Surviving the London Blitz taught John Gould perseverance and grit.
World War II was horrific. When John was 2 years old, his father was killed in the Royal Navy. Three uncles were wounded. Another became a prisoner of war.
At home in London, hundreds of planes dropped thousands of bombs, day and night. His mother, sister, grandparents, aunts and cousins sheltered with him in a cupboard under the basement stairs.
But they survived. Gould emigrated to the US. and settled in Westport. For nearly 3 decades he was a well-known arborist and piano player (including a stint with the Average White Band).
The war is now a long-ago memory. Yet it lives on in “Rusty Rainbow.” That’s a musical he wrote, and has worked on for over 2 decades.
He’s still fine-tuning it — talk about perseverance! – but he’d love to be able to get it in front of people who can make things happen.
This would not be its premiere. Over 20 years ago — on November 20, 2001 — it opened at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Westporter Louis Pietig directed; Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and James Naughton, and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple were in the audience. They loved it, Gould says.
Set in London in the aftermath of World War II, “Rusty Rainbow” tells the story of a little boy, found by air raid wardens on the roof of a bombed building.
“It’s the classic struggle of an innocent, pitted against a cynical world of greed and avarice,” Gould explains.
“But impossible odds and evil adversaries are no match for the musically gifted runaway orphan. Rusty — who thinks he fell off a rainbow — is assisted in his search to find the rainbow of his drams by the seeming magic of a ragman, his horse and a dog.”
Gould’s 25 songs weave the story together, in an uplifting, humorous way. Engaging and philosophical, they promote goodness and sensibility, harking back to an era when the world — having just defeated a great evil — struggles to become a better, safer place.
A few years after that Ridgefield Playhouse premiere, Jerry Bock — the composer and lyricist of “Fiddler on the Roof” — read the show, and heard the music. He told Gould it would make a great animated musical movie.
“Now, if only I knew how to do that,” Gould says.
Hey: He survived the bleakest days of World War II. It’s time for his “Rusty Rainbow” to shine.
He’ll find a way.