Music by Denis King - Book and Lyrics by Peter Nichols

Publisher:Samuel French Ltd

The award-winning musical comedy featuring a British Army song and dance unit in Malaya in 1948.

IVOR NOVELLO AWARD Best British Musical 1977

Kings Comment


First performed 17 February, 1977, RSC, Aldwych Theatre, London. Transferred to The Piccadilly Theatre, London later that year.
American Premiere 5 June, 1979 at the Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut

Director: Michael Blakemore
Design: Michael Annals
Lighting: Robert Bryan
Choreographer: Eleanor Fazan
Orchestrations: Denis King
Musical Director: Gordon Kember

CAST (10M, 1W)

Nigel Hawthorne, Denis Quilley, David Daker, Emma Williams, Ben Cross, Joe Melia, Tim Wylton, Simon Jones, Ian Gelder, John Venning, Richard Rees


Click on any track name in blue to listen to the track, use the controls on the right hand side to play, pause and stop the audio.


Original cast recording by the Royal Shakespeare Company, EMI Records LTD 1978. Publisher Essex Music. Recorded at Essex Recording Studios. Produced by Denis King. Engineer, John Burns

Remastered 2014 by Stage Door Records PRIVATES ON PARADE

Film. 1984 Handmade Films, Executive Producers George Harrison and Denis O’Brien. Screenplay and lyrics Peter Nichols. Music by Denis King. Producer, Simon Relph. Director, Michael Blakemore. Director of Photography, Ian Wilson. Editor, Jim Clark.

CAST: John Cleese, Denis Quilley, Michael Elphick, Nicola Pagett, Bruce Payne, Joe Melia, David Bamber, Simon Jones, Patrick Pearson, Phil Ten, Vincent Wong


One day in 1976, I had a call from director Michael Blakemore asking if I’d be at all interested in writing the score for a new Peter Nichols “play with music” the Royal Shakespeare Company was producing about a British Army song and dance unit in Malaya in 1948. The composer in residence at the RSC had yet to produce any music for the show, it was due to go into rehearsal, and Mssrs Blakemore and Nichols were becoming slightly concerned. I’d never written for the theatre before but was extremely interested and very flattered, and said so.

Peter had already completed the lyrics, which I thought funny and clever, and he wanted the music to be written in 1940s pastiche-style á la Vera Lynn, Flanagan and Allen, Noel Coward, Carmen Miranda and so on. Parody of that period came relatively easily to me as I’d grown up hearing that music, and down in my little studio at the bottom of the garden in NW3, I was able to complete the score in a week, much to Peter and Michael’s astonishment (and mine). Thankfully it all worked and everyone was happy.

By the time “Privates On Parade” opened, to huge acclaim, I was smitten, and you couldn’t keep me away from the Aldwych. I’d be running in to take over as pianist/musical director when the MD wanted a day off (or even when he didn’t) and whenever friends rang saying they’d like to see the show, almost a daily occurrence, I’d not only race to secure seats for them, but pay for them as well, naively assuming that having a hit in the West End meant it was my duty. What an idiot. It is a myth, incidentally, just so you know, that we theatre folk “always get freebies”.

“Privates” was blessed with a wonderful cast including Denis Quilley, Joe Melia, Simon Jones and Nigel Hawthorne, whose brilliantly eccentric Major Flack was so mesmerizing that the band, normally a bunch of hardened musicians who pick up a newspaper between songs or possibly even sneak off to the pub, would, to a man, remain in the orchestra pit, transfixed by Nigel’s hysterically funny performance at the beginning of the second act.

At the Evening Standard Awards that year, “Privates On Parade” won Best Comedy. Peter Nichols in his acceptance speech thanked everyone involved in the production except me. He apologized the following day. Denis King

Fact of the Day
Over the course of two years of (endless) celebrity golf tournaments, Denis won 5 golf umbrellas, 4 silver dishes, 3 glass decanters, 2 televisions - and a putter in a pear tree.
Listening Post
The Joke's On Me - Elaine Delmar vocal