Leading article: Elton's farm

On the face of it the dystopia of Animal Farm does not seem the most promising of raw material for an Elton John musical. After all, its protagonists are chiefly pigs, with humans confined to walk-on parts in a world where two legs, remember, is bad. Nor are they an attractive bunch with the portly porcine Napoleon, the jiggling apparatchik Squealer hardly offset by the Stakhanovite cart-horse Boxer. The Orwellian commandment "No animal shall wear clothes" might cause a few problems in the costume department.

The composer's collaborator on one of his most successful forays into musical theatre, Billy Elliot, however, begs to differ. The novella is "perfectly suited for the stage" pronounces the screenplay-writer Lee Hall. Presumably he means that, though this is the world of Orwell where double-think and double-speak are the norm.

But how will he get around the most unmusical-like unhappy ending in which the other animals look from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, and find it impossible to say which is which? He may have to take refuge in Boxer's line: "I will work harder!" though he might take the easy option, deferring to Elton's gift for a great tune, as the animals did with their mantra: Napoleon is always right.

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