A Musical Comedy Romance; Adapted by Eric Maschwitz from the play by Paul Knelper and J. Welleminsky. Lyrics by Rowland Leigh. Additional lyrics by Eric Maschwitz. Music by Karl Millöcker, arranged by Theo Makeben. Adapted and augmented by Bernard Grun.
First presented April 14, 1932 at His Majesty's Theatre (397 performances).
Revived 1947 (55 performances)
George M. Cohan Theatre, Broadway - November 1932
It is a late Saturday afternoon in spring and the girls in Madame Labille's Parisian millinery establishment are looking forward to the weekend, when they can have a rest from making hats. They are overjoyed when the Marquis de Brissac, the wealthy protector of one of their number, Margot, arrives to invite them all out for the evening.
Margot's success with the Marquis has always been particularly envied by another little milliner, Marie-Jeanne Been, but today Jeanne comes back, breathless, from an errand, with a tale to tell,. While she was making her delivery, she was picked up in the street by a handsome young painter named Rene Lavallery. Margot boasts that a painter can hardly match her marquis, but Jeanne declares that she is happy enough. `Today I am in love with my Rene,' she declare& 'What the future brings, who can know?' Just at that moment the sound of music is heard outside, and the girls rush to the window to watch as King Louis XV passes by in a carriage with his mistress, Madame Pompadour. Jeanne throws a rose from the window, and it lands at the King's feet.
So absorbed was Jeanne in Rene when she met him that she failed to notice the theft of the two hats she was supposed to be delivering to customers' homes and, as a punishment, Madame Labile insists on her staying late at the shop and missing the Marquis's outing. The girls put on their hats to depart, leaving Jeanne behind, but she is not dismayed. Tonight she has a date with Rene. When Madame Labile has left, she pulls a face in the direction of the departing proprietress, and climbs out of the window.
In a park just outside Paris the public are enjoying some outdoor dancing. The Comte Dubarry and the Duc de Lauzur are strolling together discussing a very important question—the question of a successor to the ageing Pompadour as the King's mistress. Dubarry emphatic that, for political reasons, the Prime Minister's sister, the Duchesse de Gramont, should not be chosen, despite her brother's wishes.
Rene Lavallery is also in the park, with his friend Pierre, waiting for Jeanne and happily recalling their meeting earlier in the day, and the Marquis de Brissac is there too, with Margot and the girls all thrilled to be freed for a little while from the daily grind and ready for g lively evening. When Jeanne turns up for her date, she and Rene have eyes only for each other but, unknown to them, Dubarry has been watching and, while Margot, Brissac and the girls continue their frolicking he makes a mental note of Jeanne's considerable personality and charm.
Rene and Jeanne are soon living together in his attic home, and he is deliriously happy with the arrangement but his work brings in little money, and Jeanne suggests that what he needs is a wealthy patron. She is jealous of all the pretty things that her friend Margot enjoys thanks to the Marquis de Brissac, and her inability to resist buying new clothes is already straining her relationship with Rene. While Rene is out looking for food, Margot herself arrives. She is now having some success as an actress, and Jeanne cannot resist trying on some of her fine clothes, looking at herself admiringly in the mirror.
When Margot has gone, Jeanne receives a surprise visit from the Comte Dubarry. He pretends that he wishes to buy a painting, but he takes every chance to refer pointedly to all the material things she is missing in sharing her life with her penniless lover. She swears her faithfulness to Rene but, when he returns, she conceals Dubarry's visit When Rene learns of the aristocratic visitor from a neighbour, and discovers a purse left by the Count to tempt Jeanne, he leaps to the conclusion that she is deceiving him, and unceremoniously throws her out of the studio.
At a stag party at the Comte Dubarry's palace, the Marquis de Brissac is gossiping about the appearance of a new cabaret artist called Marion Raneon at the night club of the Verrares sisters. “Cherchez la femme!” the Count declares, and they promptly decide to give the place a visit, agreeing that there is nothing more enchanting than the sight of a lady's feet, her smiles and her eyes.
At the night club all is gaiety and revelry. The new cabaret artist, who has made such a hit with her dancing and songs, then appears to do her turn and Brissac and Dubarry recognise her immediately as Jeanne. The men clamour for her attention, but she remains cool towards them. Brissac is somewhat embarrassed when Margot appears, but he quickly recovers his composure and agrees to go for a stroll with her.
