Book by Sidney Michaels: Music by Larry Grossman: Lyrics by Hal Hackady
Palace Theatre, Broadway - May 31, 1975 (104 perfs)
(Reprinted from the 1975 album)
Prologue: March 6, 1429. The Hundred Years War is in its 92nd year and heading for all sorts of long-run records. Charles Valois is dreaming about things close to him: kings and queens, cousins and courtiers, estate and castles, treaties and inheritances. It's a nightmare. In his imaginings he sees the interior of a cathedral. Statues of history line the niches. When they come to life and start talking to each other, intrigue begins to sound like an everyday activity and who-does-what-to-whom as tasty as any fanciful French pastry. King Henry V of England has crossed the Channel to conquer France. He tells Mad King Charles VI of France he'd be "crazy to resist Charles VI has qualified for craziness honours easily - he married Queen Isabella of Bavaria.
When Isabella's daughter, Queen Kate gossips about the upcoming battle at Agincourt, Isabella figures she can negotiate that outing into a nice, clean, underhanded you take-this-and-he'll get-that-and-l'll-get-mine-because-I-was-in Troyes-before-you treaty. The problem is she has left Charley, her bastard son, out of the dividends. Pushed around Charley, who is also Kate's brother, Phillip of Burgundy's nephew. Marie's husband (she'd married the Dauphin when he was five years old), Queen Yolande of Sicily's son-in-law. However, the then Pope Yolande's cousin, comes out for Charley's claim to the throne. They all argue, threaten. But Isabella has an answer: Get an archbishop and a general to control Charley, and everyone will be cut in.
When Charley wakes from his usual 14-hour sleep, he tells the Archbishop about the dream. "My father went mad, my sister married my worst enemy, my uncle swore to destroy me and my mother declared me a bastard." He also realise the nightmare was all true and he's the only man in France with "an archbishop for a nanny."
The General comes in and informs Charley that "still another teen-age milkmaid who thinks she's seen God" is waiting downstairs in the Great Hall. Charley wonders when the "Merlin the Magician" nursery rhyme will come true. In any case, he hopes he'll never have to be king with all those responsibilities. He daydreams of his fondest wish, merely to be a "Good time Charley".
In the Great Hall Charley runs into Agnes Sorel who's slept with almost every man in France except him. She's been holding him off until he does something noble for France.
The Archbishop reminds Charley that he's come down to test the maid Joan about her claimed divine guidance. They give her the "Pick-out-the-Dauphin" test, a game of hide-and-seek. Charley is the last person anyone would pick out as a prince. Dressed in rags, he gets lost in the palace crowd; the girl must point him out with help only from her saints. Everyone who's tried before has failed.
When Joan picks out the Dauphin, all the sceptics are impressed except the Archbishop and the General. Charley's got to come up with a stiffer test. "Tell me my last birthday wish," he says. Joan remarks offhandedly that it was probably, "Please, God, don't let me have to be king" - and she's hit it right, by accident. Joan is all of 17, yet when she asks for an army to lead to lift the siege of Orléans, conquer all the castles of the Loire and go on from there, Charley says, "Give her the army."
That night Minguet, the oldest page in all of Europe, takes Joan to the Dauphin's study. Charley has romance on his mind. All Joan has on hers is a horse, a sword and a suit of armour. Though Charley has great qualms about her abilities to lead an army, he says okay to the horse and armour. He has a suit of his own that has never even been unpacked. It's been shipped to him like a put-it-together-yourself toy kit, complete with a scroll of "simple" directions. He offers it to Joan, but she insists that he try it on to see how he will look when he is crowned king of France.
Joan still needs a sword. It's too dangerous Charley thinks - a person could get killed. He then reasons she's as out of her mind as was his father, so at least deserves Dad's sword. He gives it to her and sends her off to Orléans.
When Agnes walks in on the conversation and hears this, she gratefully says, "You gave her the army. Oh, my Prince! I'm here. I'm yours." Joan and Minguet are left alone. He tells her about the Dauphin's growing pains, and she wonders about them.
At last Charley gets Agnes. She's very complimentary about his bedroom talent; he concedes she is right about that. But now they worry about Joan and what he did to her, sending her off to play "war" - and about people and their passion for violence. He thinks perhaps a note to his Uncle Phillip will get that ogre to call off the siege. He dictates a letter to Agnes.
Three weeks later the Archbishop and the General are in a turmoil: Joan is doing all she said she would - running the army, winning the battle of Orléans, scattering the English. Her successes are driving them wild. Charley, ecstatic about her accomplishments, has ordered the castle policed and polished for her victorious return - even orders solid gold armour for his guards. Then he learns about Joan's plans to chase the English out of France. If she keeps winning he'll wind up having to be king and having to accept the awesome weight of responsibility. That's a bit much for Charley - especially when he is told she plans to take Paris, too (where Isabella lives). He will have to face up to his mother unless he calls Joan off immediately. But how?
The Archbishop and the General tell Charley that someone who really knows how to handle a woman must be found to wine, dine and woo Joan. He talks about how he dazzled Agnes, made her forget her days and nights and days and nights with an unending list of other men. When the Archbishop and the General brush aside the bragging and offer instructions about love, Charley tells them, "Leave it to me. Romance happens to be my forte."
Charley and Joan meet in a romantic grove near Chinon Castle. He is ready, but she fends off his suggestions in the gentlest way.
Joan is off on an unbroken string of conquests of the castles of the Loire - Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency, Patay, then the city of Troyes, finally Reims. Charley wanted to call her off in the middle of them. She would not stop.
Now the interior of Reims Cathedral is crowded for Charley's coronation. There's been no time for rehearsal, and things are confused. Joan announces she's marching on Paris in the morning. Charley will have none of it. It's his army. He is the king. He wants the war over. He wants peace.
