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Knickerbocker Holiday

Cover to original cast recording

A musical play in 2 acts and 3 scenes. Book and Lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Music by Kurt Weill. Suggested by "Father Knickerbocker's History" by Washington Irving

Ethyl Barrymore Theatre, New York, 19 October 1938 (168 perfs)


In New Amsterdam in 1647, Brom, a young man, falls in love with the Town Councillor's daughter, Tina. The Town Councillor, however, is furious and tries to have him hanged but the arrival of Peter Stuyvesant, the new Governor, saves Brom's neck. Stuyvesant reveals himself as a dictator, and Brom, protesting, is carted off to jail. Stuyvesant then announces that the country shall go to war, as a peaceful country is a stagnant one. This is stopped when it is pointed out that he had better change his ways if he is going to be remembered kindly in history and all ends happily with Brom and Tina getting married.



Washington Irving, the great American historian, is sitting idly at his desk in 1809 and starts to relate the story of the Dutch founding fathers of New York (then New Amsterdam) in 1647. Suddenly the Council is with us: Van Tienhoven, Van Rensselaer, Roosevelt, De Vries, Vanderbilt - all fat, self-important, corrupt (Hush-Hush) - and faintly ridiculous! They have a problem: the Governor is arriving by ship and they want a public hanging to impress him, but all the prisoners have jumped jail! The Council picks on young handsome Brom Bröck, back after an absence to see his sweetheart, Van Tienhoven's daughter Tina (It Never Was You) -he had to keep away because his aversion to taking orders from anyone always leads to trouble. Washington living, who acts like a narrator, agrees with Brom that this makes him the first fully-fledged American citizen (How Can You Tell an American?). Brom reminds Van Tienhoven of his lawbreaking, but that counts as "making accusations against the Council", which is a hanging matter, so he must be strung up. The crowd is furious, and threatens the Councillors, but Brom convinces the Councillors that the modern way to hang is by the stomach, and when the new Governor, Peter Stuyvesant, discovers him swinging by a rope around his waist, he is delighted at Brom's cheek and pardons him. He explains his idea of an idyllic existence for all, with him as absolute dictator, and enlists Van Tienhoven as his henchman in illicit arms and liquor trade with the Indians (The One Indespensable Man). Brom and Tina seek Stuyvesant's permission to marry, but are shattered to find that Van Tienhoven has promised her to Stuyvesant who, horror of horrors, has a silver leg! Stuyvesant tries to persuade her to marry him immediately, not to wait - "the days grow short when you reach September" (September Song) - the disheartened Brom complains loudly about the dictatorial Governor and gets marched off to jail for hanging later, while Stuyvesant exhorts everyone to hymn him (All Hail the Political Honeymoon).

Act II

Stuyvesant visits Brom in jail, listens to his thoughts and recommends him to write a book while Sitting In Jail. Tina, suddenly as rebellious as Brom and still determined to marry him, climbs in through the "escape hole" and, when the jailer tries to stop her, loses all her seven skirts in the attempt! She and Brom are just about to escape when her father arrives to take her away.

Washington living introduces the last scene, Pausing that when you're on rock bottom There's Nowhere To Go But Up Back on the Battery, the Army (that is, the Council plus several small boys) are parading rebelliously before the irascible Stuyvesant (To War!). The Council then gets a short, sharp lesson in economics, Stuyvesant-style, which depresses them (Our Ancient Liberties). The wedding starts but is interrupted by Brom and his friend Tenpin, escaped from the jail which drunken Indians have burned down. The Council is too frightened to fight, but Stuyvesant and Brom defeat the Indians, though it seems Tenpin has been killed. In the rejoicing, Brom (and the swiftly-recovered Tenpin) denounce Stuyvesant for having sold the firearms and liquor to the Indians and Brom accuses him, not only of corruption, but of undue efficiency! Stuyvesant has had enough - he orders the rope for Brom and instructs the Council to pull it. Led by Roosevelt, they summon up courage and refuse, whereupon Stuyvesant threatens to turn the cannon on them. The day is saved by Washington living, intervening across the centuries to remind Stuyvesant how important a good historical reputation is, and all ends happily when old Silverleg admits he can't take orders either!


(Cast: 12 men, 2 women, chorus )

Musical Numbers


  1. Introduction - Washington Irving
  2. Clackety-Clack - Washington Irving, Girls
  3. It's a Law - Tienhoven, Council (Replaced during original run by: "Hush-Hush" - Roosevelt, Ensemble)
  4. There's Nowhere to Go But Up - Brom Broeck, Tenpin, Ensemble
  5. It Never Was You - Brom Broeck, Tina Tienhoven
  6. How Can You Tell an American? Brom Broeck, Washington Irving
  7. Will You Remember Me? - Brom Broeck, Tina Tienhoven, Ensemble
  8. One Touch of Alchemy - Pieter Stuyvesant, Ensemble
  9. The One Indispensable Man - Pieter Stuyvesant, Tienhoven
  10. Young People Think About Love - Tina Tienhoven, Brom Broeck, Ensemble
  11. September Song - Pieter Stuyvesant
  12. Finale - Pieter Stuyvesant, Ensemble


  1. Ballad of the Robbers - Washington Irving
  2. We Are Cut in Twain - Brom Broeck, Tina Tienhoven
  3. Prologue to Scene 2 — There's Nowhere to Go But Up (reprise) - Washington Irving
  4. To War! - Pieter Stuyvesant, Council *, Male Ensemble
  5. Our Ancient Liberties - Tienhoven, Anthony Corlear, Council *
  6. Romance and Musketeer - Ensemble
  7. The Scars - Pieter Stuyvesant, Ensemble
  8. Dance of the Algonquins The Algonquins
  9. Dirge for a Soldier - Ensemble
  10. Ve Vouldn't Gonto Do It - Ensemble
  11. Finale - Pieter Stuyvesant, Washington Irving, Brom Broeck, Ensemble

* Council Members included the characters Anthony Corlear, Tienhoven, Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, DePeyster, DeVries, Van Rensselaer, Van Cortlandt Jr., Schermerhom.

Scenes and Settings

Act 1:

Washington Irving's Study, 1809; The Battery. A morning in 1647.

Act 2,

Scene 1: Interior of the jail. Evening of the same day.
Scene 2: The Battery. The following day.


Reed l (piccolo, flute), Reed II (oboe, clarinet, alto sax), Reed III (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax), Reed IV (clarinet, tenor and baritone sax), 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, percussion, piano, guitar db. banjo, 2 violins, viola, cello, bass