MONCKTON, [John] Lionel [Alexander] (b London, 18 December 1861; d London, 15 September 1924). Composer for the heyday of the Gaiety and Daly's Theatres musicals.
The son of London's town clerk, Sir John Monckton, and of Lady Monckton, an enthusiastic amateur actress, Lionel Monckton was educated at Charterhouse and at Oxford University where he took part in theatricals and composed music for the dramatic society's productions. He began his working life in the legal profession, but worked on the side as a theatre and music critic on the Pall Mall Gazette and, subsequently, the Daily Telegraph, and all the time continued to write songs. He was 30 years old before he placed his first number in a professional musical show when George Edwardes put his 'What Will You Have to Drink?', with a lyric by no less a collaborator than Basil Hood, into the burlesque Cinder-Ellen Up-too-Late (1891) where it was sung by Edwin Lonnen. Monckton subsequently supplied interpolations for Edwardes's Don Juan (1893, 'Some Do It This Way' w Horace Lennard), contributed to the hotch-potch collection of songs which illustrated King Kodak (1894, 'We've Faith in the Old Flag Still' etc) and wrote half of the music for Arthur Roberts's burlesque Claude Du-Val (1894) before supplementing Ivan Caryll's score for the Gaiety Theatre's The Shop Girl (1894) with such successful pieces as George Grossmith's 'Beautiful Bountiful Bertie' and 'Brown of Colorado' (w Adrian Ross).
Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Monckton
The association with Edwardes and Caryll (later as co-composers rather than Monckton being 'additional music by') begun on The Shop Girl was to continue for 15 years - 15 years in which the Gaiety Theatre was the world's centre of musical comedy and Caryll and Monckton's songs for The Circus Girl ('A Simple Little String', 'The Way to Treat a Lady'), A Runaway Girl ('Soldiers in the Park', 'Society', 'The Sly Cigarette', 'The Boy Guessed Right' also lyric, 'Not the Sort of Girl I Care About'), The Messenger Boy ('Maisie', 'In the Wash', 'When the Boys Come Home Once More' also lyrics as 'Leslie Mayne'), The Toreador (Captivating Cora', 'I'm Romantic', 'When I Marry Amelia', 'Keep Off the Grass', 'Archie'), The Orchid ('Liza Ann', 'Little Mary', 'Pushful', 'Fancy Dress'), The Spring Chicken ('I Don't Know, But I Guess', 'Alice Sat By the Fire', 'Under and Over Forty'), A New Aladdin, The Girls of Gottenberg ('Two Little Sausages' also lyric, 'Rheingold', 'Berlin on the Spree') and Our Miss Gibbs ('Moonstruck', 'Mary', 'In Yorkshire', 'Our Farm') were amongst the most widely played and sung numbers of the contemporary light musical theatre.
Although, during this period, Monckton occasionally supplied single or multiple numbers for several other producers and shows (L' Auberge du Tohu-bohu, The Scarlet Feather, A Modern Don Quixote, Biarritz etc), his principal activity outside the Gaiety Theatre was in a similar capacity at Edwardes's other important musical house, Daly's Theatre, where the producer offered a more substantial, romantic-comic-opera kind of musical play than was presented at the Gaiety. At Daly's, rather than supplementing the work of Caryll, he operated in support of the other outstanding theatre composer of the contemporary London scene, Sidney Jones. They came together first on the score for Jones's greatest hit The Geisha (1896) for which Monckton provided the jaunty 'Jack's the Boy' and Letty Lind's 'pop' hit 'The Toy Monkey' alongside Jones's beautiful romantic numbers, more traditional comedy songs, finales and ensembles. The mixture was repeated in The Geisha's successor, A Greek Slave (1898, 'I Want to Be Popular', 'I Should Rather Like to Try', 'What Will Be the End of It?') and, with an equivalent international success, in San Toy ('Rhoda and Her Pagoda', 'Sons of the Motherland').
Edwardes put Monckton to work on one musical without Caryll or Jones, but still as an adept of the additional number, in the delightful Kitty Grey (1900/1, 'Little Zo-Zo', 'Kitty Grey') but it was not until 1902 that the composer was given his first opportunity to write a full score himself. A little surprisingly, perhaps, this was not at the Gaiety, for which his lively and exceptionally catchy melodies seemed the best suited, and where he had for so long supplied his wife, the Gaiety's brightest star Gertie Millar, with her material, but for Daly's Theatre. With lyricist Harry Greenbank dead and composer Jones deployed elsewhere, Monckton teamed with librettist James Tanner, more connected to date with the Gaiety, and with ubiquitous lyricist Adrian Ross to produce A Country Girl.
Gertie Millar (Mrs. Lionel Monckton)
The piece proved an enormous success, launched several hit songs ('Molly the Marchioness', 'Try Again, Johnny', 'Under the Deodar') both by Monckton and by Paul Rubens who now filled the 'additional songs by' line on the credits, and led to another Daly's musical from the same team, The Cingalee. However, The Cingalee, although successful, persuaded Edwardes to change his style at Daly's and, as Messager's Les P'tites .Michu, Hugo Felix's Les Merveilleuses and ultimately The Merry Widow took over that stage, Monckton found, for the moment, no further outlet for his newly discovered vocation as principal composer. He had to content himself with working on more additional material - The Girl from Kays ('Papa'), Les Merveilleuses ('Publicity', 'A Lady With a Dowry', 'It's Only a Matter of Time') - and part-scores, including more special material for his wife at the Gaiety. Then Edwardes decided to make a change at the Gaiety as well. He signed up Leslie Stuart, composer of Florodora and the 1908 Gaiety show Havana, as lead composer for the Gaiety musical to follow Caryll and Monckton's Our Miss Gibbs, and redirected Monckton down to the Adelphi Theatre, recently added to his chain of musical houses.
