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The Drunkard

A Musical in 3 Acts: Music and lyrics by Barry Manilow, adapted by Bro Herrod, based on the world-famous melodrama by W.H. Smith

13th Street Theatre, Off Broadway - 13 April 1970 (48 perfs)


W.H. Smith's The Drunkard lurched onto the stage in 1844 and has been holding forth with beery charm ever since. With a deliciously droll score by Barry Manilow, audiences are wafted back to a simpler period where "God is good and right is good, but evil's not so good, right?" Will our brave heroine, Mary, rescue her drink-besotted husband from the evils of bottled sin? Will Edward, our hero, ever drag himself out of that rubbish bin? And will Mad Agnes ever stop singing about

A 19th century melodrama … by Barry Manilow

The show takes us back to a simpler, infinitely less subtle day in this deliciously coy and exaggerated play about the good, the bad, and the besotted. When Sweet Mary Wilson weds the virtuous Edward, the villainous lawyer Cribbs, determined to foreclose on the quaint little cottage Mary shares with her poor widowed mother, sees to it that the devil's beverage – alcohol – is served. Alas and alack! Edward is lured to the city and ensnared in a web of sin and drunkenness! Can Mary and her innocent young child save her inebriated husband from the evils of the bottle? And what of the diabolical Cribbs?



The show opens on the interior of a humble cottage where Mrs. Wilson and her daughter, Mary, are discovered side by side in rocking chairs, sewing on embroidery hoops. Their lives are not going very well. The mortgage is overdue and the ceiling is falling through. Nevertheless, they are hoping for something good. They are worried that their cottage will be sold since the landlord, Mr. Middleton, is at death's door. If he dies, they wonder what will happen to them and where they will go.

Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and the villain, the foul-tempered lawyer, Mr. Cribbs, enters to inform the two ladies that his client, Mr. Middleton, has indeed passed away. He lewdly gazes at poor Mary as he tells them that Mr. Cribbs had many bad investments and many debts that must be paid. Wilson cottage must be sold and the ladies will have to find somewhere else to live. After coldly disclosing this news, the villain leaves.

Mr. Middleton has a surviving son, Edward, and although this young man is known to be a bit reckless and given to excess, perhaps the women can convince him not to sell the cottage. They gather up all the rent money they have saved and Mary prepares to take it over to meet Edward and ask him for help. While Mary makes her way over to Edward's house, Mr. Cribbs prances around enjoying all the evil in the world.

In a wooded glade, Edward, our hero, enters confidently and handsomely dressed. He is stopped by Mr. Cribbs who tries to discuss with him the selling of the Wilson cottage and its adjoining land. Edward has no intention of selling the cottage or land. He knows that his father had the highest esteem for the Wilsons, and Edward would never deprive them of a home. Hearing this, an angered Mr. Cribbs exits.

Mr. Cribbs swiftly returns, however, and suggests to Edward that since young Mary is without a father, it would be very easy for him to simply take her for his own. Hearing these lewd thoughts infuriates Edward, and he chases after Mr. Cribbs. Edward is about to strike Mr. Cribbs, when Mary, who has been peeking form behind the tree, rushes forward and grasps Edward's arm. She begs forgiveness for Mr. Cribbs and the villain angrily escapes.

Mary prepares to give Edward the rent money. He refused it, however, insisting that she keep it as a portion of her dowry. The two have fallen in love at first sight and offer vows, planning to wed.

It appears that Mr. Cribbs' s plan is falling apart. If Edward weds young Mary, there is no way that the cottage will be sold and he (as lawyer) can reap the profits. Mr. Cribbs, however, is not giving up that easily. He will use liquor as his potion to destroy Edward; a plan that has worked for him before. Edward's foster brother, William Dowton, comes along the path. Mr. Cribbs tries speaking with him, but William has no time, proclaiming that Edward is getting married and there is much to do. Mr. Cribbs tries to get an invitation, but William refuses. William leaves and Mr. Cribbs hears the singing of Agnes, the insane sister of William. At one time she was a happy girl who was engaged to wed. Mr. Cribbs, however, turned her fiancée to drink and the young man died in a drunken fit. She has never been the same since that time.

Deranged Agnes enters and speaks of the wedding preparations she has observed. She confronts Mr. Cribbs, crying that he ruined her life the moment he turned her husband to drink. The crazy woman chases him and Cribbs attempts to hit her with his cane. Just then, William returns and takes Mr. Cribbs by the collar. Williams says that were it not for the fact that Mr. Cribbs is an old man, he'd break every bone in his body. William restrains himself, however, choosing good over evil, and lets Cribbs go.

Mary and William have a wonderful wedding, and everything appears to be going well for the happy couple. The village celebrates. During this, Mr. Cribbs hands a bottle of wine to the Preacher who doesn't know quite what to do with it. Edward, however, looks at the bottle and prepares to take a sip. Mary tries to stop her new husband from taking a drink, but he persists, telling her that it is only in social celebration. Unfortunately, after his first drink he appears to be quite taken with the new beverage.


Some years later, Edward is discovered in a village bar, disheveled and drinking quite heavily. He has been wandering from one bar to the next, drinking his nights away. Mr. Cribbs has been along all the time helping to keep poor Edward in a drunken state.

