The Prince and the Pauper
Musical in 1 Act. Music: George Fischoff;
Lyrics: Verna Tomasson;
Book: Verna Tomasson
Judson Hall Theatre, (New York) 11th March, 1962 (Perfs: 158)
John Canty, Tom Canty, Hodge, and Hugo introduce themselves as the Lads of the Garbage Court and warn people to stay away from them. Canty then chases Hugo offstage and takes Tom by the ear, demanding to see the money Tom brought home…but Tom insists his begging didn’t even get him a penny. Canty accuses Tom of holding the money back, but all he finds is a small book. Tom admits that he’s trying to teach himself to read. When Canty doesn’t understand why Tom needs to read, Tom explains that there are wonderful things in stories—things he imagines experiencing one day. Canty dismisses Tom’s dreams as useless and orders him to go out and not come back until he finds money. Canty leaves; Tom begins begging.
Meanwhile, Prince Edward is at his desk in the palace, with Lord Hertford nearby. Tom approaches a soldier at the gate, asking what neighbourhood he’s in. The guard snobbily tells him that Tom is standing in front of the palace and orders him away. Edward spots Tom and asks Lord Hertford if they can give him some pennies. Lord Hertford snobbily refuses, insisting that people like Tom are poor because of their own faults. Edward calls out the window to Edward, inviting him in. When Tom enters, Edward gives him some fruit and asks for his name. Tom explains that his mother is sick and his father is mean to everyone. Edward admits that his father isn’t nice, either, and shows Edward a photo of his family. As Tom tells Edward about life in Garbage Court, Edward becomes more and more envious, wishing he could experience just one day of such freedom. Tom, however, wishes he could live as comfortably as Edward…giving Edward the idea to switch places (“Why Don’t We Switch”). As they exchange clothing, Edward notices that they look almost exactly alike. He tells Tom he’ll just be gone for an hour, and they can change back when he returns. Tom isn’t crazy about this idea, but he warms up to it after seeing how comfortable Edward’s chairs are. A soldier then enters with a document for Tom. Tom orders the soldier to do something nice to three poor people. The soldier thinks it’s pointless, but he agrees anyway. Once he leaves, Tom marvels at his newfound power.
Edward’s cousin, Lady Anne, enters, causing Tom to freak out. She tries to practice dancing with him, and is confused when he seems to not remember what she taught him the day before. She remarks that he’s very strange today. Lord Hertford, entering, agrees. He asks Tom if he’s signed the execution papers yet. Tom’s weird behaviour makes Lord Hertford suggest he take a nap. Tom leaves to do so. Lord Hertford decides that the prince must be crazy.
Back in Garbage Court, Hugo is delighted that he’s stolen so many nice necklaces. Canty hassles Edward for not bringing back any money, but Edward tries to explain that he’s the prince, and not Canty’s son. Canty isn’t having any of Edward’s sass (“Pity The Man”). Canty has Hodge show Edward how to steal. Edward notes that Hodge looks more like a farmer than a beggar. Hodge admits that he was a farmer, but since landlords took all the common land, he has nowhere to farm and is homeless. Edward doesn’t understand how his father could allow homelessness…but Edward’s father passed the laws that made Hodge homeless. Edward, enraged, vows to overturn those laws as soon as possible. Of course, nobody believes him. He shows them his locket as proof, but it only makes Canty think Edward was holding out on him. He starts to beat Edward. Miles, a knight, sees this happening and intervenes. Canty demands to know who Miles thinks he is; he tells Canty that he’s a knight who goes around helping people (“My Name Is Miles Hendon”). Miles tells Edward to come with him for protection, and the two of them leave, with Canty threatening revenge.
Edward thanks Miles for rescuing him, but he annoys Miles when he expects him to do all the work setting up for supper. Miles, instead of thinking that he’s selfish, figures Edward has been beaten so much his mind is deranged. He decides to play along and treats Edward like the prince he claims he is until he’s cured. Miles tells Edward about his life: he was born into low nobility, and his father sent him to fight in foreign wars. But Miles was captured and jailed, and only recently escaped. With no money, Miles is trying to get back to Hendon Hall. He performs his good deeds in honour of a highborn princess he’s in love with…but who he can never be with because of his low birth. Edward promptly solves the problem by making Miles Earl of Kent, and when he realizes Miles is in love with his cousin, Lady Anne, he promises to put in a good word. Miles, of course, still doesn’t believe him. Edward wonders why Miles is so good to him when he doesn’t know who he is; Miles explains that he’s been lonely traveling by himself.
