A University of Sheffield student has been on an amazing musical journey that culminates in the European premiere of a forgotten musical score that he has pieced back together.
Masters student Matthew Malone sorted through dozens of boxes filled with sheet music from three US archives to piece together a full orchestration of Subways are for Sleeping. The musical by renowned composer Jule Styne only ran for 205 performances in 1961.
Matthew will conduct a 30-piece orchestra for two concert performances of the show’s music, featuring staff and students, at the University’s Firth Hall on Tuesday April 29 and Wednesday 30.
He said the idea was to launch his career: “My inspiration is to be a musical director in the West End and Broadway.
“I did my undergraduate music degree in Sheffield and I found out that one of the lecturers, Dr Dominic McHugh, is a Broadway expert.
“I told him what I want to do and what did he suggest I go. He said a good thing would be to revive a musical, so I sorted through a few and found an original cast recording of the score and fell in love with it.”
Matthew then had to piece the orchestration back together from three US archives and get permission from the estates of the writers plus surviving the stars of the Broadway show.
The project has won a lot of attention, which all adds to Matthew’s pre-performance nerves.
He said: “I get assessed on my conducting as part of my masters degree. On the first night I’ve got examiners coming in to assess me!”
Matthew added: “It has been really wonderful to hear something on a recording that’s never been done, then hear the musicians playing it.”
Subways are for Sleeping was composed by the late Styne, best known for the music of Gypsy, Funny Girl and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, while the lyrics and script were written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote the screenplay for Singin’ in the Rain.
It should have been a dream team but the show’s storyline, based on an article and book that described the real-life exploits of homeless people living on New York’s underground system, undercut the beautiful score. Matthew also says that in 1962 audiences wanted light comedy, especially from the Styne-Comden-Green team.
Dr McHugh said the score is a “neglected masterpiece” and contains several songs that became very popular at the time – in particular, Judy Garland’s hit song Comes Once in a Lifetime.
He added: “It has been a privilege to be allowed to revive this score for the first time since the original production in 1962.
“Academia seems the perfect home for the revival.”
Tickets can be booked at http://sivtickets.com/event/subwaysareforsleeping.
Dominic and Matthew will give a talk before the Tuesday performance at 6.30pm to discuss the background to the musical and this revival, with live music examples.