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Over My Shoulder

Cover to cast recording

Presented by Evergreen Theatrical Productions Ltd

JERMYN STREET Theatre - 6 November— 2 December 2001


Jessie Matthews was a theatre and cinema star who rose to the top of her profession only to fall flat again. Born to a Berwick Street Market fruit-seller, she was a good dancer who became one of the biggest revue stars in the '20s, which led to a career in British film musicals, the best of which was First a Girl, the forerunner of Victor/Victoria. Eventually, though, her star waned and the film career came to an end, and thereafter she toured in repertory. In 1963 she took over in the radio serial Mrs Dale's Diary. Ironically she even appeared on stage in The Killing of Sister George, in the role of June Buckridge, based on Ellis Powell, the former Mrs Dale who was fired by the BBC.

In Over My Shoulder author Richard Stirling has set his play in 1970 as Jessie is about to receive her OBE. The older Jessie looks back to the earlier Jessie. It's an affectionate piece that skirts round some aspects of Jessie's character — thrice married, she had a penchant for pinching other wives' husbands, and she ended up buried in an unmarked grave. However, it's the talent and the personality that people remember and in her time Jessie had an elfin charm when dancing up a storm. Ken Russell said of her that she had "a nymph-like sexuality".

Michael Darvell - What's On.


Overture. Buckingham Palace. 1970. Jessie Matthews. star of stage. screen and radio. waits to collect her OBE, remembering …

Soho. 1920.Young Jessie, one of a market trader's eleven children, is taught by her eldest sister, Rosie, to dance and speak proper! The impresario, Charles B Cochran notices her talent. Young Jessie gets taken to Broadway and takes over from the great Gertrude Lawrence. But, as the older Jessie recalls, an affair with a handsome playboy ends badly. Back in London, young Jessie marries the rakish Harry Lytton. Sonnie Hale, her new co-star, falls in love with her despite the fact that they are both married. The affair sparks a major scandal, which the older Jessie has never forgotten. leading to two divorces and her remarriage to Sonnie.

Despite this, C B Cochran presents Jessie in Evergreen, an enormous success. The young film director Victor Saville offers her a contract. The older Jessie remembers their first film, The Good Companions.

Next comes the screen version of Evergreen. a huge hit. But Jessie, proclaimed 'The Dancing Divinity', miscarries a baby, and is disconsolate. The older Jessie recalls the success of her next film, First A Girl and the adoption of a baby daughter, Catherine. It's Love Again is another triumph. Victor Saville leaves for Hollywood, but Jessie is locked into her British contract. Sonnie takes over the direction of her films.

The filming of Gangway worsens their relationship, as the older Jessie remembers. The young star is also not immune to other men. On the eve of World War II, she accepts an offer of a Broadway show — aware that Sonnie is no longer in love with her. The older Jessie, home from the Palace with her O.B.E. tries to cast aside the increasingly dark memories of her early career.

In New York. Jessie is prevented from starring with Fred Astaire in Hollywood by the Broadway management, which then makes her wait months before using her. Jessie suffers a complete breakdown, thrown into contrast by the memory of her finest moment on stage and screen.

Victor Saville rescues her, and gets her home to England — but Sonnie has gone, and her career is at a low point. Times have changed. something with which the older Jessie has eventually come co terms.

In 1963, her indefatigable sister Rosie makes her audition for Mrs Dale's Diary on the radio. Jessie gets the part, making her a household name again — albeit a sadder and wiser one.

In the Finale, we remember how Jessie Matthews' high-kicks, doe-eyed charm and joie de vivre made her — for too brief a while - one of the biggest stars in the world.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Overture (Over My Shoulder)
  2. Chick, Chick, Chickem (Over My Shoulder)
  3. Parisien Pierrot (London Calling)
  4. Got To Dance My Way To Heaven (It's Love Again)
  5. My Heart Stood Still (One Damn Thing After Another)
  6. A Room With a View (This Year of Grace)
  7. Three Wishes (The Good Companions)
  8. Over My Shoulder (Evergreen)
  9. Everybody's In Rhythm With My Heart (First a Girl)
  10. It's Love Again (It's Love Again)
  11. Gangway (Gangway)
  12. May I Have the Next Romance With You? (Head Over Heels)
  13. Over My Shoulder (Reprise) (Evergreen)
  14. Dancing On the Ceiling (Evergreen)
  15. After All These Years (Tom Thumb)
  16. When You've Got a Little Springtime In Your Heart (Evergreen)
  17. Finale (Over My Shoulder)


Anne Rogers - Jessie Matthews
Suzy Bloom - Young Jessie
Abigail Langham - Rosie Matthews
Stephen Carlile - Palace Flunkey
Andrew Halliday - Odd Job Man
Duncan Wisbey - Charles B Cochran
Ben Stock - Pianist
Daniel Fine - Felipe
Stephen Carlile - Harry Lytton
Andrew Halliday - Sonnie Hale
Ben Stock - Victor Saville
Daniel Fine - Buddy
Abigail Langham - Sheilah Graham
Stephen Carlile - Fred Astaire
Duncan Wisbey - Bing Crosby
Daniel Fine - Reporter

Director/Choreography Stewart Nicholls Costumes Ilona Karas Prokopcova Lighting Mike Robertson


Original London Cast Recording - TER CDTER 1265


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favourable 2
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