Jeeves & By Jeeves: Flop or not?

One of the most irritating and unnecessary mistakes with regard to Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals Jeeves and By Jeeves is that the two are frequently conflated into one and constantly referred to as a 'flop' musical.

Let us be clear. They are not the same musical and whilst
Jeeves (1975) was an undoubted flop, By Jeeves (1996) cannot be considered anything but a critical and popular success. Sadly, lazy research and writing has frequently conflated the two to provide a factually inaccurate picture of the musicals.

Here, we differentiate between the two.

The Facts: Jeeves

Jeeves was, inarguably, a flop West End musical.
It's one - and only - professional production opened at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 March 1975 before transferring to Her Majesty's Theatre on 22 April 1975. The musical closed on 24 May 1975.
Jeeves was conceived as a large scale West End musical. It had a cast of 22 actors and an orchestra or 19 musicians. It featured numerous changes of location and set (via constantly changing backcloths).
The musical had 14 songs (not including reprises) and, when it first opened, ran in excess of four hours. By the end of its West End run, this had been reduced to slightly less than three hours.
A cast recording on vinyl was released but was not widely available nor successful; it is considered to be one of the rarer Ayckbourn collectables.
There has also been one amateur production of Jeeves - significantly edited and cut - which was produced in 1981 at Dulwich College. This version is also not available for production and has been withdrawn.
Jeeves has had one professional production. It was withdrawn almost immediately afterwards and was never published. It will never be produced, staged, recorded nor seen again.

The Facts: By Jeeves

By Jeeves is not Jeeves!
By Jeeves was the opening production of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1996. It was critically acclaimed and performed to sold-out houses (and ran for longer than the original West End production).
This production then transferred to the Duke Of York's Theatre in the West End for a limited run between 2 July and 28 September 1996. Its success led to a transfer to the Lyric Theatre between 3 October and 22 February 1997. This production then went onto a successful UK tour.
By Jeeves won the TMA Regional Theatre Award for Best Musical in 1996 and it was nominated for the Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production.
It had its first North American production in October 1996 at the Norman Terris Theater, Chester, Connecticut. It would be produced several more times in North America before premiering on Broadway on 30 December 2001 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
By Jeeves was conceived as a small-scale, small-cast musical. It has a cast of 11 actors with an intended orchestration of four musicians. It features a single-set.
By Jeeves has has 11 songs, six of which were taken from the original musical with five being new. It runs for - approximately - two and a quarter hours.
Alan Ayckbourn wrote 'virtually' a new book for By Jeeves and the plots are not the same. The main antagonist in Jeeves is Wodehouse's character Spode but, in By Jeeves, it is Ayckbourn's creation, Cyrus Budge Jnr III.
There have been three cast recordings released of By Jeeves and the West End cast recording is also available to stream.
It was adapted for and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 14 December 1996 and adapted and recorded for television during 2001 featuring the Broadway company. This production was also streamed 'live' during 2020 as part of Andrew Lloyd Webbers's The Shows Must Go On! series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alan Ayckbourn has directed more productions of By Jeeves than any of his other plays or works.
By Jeeves has been produced by professional and amateur companies around the world and is constantly available for production.

One other salient fact. No-one is ever going to see the original Jeeves again - no matter what you may read. If any writer or article says Alan Ayckbourn's flop musical Jeeves is being revived, screened, streamed or anything else. They are wrong.

It will always be
By Jeeves being revived, staged, streamed or recorded. You will only ever see the rather more successful Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical By Jeeves.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.