On the face of it, P. G. Wodehouse and Andrew Lloyd Webber, currently sharing billing on By Jeeves at the Helen Hayes, would appear to have little in common. Wodehouse is widely credited for helping invent the American musical, Lloyd Webber for having destroyed it. The first claim happens to be true, as attested by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, and other admirers of Wodehouse’s Broadway work eight decades ago. The latter claim is a bit of wishful thinking: The Great White Way wound up like Mark Green’s mayoral run—it had years of experience and all the qualifications, but, through its own sour, joyless complacency, defeated itself and let the other fellow inherit by default.

It’s easier to see that now that Cats and Starlight Express have departed. Lloyd Webber hasn’t had a hit since Phantom fifteen years ago—though, the...


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