In the meanwhile, Monckton had found other collaborators. Before his first Adelphi show was seen, Robert Courtneidge had produced the first Lionel Monckton musical for many years not to have been mounted under the Edwardes banner. The Arcadians (1909), co-composed with his Kitty Grey colleague, Howard Talbot, was also the best Monckton musical - arguably the best musical of the whole Edwardian age - and it scored an enormous world-wide success. Monckton's 'The Pipes of Pan', 'The Girl with the Brogue' and 'All Down Piccadilly' became, in the age where the fashion was for 'anything one sees that's Viennese' as big hits as any of his previous show songs. When Edwardes produced Monckton's first Adelphi musical, The Quaker Girl ('The Quaker Girl', 'Come to the Ball', 'Tony from America') with Miss Millar, who had followed her husband away from the Gaiety, starring in its title-role, the composer - approaching 50, and with nearly two decades of almost unbroken success in the musical theatre behind him - found himself basking in his most outstandingly successful period of all.
However, it was a peak period which was not enduring. Monckton next combined with Talbot again on some enchanting music for another musical, The Mousmé('I Know Nothing of Life', 'The Little Japanese Mamma', 'The Temple Bell', 'The Corner of My Eye'), for Courtneidge, and repeated for the Adelphi, Edwardes and Miss Millar with The Dancing Mistress. Both pieces had respectable rather than outstanding runs, before the composer took part in one last huge success - the musical-comedy version of Pinero's The Magistrate, The Boy ('I Want to Go to Bye-Bye', 'The Game That Ends with a Kiss', 'Powder on Your Nose') produced at the Adelphi by Alfred Butt during the war and after Edwardes's death. And then, having tried his hand, not unsuccessfully, at the newfangled revue in partnership with Herman Finck and others (Bric à Brac, We're All in It, Airs and Graces) he withdrew from the world of the musical theatre. Unable and unwilling to adapt his style of writing to the newly popular dance rhythms and 'noisy numbers' which were invading the theatre, he simply stopped writing.
Monckton showed, through a quarter of a century of shows and songs, that, perhaps more than any other British songwriter of the great period of Gaiety and Daly's musical comedy, he had the ability to produce individual musical-comedy songs which stood out as hit singles in scores by the most appreciable composers of the time. But he also subsequently showed, in A Country Girl and The Quaker Girl, that he was capable of composing a complete, or quasi-complete score for a show with equal felicity and equal popular success, and even of venturing occasionally into writing the concerted and ensemble music which had previously been largely the domain of his colleagues (though Monckton's arrangements and orchestrations were inevitably left to the useful Carl Kiefert). His contribution to the English-speaking musical theatre was vast, and his individual songs, from 'Soldiers in the Park', 'Jack's the Boy' and 'Try Again, Johnny' to 'Moonstruck', 'Come to the Ball' and 'The Girl with the Brogue', lasted as favourites for many decades
1894 Claude Du-Val (Blend 1664-1894) (w John Crook/ Frederick Bowyer, 'Payne Nunn' (Arthur Roberts)) Prince of Wales Theatre 25 September
1896 The Circus Girl (w Ivan Caryll/Adrian Ross, Harry Greenbank/James T Tanner, Walter Pallant) Gaiety Theatre 5 December
1898 A Runaway Girl (w Caryll/Aubrey Hopwood, H Greenbank/Seymour Hicks, Harry Nicholls) Gaiety Theatre 21 May
1900 The Messenger Boy (w Caryll/Ross, Percy Greenbank/Tanner, Alfred Murray) Gaiety Theatre 3 February
1901 The Toreador (w Caryll, Paul Rubens/Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner, Nicholls) Gaiety Theatre 17 June
1901 Kitty Grey (w Howard Talbot, Augustus Barratt, Rubens/ Ross, Rubens/J Smyth Piggott) Apollo Theatre 7 September
1902 A Country Girl (Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner) Daly's Theatre 18 January
1903 The Orchid (w Caryll/Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner) Gaiety Theatre 26 October
1904 The Cingalee (Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner) Daly's Theatre 14 May
1905 The Spring Chicken (w Caryll/Ross, P Greenbank/ George Grossmith jr.) Gaiety Theatre 30 May
1906 A New Aladdin (w Caryll, Frank E Tours/Ross, P Greenbank, Grossmith, W H Risque/Tanner, Risque) Gaiety Theatre 24 November
1907 The Girls of Gottenberg (w Caryll/Ross, Basil Hood/ Grossmith, L E Berman) Gaiety Theatre 15 May
1909 Our Miss Gibbs (w Caryll/Ross, P Greenbank/'Cryptos', Tanner) Gaiety Theatre 23 January
1909 The Arcadians (w Talbot/Arthur Wimperis/Mark Ambient, Alexander M Thompson) Shaftesbury Theatre 28 April
1910 The Quaker Girl (Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner) Adelphi Theatre 5 November
1911 The Mousmé (w Talbot/Wimperis, P Greenbank/ Thompson, Robert Courtneidge) Shaftesbury Theatre 9 September
1912 The Dancing Mistress (Ross, P Greenbank/Tanner) Adelphi Theatre 19 October
1914 The Belle of Bond Street revised The Girl from Kays ad Harold Atteridge (Shubert Theater, New York)
1917 The Boy (w Talbot/Ross, P Greenbank/Fred Thompson) Adelphi Theatre 14 September
Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.
Page updated 31 August 2004