I cannot deny that I went to The Hired Man armed with prejudices. When I, a mere sapling, left university, I was interviewed for a job at LWT by the writer of the book of the musical, Mr Melvyn Bragg, and he selected me, out of what I believe were literally hundreds of candidates, to receive a letter signed by his secretary saying I was wholly unsuitable for the job and shouldn’t have applied. As for Howard Goodall, the lyricist, composer and musical director of the show, he was a close friend of mine a few years ago, and, it later appeared one gruesome evening, an even closer friend of my then fiancee. So I took my seat at the Astoria in Tottenham Court Road with high hopes of theatrical disappointment, slightly buoyed by the reservations of some other critics.
So imagine my dismay at the show I saw. You can dress me up in ribbons and call me Auntie Gertrude if it isn’t one of the eight best musicals I have ever seen. (The others are West Side Story, The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd, The