The Vagabond King


THE VAGABOND KING is an operetta in four acts based on Justin Huntly McCarthy’s 1901 romantic novel and play If I Were King. The story paints an episode in the life of 15th-century poet and thief François Villon, centering on his wooing of Katherine De Vaucelles (the cousin of King Louis XI), and relating how he becomes “king for a day” and defends France against the invading forces of the Duke of Burgundy.


Paris is under siege by the forces of the Duke of Burgundy; popular support for King Louis XI is at a low point. Villon – poet, braggart, thief and darling of the Paris rabble – has sent anonymous love poems to the beautiful Katherine de Vaucelles. These have caused her to reject proposals from King Louis. She goes to seek the mysterious poet at an inn, but King Louis shadows her in disguise. Louis is incensed to hear Villon mocking the failures of his reign and saying what he would do instead “if I were king.” The infuriated monarch reveals himself. The king gives Villon a hard choice: as punishment for speaking treasonously, he must either stop courting Katherine or accept the position of Grand Marshal, with all the powers of King, for 24 hours, during which time he must make good on his boasts and free Paris. At the end of the 24 hours, Villon will hang. Villon’s dilemma is that he has promised himself to Huguette, his mistress, but now is deeply in love with Katherine.

Villon and Katherine declare their love for each other (“Only a Rose”). Hugette describes her means of livelihood (“Love for Sale”). Villon accepts Louis’ challenge. Rather than sending the King’s Scottish mercenaries against the Burgundians, Villon rouses the Paris mob to defend the city. Huguette discovers that Thibault, one of Louis’s advisors, is a traitor. When Thibault ambushes Villon and tries to stab him to death, Huguette steps in front of the blade and takes the blow, thus sacrificing her life, and freeing Villon to be with Katherine. He kills Thibault in retaliation and then leads the Paris rabble to fight the Burgundians. The Parisians emerge victorious. After the battle is over, Katharine offers to sacrifice herself to the hangman in order to save Villon. Louis, realizing he cannot shed noble blood without a just cause, rewards Villon with exile instead of death, and the two lovers leave together.


A Spectacular Music Play in Four Acts
Book and Lyrics by Brian Hooker, Russell Janney and W.H. Post
Music by Rudolf Friml
Based on If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy

Such credits to the authors for all purposes shall be in type size equal to or greater than that of any other credits except for that of the star(s) above the title. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.

The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:

is presented by arrangement with
560 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10022


Full Orchestration

1 Violin I (Stand 1)
1 Violin I (Stand 2)
1 Violin II
1 Viola
1 Cello
1 Bass

2 Flutes I & II
1 Oboe
2 Clarinets I & II (Bb & A)
1 Bassoon
2 Horn I & II
2 Trumpet I & II (Bb & A)
1 Trumpet III (Bb & A)
1 Trombone

1 Percussion
1 Harp

  Piano – Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.
  (There is no Piano in the orchestration).

Rehearsal Materials

1       Piano Conductor’s Score
1       Prompt Book for Director
17     Prompt Books for Dialogue
7       Vocal Parts for Soloists
25     Chorus Parts
4       Piano Conductor Scores for Principals

Cast List

(As they appear)
Rene de Montigny Baritone
Casin Cholet Baritone
Rogati Astrologer
Margot Non-singing Character Woman
Blanche Chorus
Isabeau Chorus
Jehan le Loup Chorus
Trios Eschelles Chorus
Hugette du Hamel Mezzo Soprano
Guy Tabarie Comedy Lead. Fat – Jolly
Colin de Cayeul Chorus
Tristan L’Hermite Non-singing
Louis XI Non-singing
Francois Villon Baritone or Tenor Lead
Katherine de Vauchelles Prima Donna
Thibault D’Aussigny Non-singing
Captain of Scotch Archers Basso
An Astrologer Non-singing
Lady Mary Mezzo – should dance
Noel le Jolys Tenor
Oliver le Dain Second Comedy – Should be fat
First Court Lady
Second Court Lady
Toison D’Or (Burgundian Herald) Baritone
The Queen Chorus – Handsome
The Dancer Premiere
Another Dancer 2nd Premiere
The Bishop Chorus
The Hangman Chorus

First Courtier
Second Courtier
Master of the Hunt
Dame de Chase

Vagabonds – Archers – Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court – Nuns – Dancing Girls, etc.

Brief History

THE VAGABOND KING opened on Broadway at the Casino Theatre, September 21, 1925. It was later transferred to the Century Theatre and played for a total of 511 performances starring Dennis King in the title role and Carolyn Thomson as Katherine de Vaucelles.