By Norm Robins
Today we get to view for free Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves based on P.G. Wodehouse’s two comic characters. Bertie Wooster is an airhead who has as his butler the wise Jeeves. Wodehouse was an interesting author. He was British but lived most of his life in the U.S. In the 1930s he wrote for MGM in Hollywood. In 1934 he moved to France for tax purposes and as was his usual luck he was captured in 1940 by the Germans. He did some apolitical broadcasting over German radio that caused a furor even though it was comical material. Political he wasn’t. Funny he was.
You may recall the excellent British film The King’s Speech. In it Prince Albert, about to be crowned King George VI, played by Colin Firth, has a stammer. He is brought to an Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush to correct it. Rush thinks Prince and King and Your Majesty are more than too formal. They are stuffy. Rush thinks about a nickname. He settles on Bertie. To Prince Albert’s chagrin Rush addresses him as Bertie. Is Wodehouse’s Bertie the one Rush has in mind? Hmmm.
But Wodehouse was nothing if not prolific. Not only did he write for Hollywood, but he wrote for Broadway as well. He published more than 90 books, forty plays, and 200 short stories.
The play opens with Bertie appearing onstage for a banjo concert. He is handed a banjo-sized frying pan. While playing the frying pan Bertie discovers it’s not a banjo at all. What to do? Call Jeeves, of course, to bail him out. “Jeeves,” he says in desperation, “what precisely is this, Jeeves?” If you will pardon the pun, in a deadpan voice Jeeves replies, “That is a frying pan, sir.” Jeeves tells Bertie someone stole his banjo. Who on earth would do that, Bertie inquires? Probably a music lover is Jeeves’s answer.
And this delightful madcap play takes the story from there. It is a joy to watch. It is free. It is the best entertainment for a Friday after a workweek I can imagine. You can find it on YouTube at