Lady Audley's Secret
Music by George Goehring, Book by Douglas Seale, Lyrics by John Kunz
Eastside Playhouse Theatre Off-Broadway 3 October, 1972 (8 perfs)
England in the 1890s - an era of mystery. At Audley Court
elderly Sir Michael Audley has just married a young and beautiful bride.
The plot thickens as Captain Robert Audley, Sir Michael's nephew, and
his friend George Tallboys arrive. Lady Audley is attracted by her handsome
nephew but George seems to recognise her! With his sudden disappearance,
a fire, inter-family intrigues and blackmail, the audience is drawn into
a web of mystery which holds them right up to the final revelations.
ACT ONE - The Lime Tree Walk leading to Audley court.
As the curtain rises, the villagers are discovered in a tableau. Phoebe, maid to Lady Audley, and Luke Marks, her betrothed, are among the dancers. Luke tries to steal a kiss from Phoebe. She resists and he declares he'll break her high spirits when they are wed. Lady Audley comes running, closely followed by Sir Michael, who is 70 and, as such, out of breath. Lady Audley has planned a day filled with special festivities for Sir Michael’s birthday. He proclaims that she has made the last two years the happiest of his life.
As they toast the finer things in life, Luke continues to seek an inappropriate kiss from Phoebe. She protests again and points to Sir Michael as a model gentleman. Luke is not impressed, noting that only two years ago Sir Michael's wife, Lady Audley, was a common governess. Finally, he leaves and Lady Audley asks Phoebe what's wrong. She explains that it was her mother's wish that she wed Luke.
Unfortunately, her mother's judgment in choosing Luke as Phoebe's husband was a poor one. Sir Michael, who has been listening off to the side, praises Phoebe's sense of duty. Sir Michael's daughter, Alicia, arrives dressed in a riding habit and looking for Sir Michael's handsome nephew, Robert Audley. Alicia is annoyed that Robert is so late. She has driven her horse hard, for which Lady Audley criticiSes her. Alicia responds, "One can't always be smiles and honey as you are, my dear step-mother. It's better to let one's temper come out at once, then brood over unpleasant things in secret." Lady Audley responds that, "marriage is a wonderful cure for lover's impatience." Sir Michael decries Alicia's sour spirit, which reminds him of his first wife, Alicia’s mother.
Phoebe, alone, reflects how much happier Lady Audley is in her marriage to Sir Michael than in her previous life as a governess. She remembers when she and Lady Audley shared an attic room and their closest secrets. She vows that Lady Audley's secret is safe with her. We hear the sound of Robert Audley singing a martial air off stage. He arrives with a flourish: a handsome young gentleman dressed in military uniform. His friend George enters with the luggage. Phoebe moves to take the luggage, startling George, who is not accustomed to the attention of servants. Robert asks after Lady Audley, whom he's never met. Phoebe describes Lady Audley as a fine woman. She exits with the luggage.
"My uncle marry a governess!" Robert reflects that Sir Michael's first wife was a battleaxe who died after a horse bit her. "The poor beast had to be shot, of course. My uncle took to his bed for several weeks in the state of utter collapse. He was very fond of that horse.” George sympathises as he had lost his young wife. He tells the sad tale of having to leave his wife to make money in India, only to read her obituary before he could send for her.
Alicia arrives and greets Robert, who introduces his friend George. As Robert and Alicia kiss, George looks at a painting of Lady Audley and is startled to see the very image of his "dead" wife. He leaves. Alicia is annoyed that Robert has not asked her a particular question that she hoped he would. Lady Audley enters and is impressed by Robert’s good looks. Alicia becomes annoyed and leads Robert off.
Lady Audley has reacted strangely to meeting Robert. Her heart pounds, her temples throb, and she can scarcely catch her breath. She reflects that Sir Michael, though good and kind, is old. She must secure her future in preparation for his death. She congratulates herself for convincing her first husband, George, of her premature demise. Suddenly, George appears and touches her shoulder. She turns with a shriek. "You are a traitress, Madam he says. He threatens to expose her. She complains that she thought herself deserted when he went off to India. She threatens to silence him using the power of her position. He is not impressed, as his friend, Robert Audley, will aid him. She pretends to feel faint and asks him to bring her water from the well. As he does, she strikes him with an iron rod and pushes him down the well.
ACT TWO - The Conservatory in Audley Court — twelve months later.
The butler and maid dance as they clean the room. Sir Michael enters with Alicia. He asks her to be patient with Robert as he has been distracted by the mysterious loss of his friend, George. He agrees to speak to Robert and hurry things along.
Alicia confesses that she has been questioning Lady Audley’s sincerity. He tells her he will not tolerate having his wife spoken of in such a manner. Alicia pines after her sainted mother and Sir Michael pines after Abigail, his sainted horse. Lady Audley arrives, mistakenly jealous over their reverie. Alicia runs off and Sir Michael pursues her, trying to give her solace.
