Salad Days is a lively musical which features a magic piano and a ride in a space ship.
For many years Salad Days was the longest running West End musical. It opened, in London, in 1954 and ran for 2,283 performances. Although it is not so well known as musicals such as Oliver, and Oklahoma it is still performed today by many amateur groups.
Salad Days was written by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade and it tells the story of a young couple, called Jane and Timothy, and their adventures with a magic piano. Like many young people today, Jane and Timothy leave university without careers. They recall their university days with nostalgia but sing that ‘we mustn’t look back’. They agree to marry, in secret, and to seek a new life together.
Piano Music in Salad Days
Timothy’s parents are anxious about his future and they want him to get a job. They sing ‘find yourself something to do’ and suggest that he visits his accomplished uncles to gain employment ideas. However, a tramp offers the young couple £7 a week to look after a mobile piano, for a month, and they decide to take up his offer.
This piano is the central symbol of Salad Days because it seems to represent joy and hope for the young couple. Whenever the piano is played everybody starts to dance and they sing ‘look at me I’m dancing’. This song and the dancing provide a lively, optimistic mood in Salad Days.
The piano however seems too frivolous to be taken seriously and one of Timothy’s uncles, the Minister of Pleasure and Pastime, tries to ban it because it is causing disruption due to the noise and dancing. As if by magic, the piano disappears but Timothy and Jane are determined to find it, since it has been placed in their care.
Salad Days is a Magical Musical
The plot becomes more magical when Timothy’s scientific uncle Zed takes them up in a flying saucer to look for the piano. Near the end of the show, the piano is found and the tramp reappears and gives it to another couple.
At this stage the audience discover that the tramp is one of Timothy’s uncles, the black sheep of the family, who is never mentioned. His gift, of the piano, seems to bring hope to those who care for it and Timothy and Jane seem more confident about their future after his intervention.
Some critics have said that the plot of Salad Days is too light hearted and that the musical has little to offer modern audiences. Like My Fair Lady it does not follow the model of other, better known romantic musicals.
However, if we consider the piano as a symbol of hope and Timothy and Jane as young graduates trying to find a path through life then its message still rings true today. Perhaps the space ship could represent new perspectives on old situations and the singing and dancing may show optimism in the face of adversity.
Some of the language in Salad Days may be dated but the lively music and fantasy elements are appealing to watch and these may be the reason why it was the longest running West End musical for many years.