Peter Greenwell

About Peter Greenwell

Composer and pianist Peter Greenwell channeled the sophistication and wit of his mentor, Noël Coward, to emerge as one of the postwar generation's foremost interpreters of the cabaret tradition. Born in Warwickshire, England, on August 12, 1929, Greenwell began his theatrical career as an actor, concurrently employing his skills as a pianist to write incidental music -- composing quickly superseded acting, and in 1959 he teamed with lyricist Peter Wildeblood to complete his first full-length musical, The Crooked Mile. A crime story set in London's Soho district, it opened to positive reviews at the Cambridge Theatre and ran for 164 performances, making a star of lead Millicent Martin in the process -- Greenwell and Wildeblood next reunited for House of Cards, which earned a critical drubbing but reportedly earned the admiration of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In 1962, while playing piano at the Players' Theatre, Greenwell was approached by Coward's partner, Graham Payn, to serve as an accompanist at a Coward gala -- the two men proved ideal collaborators, and continued to work together in concert and in the studio until Coward's death in 1973. By that time Greenwell was well known in the film world as well -- after serving as musical director on 1969's The Virgin Soldiers, he earned an Academy Award nomination for his contributions to Ken Russell's 1971 screen musical The Boy Friend. After relocating from London to Spain, Greenwell transitioned from stage and screen to cabaret performance, proving the obvious heir to Coward's wickedly mordant approach -- in 1996, he even launched his own one-man Coward tribute show, A Talent to Amuse, and in 1999 headlined Birmingham University's inaugural Noël Coward Conference. Greenwell died in Denia, Spain, on June 4, 2006. ~ Jason Ankeny