Joan will go on, she says, until France is entirely free, though she hasn't heard from her "voices" in some time - and doesn't know why. But she has made some strong political demands, including a bit of nepotism - commissions for her brothers, nobility for her parents, tax exemptions, etc. She would even like down-town Orléans put in her name. It doesn't sound at all saintly to Charley - she's acting like all other human beings.
At last the coronation ceremony. Everyone kneels except Joan. Charley is furious at her obstinacy, as she stands, unmoved while the Dauphin is crowned King of France.
Charley and Joan are on a tour of the provinces. He is trying to effect reconciliation with his family. He has even got Joan out of armour and into a dress - it's part of his plan to convince everyone she's just a simple shepherdess.
Joan has quietened down somewhat - she lost her first battle when she marched against Paris. Charley tries to introduce her to all his relatives, sending Minguet to say Joan is no longer a threat. They send back their own descriptions of her - "whore, witch, murderer, liar." His attempts to calm everyone fail when Joan threatens more battles if "the villains and bullies who've been raping France for 100 years don't stop!"
Charley tells Joan things must change, he's confining her to Chinon. But Joan says her "voices" have suddenly returned to tell her Phillip will break the truce and attack Compiègne in the spring. "Enough!" Charley commands. "I demand obedience. I am the king." "I will listen to no one except my voices," Joan shouts.
It's spring. Minguet, now a squire, and Agnes are in the courtyard at Chinon. There's been much discontent over the winter. Charley and Joan aren't speaking - not a single word between them for months. Minguet is confident they'll be together soon. He foresees an event that might do it - a certain catastrophe. They decide they should be grateful for small blessings.
The catastrophe comes: the Duke of Burgundy does break the truce, attacks Compiègne. And it does bring Charley and Joan together, on the banks of the Vienne, near Chinon.
Compiègne is expected to fall in a week. Joan's "voices" have warned her not to enter the battle. She'll be captured if she does. She wants Charley to act like a king and go. They argue. The dangers to Compiègne become more certain. Finally Joan says she must go. If she is captured, Charley can come and rescue her. He swears to heaven they are "the strangest pair that ever had to do with each other in all of history, with nothing in common." Joan says they have one thing in common, "Love of France." And she rides off to battle.
A few days later the Archbishop and the General are in a confessional booth. Joan has been captured; they are responsible. Her trial starts the next day. They've promised Charley to get her off.
Joan is in a prison cell, in Rouen, tried and condemned for witchery and other assorted misdeeds. But Charley has done nothing yet to save her. It is May 30, 1431. However, Charley is trying to do something. He and Minguet are tented outside the walls of Rouen. There aren't enough troops, though, to break into the city. Charley has another plan, and Agnes, in a nun's outfit, has visited the prison to see Joan to carry it out.
The plan is simple. Joan will sign a confession, admit temporary insanity, swear there are no "voices," and Church law will remand the death penalty. Then, after six months of imprisonment, Charley will buy her release. Not wishing to die, Joan signs the paper for Agnes, who gives it to a guard as she leaves.
Now Joan has second thoughts about that piece of paper - she went against her "voices" at Compiègne, and had been captured as they had warned her, and now she is defying them again with this false confession. She sees Charley's game, his plan to pay all of France for her and have nothing to rule over. It's more than she will do. Charley will just have to be king of France. She takes the paper from the guard and rips it up.
Three weeks later the Great Hall is filled with people including Charley's relatives. Joan has been burned at the stake. Thousands saw it. The Archbishop, however, is trying to convince Charley that she has come back to life, that there has been a miraculous resurrection and Joan can help write the truce with Phillip. A girl enters. She looks exactly like Joan. Charley begs her forgiveness for not trying to save her. But it is all just another piece of intrigue. The girl is a fake, who has been put up to the hoax by the Archbishop, the General and Charley's relatives. The king orders the impostor be released and all his enemies arrested on the spot. When the guards hesitate, Charley grabs a knife, kills the Archbishop and the General as his relatives flee. It has finally happened - Charley has acted like a king and at last is prepared to rule all of France.
Epilogue: 32 years later, February 28, 1461. The Great Hall is crowded, Charley is on his throne. A courtier has just announced: "Ladies and gentlemen. I give you King Charles, who was well served by the blessed Joan of Arc. I give you King Charles, who unified and created a French nation single-handed. I give you King Charles, my friends, who rode into battle at the head of his troops, took Rouen and reconvened the trial that vindicated the virgin martyr of Lorraine. I give you King Charles, who is 58 years old this day. I give you King Charles VII of France."
When the throng leaves, Charley reflects and daydreams. He sees the cathedral wall of his earlier nightmare. It's a nice dream now. Joan is alone in a niche. They talk. She tells him he has earned his place in history. He says it happened only because she believed in him. And as Charley goes to her, Joan kneels.
(in order of appearance)
- Overture/History - Henry V, Charles VI, Isabella, Kate, Phillip, Yolande, Marie, Pope & Ensemble
- Good time Charley - Charley & Ensemble
- Voices and Visions - Joan
- Bits and Pieces - Charley & Joan
- To Make the Boy a Man - Joan
- Why Can't We All Be Nice - Charley & Agnes
- Born Lover - Charley
- I Am Going to Love (The Man You're Going to Be) - Joan
- Castles of the Loire - Joan & Soldiers
- You Still Have a Long Way to Go - Charley & Joan
- Merci, Bon Dieu - Minguet & Agnes
- Confessional - General & Archbishop
- One Little Year - Joan
- I Leave the World - Charley
- Finale/History Reprise - Charley & Joan
Original Broadway Cast Album - BMG 09026-68935-2