whiz-kid, Norman Raikes and Eileen Wells. Eileen asks Norman to take her to a club, but he turns her down - she's just a kid. Late one evening after Kathie has left him Joe falls into a troubled sleep - and dreams.

In the warehouse where all the exam papers are stored, we find the harrassed Fiona hard at work, surrounded by thousands of question papers. Clancy arrives, followed by Kathie. She's late because she's been up half the night coaching Joe. Clancy realises Joe has taken his place with Kathie - he can only hope to be her friend, as Fiona is his. Later, alone in the warehouse, Kathie steals the first of several question papers to help Joe. At Joe's flat, Kathie and Joe are in high spirits. The pressure's off Joe; gaily he promises to go to Kathie's twenty-first birthday party. They are joined by Chuck and Marie-Luce. At the party we meet all the kids and their parents. Mike has found out about the stolen papers and blackmails Kathie to keep him in pocket money. But, suddenly, 'the cat is out of the bag'; question papers are passed around from student to student and parent to parent. Kathie, Joe and Clancy can do nothing to stop it. The party rises to a 'rave* climax.


Later the same evening, the kids enjoy the sights of London at night. Inside the discotheque, owned by Howard Motion, one of the parents, the kids and parents discuss with Clancy, Joe and Kathie how to keep the affair of the stolen papers secret. They decide to sit tight and say nothing - but whiz-kid Norman has overheard them. The price of his silence is bribes from parents - and the English paper from Kathie. Not for himself, but for Marie-Luce, whom he's coaching. When the children have left, the parents ruefully sigh for the good old days when they were young.

Norman, with the English paper and others, goes to see Marie-Lace, hoping to win her from her American boyfriend, Chuck, But Marie-Luce tells him he's too young.

In the morgue where Joe works as an assistant night porter Kathie meets him to give him the stolen papers.
Chuck goes to see Marie-Luce and she tells him they can soon marry, because she won't have any trouble passing her exam how - the condition imposed by her father. When Chuck sees the stolen papers, he realises there's big money in them - a whole new industry, and with Chuck in charge the cheating escalates rapidly, involving all the schools in London.

By now the situation is completely out of hand; Kathie and Joe are on the run. Kathie tries to persuade him that two people are more easily detected than one and they should part. Joe rejects the idea. Clancy anxious to help them, finds Kathie and Joe in the Planetarium, their favourite haunt, but he has been followed by Fiona, a spare-time special constable. Clancy makes a last attempt to enlist her help and sympathy - but fails. All three are arrested. The scandal makes world headlines - "Britannia waives the rules." The parents mourn the misdeeds of the children; the children attack the shortcomings of their parents. But the guilty children and parents alike, are sentenced to nine months. While in prison, Kathy has a baby. At the christening, after they're released, the child is given the names George Clancy Edward - 'the only possible initials."

Musical Numbers

    1. Three Crazy Letters (G.C.E.) - Ensemble
    2. Strangely Attractive - Joe and Kathie
    3. Bleep-Bleep - Eileen
    4. Thermodynamically Yours - Joe, Kathie, Clancy and Ensemble
    5. Very Good Friend - Fiona and Clancy
    6. My Girl at the Dance - Kathie, Joe, Chuck and Marie-Luce
    7. Let's Make the Most of Now - The Company
    8. Where the Action Is - Chuck, Marie-Luce, Norman and Ensemble
    9. Nostalgia - George, Mildred, Howard and Helen
    10. Love Gets Younger Every Year - Norman and Marie-Luce
    11. Peaceful - Joe and Ensemble
    12. On the Level - Chuck, Joe, Norman and Ensemble
    13. And Then I'll Go - Kathie and Joe
    14. Chorale - Finale - The Ensemble
    15. Play Out (Where The Action Is) - Orchestra


(in order of appearance)

Original cast shown

Clancy Pettinger - Barrie Ingham
Kathie - Angela Richards
Joe - Gary Bond
Fiona Sherringham - Phyllida Law
Eileen Wells - Sheila White
Marie-Luce - Sandra Michaels
Chuck - Rod McLennan
Norman - Bernard Sharpe
George Parker - Barney Gilbraith
Mildred Parker - Irlin Hall
Howard Morton - Robert Cawdron
Helen Morton - Carolyn Hudson
Eric - Bobby Bannerman
Michael - Richard Fox
Judge - Brian Hewitt-Jones

The Singers: Olwen Hughes, Vanessa Howard, Paddy Glynne, Joyce Dalton, Brian Forster, Terry Mitchell, Joseph Saber, Earle Cross, Vicky Molon, Sheila White, Clare Welch, Kenneth Waller, Tim Kynman, Bobby Banner man, Noel Tovey.

The Dancers: Caryl Little, Caroline Haig, Julie Pitcher, Kathy Preston, Richard Fox, Mike Bevan, Barrie Young, Mary Clubb, Derina House, Maggie Vieler, Louis Godfrey, David Thornton, John Lane.


Original London Cast Album - C.B.S. - BRG 70021