Luke, drunk, enters and threatens to blackmail Lady Audley: he witnessed her pushing George down the well! She agrees to meet him tonight, bringing a hundred pounds. He kisses her roughly, promising her that there’ll be more than money to give him tonight. He goes off laughing. Robert enters bearing a letter of hers to George and accusing her of bigamy and, he suspects rightly, murder. She snatches the letter from his hand and reminds him that exposing her will tarnish the Audley family name forever. He demands that she leaves the country or he will expose her. He leaves and she decides to stick to her motto, “death or victory.”
Alicia enters in tears, accompanied by Sir Michael. She’s upset because of Robert’s postponement of their marriage and the attraction she’s observed between him and Lady Audley. Lady Audley decides to use Alicia’s misplaced concern to her advantage. She tells them that it is true that Robert is in love with her. Lady Audley asks Sir Michael that Robert be sent away and he agrees.
Robert enters announcing that he is going away for a few days. Robert asks that Lady Audley come with him to London. Sir Michael is aghast and demands that he leave immediately. They continue their argument until Sir Michael is overcome, grasps his heart and has to be carried off. Robert puts two and two together, concluding that his uncle’s intention must be the result of Lady Audley’s work. He leaves to set things right.
On the road to Audley Court Luke is drunk again. Phoebe appears telling Luke that the landlord’s been around looking for the rent. He tells her that they’ll not have to worry about such things in the future.
Inside the Castle Inn, Phoebe is alone when Robert arrives seeking a place to stay for the night. As Luke enters unseen, Phoebe starts to tell Robert of the Lady’s secret. Luke cuts her off. Robert decides to get Luke drunk and get him to reveal the great secret. He and Luke go off to get some ale. Lady Audley appears and, hearing that Robert is in the other room hides. The men return. Luke hits Phoebe when she refuses to get him more ale. Robert can’t contain himself and knocks Luke out cold.
Robert and Phoebe leave as Lady Audley discovers Luke unconscious on the floor. Phoebe re-enters and Lady Audley sends her out, promising to catch up with her. Lady Audley determines to set the cottage ablaze thereby ridding herself of the two men who threaten her security. She sets the fire and leaves. Luke awakes, staggers and falls in the smoke.
On the road to Audley court, Phoebe is making her way to the hall as Alicia comes along. Alicia brings word that Sir Michael is failing and that she must find Lady Audley. She implores Phoebe to return to her house and retrieve Robert. Lady Audley appears and Phoebe gives her the bad news about Sir Michael. They see the fire rising in the distance but Lady Audley holds Phoebe’s arm and demands that she come with her to the Castle. Phoebe sees that Lady Audley must be part of some foul scheme cries for help. Lady Audley drags her off by the hair.
On the Lime Tree Walk, moonlight falls on the old well. Lady Audley enters, dragging Phoebe. Robert arrives and sends Phoebe to try to help her husband. Lady Audley is shaken to find Robert alive. They exchange threats and struggle. Phoebe re-enters, leading Luke, who is near death; indeed, he collapses before he can accuse Lady Audley. Alicia arrives with Sir Michael, who promptly dies. Robert accuses Lady Audley of killing his friend George. At that very moment, George appears and Luke dies! Luke saved him! Just as they accuse Lady Audley, Phoebe reveals that, in truth, Lady Audley is mad! She describes her screaming in her sleep, begging that her mother not be taken away. (Her mother had been taken off to the insane asylum, and this is the madness that also courses through Lady Audley’s veins.) Overwhelmed, Lady Audley dies.
- The English Country Life - Ensemble
- A Mother's Wish Is A Daughter's Duty - Phoebe
- The Winter Rose - Lady Audley, Sir Michael
- That Lady In Eng-a-Land - George, Robert
- Civilised - Lady Audley, Robert, Alicia
- Dead Men Tell No Tales - Lady Audley
- An Old Maid - Alicia
- Repose - Lady Audley
- The Audley Family Honour - Lady Audley, Robert
- La De Da Da - Lady Audley, Sir Michael, Alicia
- I Know What I Knows - Luke, Ensemble
- How? What? Why? - Robert, Lady Audley, Phoebe
- Forgive Her, Forgive Her - George, Robert, Alicia, Lady Audley, Ensemble
4 men, 3 women, small chorus
- PHOEBE - The Lady's maid, Luke's love, simple
- LUKE MARKS - A dissolute ruffian, brusque, stubborn
- LADY AUDLEY - A pretty lady with a secret. Lovely, mannered and, alas, quite mad
- SIR MICHAEL AUDLEY - elderly but kind, too trusting
- ALICIA - Sir Michael's handsome daughter. Robert's youthful love (and cousin), fiery
- CAPT. ROBERT AUDLEY - Sir Michael's handsome nephew. Young, handsome, upstanding, valiant
- MR. GEORGE TALBOYS - Robert's grieving friend has a hot side
- ENSEMBLE - A dancing maid and butler; A small chorus of villagers, drinkers, and four-man fire ensemble