Meanwhile Jeanne has been gambling with money borrowed from a gentleman called Radix de Saint-Foix and has managed to lose it all. Saint-Foix demands repayment in one form or another, but Jeanne is adamant. “ give my heart only to the one man to whom I can mean everything,' she declares. Suddenly Dubarry appears on the scene and, claiming that Jeanne is his wife, agrees to pay her debts. The stunned Jeanne leaves the club on the arm of the Count, as he makes his first declarations of love.
Jeanne is now living in the house of the Comte Dubarry, who has arranged for her to go through a marriage ceremony with his brother so that he may pass her off in society as the Comtesse Dubarry. An opportunity to launch her society career comes with an invitation to a soirée at the palace of the Princesse de Luxembourg.
At the salon of the Princesse de Luxembourg, Choiseul, Soubize and Lauzun discuss once more the burning question of a successor to Madame Pompadour. Choiseul continues to press his sister's claims, but he is aware that efforts have been made in favour of Jeanne. The King has been shown a portrait of her, painted by Rene. Jeanne enters apprehensively, aware that all eyes are on her, but it is soon clear that she is a great success.
Brissac and Margot are also at the party, continuing their dizzy romance, but Jeanne is thoroughly taken aback when she meets Rene and they recall with nostalgic happiness their days together. Jeanne is concerned at the way she is becoming a pawn in political intrigue, and she and Rene soon decide to get back together again. Rene tells her that he will have a carriage waiting for her outside as soon as he can but, before she can depart, the Comte Dubarry takes her aside to tell her that the King has approved of her portrait. While Rene waits with his carriage, Jeanne is faced with the biggest choice of her life. Finally, she steps not into Rene's carriage but, aided by the King's chamberlain Lebell, into one taking her to the King at Versailles.
In a salon of the Palace of Versailles the King's chamberlain prepares Jeanne for her meeting with the King and gives her some tips on Court etiquette. When finally she meets the King, and he asks her what she thinks about love, she simply repeats her philosophy of giving herself only to the man to whom she can be the most important thing in his life. The King is well satisfied with her answer, and the Duc de Choiseul is deputed to have the new mistress installed in her splendid residence in the Petit Trianon.
In the park of the Trianon the people are gathering for a party for the King's birthday. When Jeanne is congratulated upon her new found success, she responds with the assurance that whatever she begins in life she completes. Margot and Brissac, who get everywhere, are there too and, since Brissac has finally asked her to marry him, Margot is contemplating nostalgically the military uniform that she wore in the acting career that she will now have to give up.
Rene is also there, anxious to see Jeanne yet again Mein and, anxious to discredit Jeanne and further his sister's claims to the royal bed, the Duc de Choiseul tells the King that a meeting has been arranged by the two former lovers. In fact Jeanne has called Rene to the rendezvous only to bid him a final farewell, and the upshot of Choiseul's attempt to compromise her is his own banishment Jeanne's position as the King's new favourite is confirmed. 'Long live the King!' cry the people, to which the King replies, 'Long live the Comtesse Dubarry, henceforth the one next to the throne!'
The synopsis follows a revised version by Hans Martin Cremer, which makes considerable changes to detail from the 1931 original and introduces several new songs. Millöcker's 1879 operetta Gräfin Dubarry has a completely different book (albeit on the same subject) and only some of the melodic themes of the 1931 work are taken from that original score.
adapted from Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre
- OPENING CHORUS (Madelon and Girls) - One-Two-Three - "Always
- DUET (Madelon, De Brissac and Chorus) - Madelon - "Kindly
pardon my elation "
2a - ENTRANCE OF JEANNE
- SONG (Jeanne and Chorus) - To-day - "To-day
I've cast aside the past"
3a - THE KING'S MARCH
- ENSEMBLE - Monday to Saturday
4a - REPRISE - (Madelon, De Brissac and Chorús) - Madelon - "Madelon, she's the darling of Paree "
4b - REPRISE (Jeanne) - To-day - "To-day I've cast"
- DUET (René and Jeanne) - If I Am Dreaming - "If
I am dreaming let me not be woken "
5a - MELOS
- DUET (Jeanne, René and Chorus) - Without
Your Love - " 'Twas destined we should meet "
6a - REPRISE (Chorus) - Without your Love
6b - SCENE LINK & REPRISE (René) - If I Am Dreaming - "While I am dreaming"
6c - MELOS
- DUET (Madelon and Jeanne) - Happy Little Jeanne - "Pretty
little Jeanne, witty little Jeanne"
7a - MELOS
7b - MELOS & SCENE LINK
- CONCERTED NUMBER (Madelon, Fifi, Suzanne, Lynette, De Brissac,
Courcelles, Lasalle, Frontignac and Chorus) - Pantalettes - " We.
