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.
- Rehearsal Materials
- Cast List
- Brief History
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.
Music by Rudolf Friml
Book by Brian Hooker and William H. Post
Based on If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy
Lyrics by Brian Hooker and William H. Post
Instrumentation: 16 Parts
1 Violin I (Stand 1)
1 Violin I (Stand 2)
1 Violin II
1 Flutes I & II
1 Clarinets I & II (Bb & A)
1 Horns I & II
1 Trumpets I & II (Bb & A)
1 Trumpet III (Bb & A)
Piano – Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.
(There is no Piano in the orchestration).
1 Piano Conductor’s Score
1 Prompt Book
17 Prompt Books for Dialogue
7 Vocal Parts for Soloists
25 Chorus Parts
4 Piano Conductor Scores for Principals
(As they appear)
Rene de Montigny Baritone
Casin Cholet Baritone
Margot Non-singing Character Woman
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
Master of the Hunt
Dame de Chase
Vagabonds – Archers – Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court – Nuns – Dancing Girls, etc.
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.
Find upcoming performances near you.
Organization City, State First Performance Last Performance