Julian Slade, composer and co-writer of hit musical “Salad Days,” died June 17 of cancer. He was 76.
With thesp Dorothy Reynolds, Slade wrote the book and lyrics for “Salad Days,” a summer show for the Bristol Old Vic, in six weeks. After its launch at the Theater Royal Bristol, “Salad Days” surprised everyone with a then-record-setting run of 5½ years and 2,288 performances at the Vaudeville Theater in London, starting in June 1954.
“It was scheduled to run just three weeks, but fate and a London management intervened,” Slade wrote in liner notes for a 1976 London revival cast recording.
The fluffy tuner was about a couple of kids, about to graduate college, who have their lives invigorated by a magic piano that makes everyone start to dance furiously.
“Salad Days” had runs in Toronto and Off Broadway, and was revived in London several times.
Born Julian Penkivil on 28 May 1930 in London, Slade originally intended to become an actor. He studied at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he wrote two musical plays, “Bang Goes the Meringue” and “Lady May.”
He joined the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1951 and appeared in small roles, becoming the venue’s resident music director.
While at Bristol, he wrote two musicals, “Christmas in King Street” and “The Merry Gentleman,” as well as incidental music for a staging of “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”
He also wrote incidental music for a Stratford production of “The Merchant of Venice” and for a TV production of “The Comedy of Errors” (later staged at the Arts Theater).
Slade’s other collaborations with Reynolds included “Free as Air,” “Follow That Girl,” “Hooray for Daisy!” and “Wildest Dreams.”
In 1962 he wrote the music for a production of Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” with Alan Pryce-Jones and Robin Miller. His later musicals include “Nutmeg and Ginger,” “The Pursuit of Love,” “Out of Bounds” and “Trelawny,” based on “Trelawny of the Wells.”
He composed the music for productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater and for “Now We Are 60,” based on the works of A.A. Milne.
The composer also wrote a book for children, “Nibble the Squirrel,” published in 1946.
Slade is survived by a sister and two brothers.