Wally K Daly
Wally K Daly was Chief Electrician at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End when his song-writing partner (primarily children’s songs) Jim Parker heard Wally’s first ‘on spec’ play on Radio Four, ‘Whistling Wally’. Jim said if you can write a radio play we could write a musical, so why don’t we?
Wally said okay. So they did.
"We didn’t know there are rules about writing a stage musical, the Book and Lyrics to be impeccably typed and bound, and a demo of the songs made with a proper backing, so we just went and did our thing.
I wrote the book, and matched the lyrics to any popular song in my head without telling Jim what the song had been. He took the lyrics I sent him and did the usual Jim Parker magic on the musical's tunes.
The first act took four weeks to write, second act a bit longer because I had a change of play at my theatre. I learned the book and songs, Jim learned his music. But where did the idea come from?
I had already had the idea of a bunch of urchin Angels running riot in heaven, driving their God figure boss ‘Ollie’ mad. So mad, in fact, that he would decide to give them a proper job to do.
‘ Sorting out the nativity.’
Angel Gabriel known as Gabby is told to let Mary the Virgin know that she’s going to have baby.
(No way! She responds)
Angel Chicago, who’s an angel who smokes cigars and makes burn holes in the clouds because he looks after Herod who is a seriously bad guy and it’s rubbing off a bit.
Plus other assorted angels playing various multiple parts as shepherds, Joseph, Ox and Ass, Wise Men, etc. , a cast of twelve in fact, to tell the story until the final climactic ending when Herod’s machinations to kill the baby is thwarted by the cast with the help of the audience.
All accompanied by brilliant Parker/Daly songs!
Jim and I practised the whole thing in my front room a few times on my £12 second hand white baby grand piano, until it sounded OKAY and then contacted a wonderful lady director Jim was working with at Chichester Festival Theatre, and I had worked with for a spit and cough at the Mermaid theatre many years previously.
Jim rang theatre director, Wendy Toye, to see if she’d come to my front room to hear a musical. She said Yes and arrived with her crochet a few days later.
Jim played all the songs and I played all the parts, and said the dialogue and sang the songs whilst Jim played. (Rather well, both of us, I felt). Wendy crocheted throughout, turned down a cup of tea at what should have been the interval, pointed out a point or two about the logistics of the piece which were wrong, and Jim said:
‘Yes! But are you going to do it!’
She said ‘Yes of course dear.’
It opened at Chichester Festival Theatre the following Christmas, and has travelled the country ever since to warm praise."
Keith Michell (Director of CFT) suggested Wally apply to the Arts Council, for a new writers grant to give me room to leave my job and write full time for a few months. He would be my sponsor.
Now forty years later, Wally has written successfully for theatre, TV, radio - plays and series by the dozen, including two Giles Cooper awards for Radio Play of the Year, and in 2015, his first fringe play in Washington DC, a one-man theatre show of his prize-winning radio monologues Priest and Confessor.