Lost Empires


Music by Denis King - Lyrics and adaptation by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall from the novel by J.B. Priestley

A story of greed and envy, greasepainted suicide and sexual awakening set in the dying music halls just prior to World War II. The Empires being lost are only by extension those of old Queen Victoria, they are primarily those of Stoll and Moss on the great provincial touring circuits, about to crumble not at the roar of the guns in Flanders but at the silent threat of film.

Produced by The Cambridge Theatre Company & the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Kings Comment


First performed at Darlington Civic Theatre on 15 May 1985

Director: Bill Pryde
Design: Poppy Mitchell
Lighting: Charlie Patton
Choreography: Anthony Van Laast
Orchestrations: Denis King
Musical Director: Ed Coleman

CAST (11 M, 4 W)

Brian Rawlinson, Peter Ledbury, Leslie Randall, Anthony Gardner, Jonathan Stephens, Peter Adamson, Angela Richards, Kevin Quarmby, Julia Chambers, Geoffrey Drew, Eddie Caswell, Ron Emslie, Antonia Pemberton, Daniel Watson, Paddy Navin


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LOST EMPIRES opened in Darlington and then went everywhere but into the Old Vic, where it was supposed to, which made everyone involved suicidal, except for a couple of not-very-good cast members who worried that being in the West End might tie them up for other things (like unemployment).

Actors, I tell you.

Den was slightly cheered by his friend Benny Green ringing to say he’d just read a rave for the show in “Punch” which especially praised the music, so we immediately bought five hundred issues. Only the day before, Denis had received this gem of a notice (in the one review which even mentioned there was music in this musical): “Denis King’s music is handy.”

Handy? What does that mean? As in, lucky thing Den just happened to have a song called ‘TWICE NIGHTLY’ rolled up in his back pocket when, ambling through the streets of London one evening, he heard someone in an open window up above tearing his hair out, wailing “Oh, if only we had an opening song for Act Two--but where to find one this time of night??"

Critics. I tell you. Astrid King

Fact of the Day
Denis worked with Sir John Betjeman, who was asked to write a lyric for a TV theme of Denis' but the partnership was shortlived as after two months Sir John had only come up with four words, but apparently they had a good lunch together.
Listening Post
Aunt Sally's Song - TV Version