pretend to rule the state "
8a - FANFARE AND EXIT MUSIC
- DUET (Dubarry and Sauterelle) - Lady Luck - " Here's
to the table greener than grass "
- SONG (René and Chorus) - Once Upon a Springtime - " Once
upon a springtime, So blue was the sky "
10a - ExIT MUSIC
- DUET (Madelon, De Brissac and Chorus) - Ga-Ga - " I've
enjoyed my life immensely "
11a - MELOS
- BALLET - The Queen of Hearts
- SONG (Jeanne and Chorus) - I Give My Heart - " I've
heard the magic song that love sings "
- MELOS & CURTAIN (Jeanne and Chorus)
- GRAND GAVOTTE (Ensemble)
15a - EXIT MUSIC
- QUARTET (Madelon, Suzanne, Fiji and Lynette) - The
Gipsy Said … - "The cards have a spell, a
spell of their own "
16a - ENTRANCE OF JEANNE
- SONG (Jeanne and Chorus) - The Dubarry - " Life
is a game full of chances "
17a - ENTRANCE OF DE GRAMMONT
17b - EXIT MUSIC & MELOS
- DUET (Jeanne and René) - The Road to Happiness - " Do
you remember before my folly made me doubt you "
- DUET (Madelon, De Brissac and Chorus) - In the
Bois - " The battle's done and I have won "
- FINALETTO (Jeanne and René) - The Road
to Happiness - " The road to happiness where does
it lie? "
20a - SCENE LINK (Repeat No. 19)
- REPRISE (Jeanne) - I Give My Heart - " I've
dealt with foolish men and wise men "
21a - MELOS
- CHORUS - 'Tis Spring - " 'Tis spring in old
- BALLET - Trianon
- SONG (Jeanne and Chorus) - Beauty - " To
satisfy ev'ry manly eye "
24a - EXIT MUSIC
24b - MELOS
- FINALE (Ensemble)
- FINALE ULTIMO (Jeanne and Ensemble) - I Give My Heart - " I give my heart just to see one man "
Characters in order of appearance
- MADELON, FIFI, SUZANNE, LYNETTE - Seamstresses, employees of Madame Labille
- THE GIPSY - A fortune teller (Non-Singing)
- MADAME LABILLE - A fashionable milliner (Non-Singing)
- DE BRISSAC, LASALLE, FRONTIGNAC, COURCELLES - Gentlemen of fashion
- COUNT DUBARRY - A gambler
- JEANNE BÉCU - A seAmstress, later "The Dubarry"
- RENÉ LECLERC - A poet
- MADAME SAUTERELLE - The keeper of a gambling house
- LOUIS THE XVTH - The King of France (Non-Singing)
- LAMMOND - The King's chamberlain (Non-Singing)
- DUCHESS OF LUXEMBOURG - A Society hostess (Non-Singing)
- THE DUKE DE CHOISEUL - Minister of State (Non-Singing)
- DUCHESS DE GRAMMONT - A blue-stocking (Non-Singing)
- ARMAND - A very large gentleman (Non-Singing)
KING'S SERVANTS - Footmen at Versailles (Chorus) : LADIES-IN-WAITING (Chorus) : MILLINERS, GAMBLERS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COURT
Scenes and Settings:
SCENE 1 - The Hat Shop of Madame Labille
SCENE 2 - A Garret overlooking the Seine
SCENE 3 - The Gaming House of Madame Sauterelle
SCENE 1 - A Salon in the Luxembourg Palace
SCENE 2 - A Cabinet in the Palace of Versailles
SCENE 3 - Springtime in Versailles
SCENE 4 - The Park of Trianon