As Edward falls asleep, Lady Anne shows up, warning Miles he’s in danger. Miles’ father is deathly ill, but Miles’ brother, Donald, has been claiming that Miles is dead. When their father dies, Donald, the younger brother, will take over Hendon Hall and declare Miles an imposter, locking him out of his rightful inheritance and killing him. He also wants to marry Anne. Miles is so outraged he vows to fight his brother, but Anne reminds him that Miles has no money and Donald has an army. Anne gives Miles some coins so he’s able to leave the country. Miles refuses. He wants to make a legal case in court and suggests that the Prince could speak on his behalf. Anne is skeptical of this idea, since the Prince has been so weird lately. He’s forgotten his manners and the three languages he speaks and insists he’s actually a pauper. Miles reflects on his similar experience with Edward. Anne remarks that it’s quite the coincidence…but Miles thinks it might be more than that. What if the boys switched places? Anne is confident she can recognize her cousin and wants to wake up the boy to see if he’s really Edward, but Miles won’t allow it—Edward needs his sleep. Miles will bring him to the castle instead. Miles and Anne long for the day their love will no longer be secret, but fear that will never happen.
Once Miles and Anne leave, Canty and Hugo enter in disguise. Edward, awoken by Hugo’s knock on the door, lets them in. Hugo pretends to be a messenger from Miles, telling Edward to come with them. Edward believes them, and Canty puts a sack over his head and ties him up. They leave. Miles then returns to find Edward gone.
At Garbage Court, Hodge and Hugo celebrate the King’s death and hope the next king is kinder. Canty enters with Edward. Hodge and Hugo tell Canty the king is dead. Edward informs them haughtily that he is now king and will punish them, but nobody believes him. Canty tells Edward to stop teasing the other boys, but when Edward persists on claiming to be king, they all make fun of him. Hugo tries to take Edward off to learn how to steal, but Edward doesn’t like to be touched and has a small cudgel fight with Hugo. Edward wins the fight, causing Hugo to promise Edward will never make a fool of him again. Hugo then commences teaching Edward to steal…which involves stealing a pig in a basket, putting it by Edward, and running off. Everyone now thinks Edward stole the pig, so he’s arrested and taken to jail.
The next day, Edward stands before the magistrate, who tells the woman Hugo robbed that anyone stealing something above a certain worth is hanged…and this crime qualifies. The woman is distraught, because she doesn’t want to condemn Edward to death. The magistrate offers to buy the pig for a lot less money, so Edward doesn’t die. The woman isn’t happy about selling the pig for less, but she agrees. Edward calls the constable back into the room and accuses the magistrate of having no honour. The magistrate orders Edward sentenced to ten years in jail and a public beating, but before Edward is taken away, Miles walks in to see the magistrate. When he finds out about Edward’s fate, he offers to take the beating for him. Just then, the constable receives a royal decree that all penalties are canceled due to Coronation Day. Edward panics; he and Miles must get to the palace before Tom is crowned king.
As they make their way through the crowds, they run into Canty and Hugo. Canty shows Miles the locket he thinks Edward stole, saying he’d be crazy to give up a thief that good. Edward explains that it’s his, and has his family portrait in it. Miles gets a good look it when Canty gives it to him after the four of them fought over it; he thinks it may actually belong to the Royal Family.
At the Coronation, Tom is kind of depressed. Anne asks why he’s upset and tells him to smile for the crowds. Edward runs up, demanding the ceremony cease. Edward and Tom explain their switch. Lord Hertford isn’t convinced. He asks Edward a series of questions about his family members, which Edward answers correctly. Lord Hertford still doesn’t believe until Miles produces the locket, saying Edward had it on him. Edward is crowned king. He then banishes Donald and allows Miles and Anne to marry. Edward also lets Tom and his mother live in the palace, and puts Tom in charge of the library. They all celebrate.
- Garbage Court Round
- In a Storybook
- I've Been a-Begging (a-Bragging?)
- Why Don't We Switch?
- Do This, Do That
- The Prince is Mad
- Oh, Pity the Man
- With a Sword in my Buckle
- Ev'rybody Needs Somebody to Love
- The Tree and the Sun
- King Foo-Foo the First
- Coronation Song
- Edward, Prince of Wales
- John Canty
- Lady Anne
- Lord Hertford
- Miles Hendon
- Tom Canty