Grocer Jack has his day as A Teenage Opera finally goes on stage

Keith West and Mark Wirtz’s haunting 60s hit is centrepiece of completed show

Grocer Jack – properly known as Excerpt from a Teenage Opera – the strange novelty song that made the number one spot in the charts worldwide in the late 1960s, is now to be heard on stage for the first time, as the mysterious “lost musical” it was written for is finally completed.

The song was written by Mark Wirtz as part of a show to have been called A Teenage Opera and is still regularly played on radio programmes. Released in 1967, it was a hit in 26 countries for singer Keith West and reached number two in Britain, although the show itself was never staged.

Next month, Youth Music Theatre UK is to stage the world premiere of the show after a half-century pause. Wirtz has collaborated with West to finish the rock opera ready for its golden anniversary. Additional lyrics have been written by Pete Gallagher, who had the idea of completing the show, and who has managed to track down the children who sang the famous chorus in Grocer Jack.

“I first found Mark in America, who told me all about his original concept, and then vocalist and co-writer Keith closer to home, who regaled me with stories of Abbey Road Studios at the time of the Beatles and this project,” Gallagher said.

The cast of 40, picked from 12,000 hopefuls, will perform the show at South Hill Park arts centre, Bracknell, from 11 August. The company, which once trained Ed Sheeran, is hoping its production will transfer to London, as did the recent show Loserville.

A similar blast from the past is planned for October when the rock musical Hair, also created in 1967, comes to the Vaults in London.

The production, which originated at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, is immersive, with themed pop-up restaurants and vintage stalls. First performed off-Broadway, Hair has a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, with music by Galt MacDermot, and it opens at the Vaults on 4 October.


Vanessa Thorpe

The GuardianTramp

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