Suddenly, a great deal of commotion ensues as Carrie Nation works her way to Edward and speaks to him of redemption through complete abstinence from alcohol. Mr. Cribbs tries to argue with her about the virtues of drinking, but she has no time for this. Our villain, however, is a very powerful man, and soon everyone in the bar has joined him in celebrating his views of alcohol. Carrie tries to stop him, but to no avail. They all continue drinking and Carrie leaves in frustration.

By this time, Edward is totally intoxicated, and even the bartender tries to send him home, but he refuses causing another stir. He eventually passes out on the floor. William enters, finds his wounded brother, and tries to help him home. He reprimands Edward for his behaviour and accuses the bartenders of assisting his brother's demise. It is then that Edward remembers the man he used to be and realises what he has become - a drunkard. Still in a drunken stupor, Edward passes out again.

Mr. Cribbs is delighted with the way situation is playing itself out. He delivers a monologue to the audience about living life to the fullest.

In a wooded glade, a trembling Edward enters more out-of-sorts than ever. He proceeds to his secret hiding place behind the tree stump, and gets his bottle of liquor which he guzzles until it is gone. He prepares to go, but is stopped by Cribbs who quickly tries to tempt him with a flask of brandy. Edward tries to resist, but he cannot. He drinks the flask while Cribbs laughs maniacally. Once Edward is completely drunk, the two join in song celebrating the joys of drinking.

Inside the Wilson cottage, poor Mary is sobbing about her situation. Her husband is a drunk, there is little money left, and her mother, Mrs. Wilson, is near death. Little Julia, her daughter, tries to console her mother. William enters with more news of Edward and his drunken ways. When Mary sees her husband in his completely disheveled appearance, she completely breaks down. Hearing all the commotion, the old woman (Mrs. Wilson) runs out and screams for silence. Unfortunately, her screams bring about a sudden heart attack and she dies. Edward realises he is to blame for everyone’s hardships and decides to leave forever.


The curtain rises on a street in the Bowery in New York City. Mr. Cribbs removes a cover from a rubbish bin where Edward is still in a drunken stupor. Edward asks Cribbs about his wife and child, and is informed that they would like to see him if he indeed became a respectable member of society. Cribbs tries to convince Edward to forge a check for $5000, persuading him that money would make him respectable. Edward does not and a disappointed Mr. Cribbs leaves him alone, drunk, and destitute.

Inside a cold, one-room, New York City tenement, Mary is working at the ironing board, and Julia is asleep on a simple straw pallet. It appears that the mother and child are also in the most desperate of circumstances with no money and no food. Mr. Cribbs enters in a swirl of snowflakes. Mary is desperately trying to find her husband and Cribbs tries to convince her that Edward is probably off with another young woman. She dismisses his comment, for, as far as she's concerned, Edward's only fault is intemperance - not infidelity.

Mr. Cribbs attempts to make his move on Mary, but she has no interest in him. He tries to seize her, but she resists his lascivious embraces. Things get more intense and Julia even joins in to help her poor mother. Just when Mr. Cribbs is about to win, William enters and intercedes. Holding Mr. Cribbs, he offers the villain one more chance at redemption, but Cribbs proclaims "A villain I have lived. A villain let me die." With that, William throws Mr. Cribbs down a flight of stairs, killing him. William is determined to help Mary find her husband. The two leave to search the entire city while little Julia thinks about how the joys of nature are far better than the joys of wine.

The scene opens on Edward in a heap of tattered clothing, lying on a curbstone. The Salvation Army appears and approaches Edward, asking him if he wants to be saved. At first, Edward resists, saying it is too late for him, but slowly Edward begins to listen to the leader, and is further persuaded as William, Julia, and Mary discover him and offer him help. As a final point of persuasion everyone points up Mr. Cribbs who magically appears from above. He is all in white, complete with a small harp and angel wings. Suddenly, as if by magic, Edward is ready to be saved and is transformed into a neatly dressed citizen complete with black suit, collar, and tie.

Newly reformed, Edward and the cast focus on the sinners of the audience asking them if they, too, wish to be saved. "Look up to heaven, brother Say down with demon rum!"

cypress dells? All the clichés are here to be swallowed whole, taken with a dash of a smile or with a huge belly laugh. Entertainment at its best.


4 men, 4 women, chorus

Musical Numbers

  1. Something Good - Mrs. Wilson, Mary
  2. Don't Swat Your Mother - Cribbs
  3. Peace And Love And Apple Pie - Edward, Mary
  4. Good Is Good - William, Cribbs, Agnes
  5. Mrs. Mary Middleton - Mary, Edward, William, Preacher, Mrs. Wilson, Wedding Guests, Cribbs
  6. Have Another Drink - Bartender, Bargirls, Edward, Cribbs, Carrie Nation
  7. The Curse Of An Aching Heart - Edward
  8. When You're Dead - Cribbs
  9. A Cup Of Coffee - Cribbs, Edward
  10. Something Good - Julia, Mary, Edward, Cribbs, William, Mrs. Wilson
  11. Garbage Can Blues - Edward, Chorus
  12. Julia's Song - Julia
  13. Do You Wanna Be Saved? - Salvation Army Leader, Ensemble