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Thomas and the King

Original Cast Album Sleeve

Music by John Williams, Lyrics by James Harbert, Book by Edward Anhaltz

Her Majesty's Theatre, London - October 16, 1975


Act I

Thomas and the King begins with a pilgrimage and procession led by Queen Eleanor on her way to Canterbury through a wooded area where King Henry II has been pursuing peasant wenches. Henry tries to encourage his friend Thomas Beckett to join him. Thomas meets Jennie, a peasant girl who want to better herself even though it means giving up her maidenhood to Henry. Thomas warns Henry that Jennie has brains, but this fails to discourage Henry. Thomas reprimands him for his ribaldry and reminds him that it is the King's responsibility to leave the world a better place. Henry prefers to be remembered as a man of love.

Theobold, Archbishop of Canterbury, challenges Thomas's inability to reform Henry's ways which leads to a discussion between Henry and Thomas as to the true nature of love.

In the palace, Queen Eleanor finds Jennie on her way to Henry's bedchamber and she tries to make Jennie unattractive to Henry by dressing her in a royal manner. Thomas suggests that Eleanor will have done Jennie a favour in keeping her from Henry's bed but whatever, Jennie is now unable to return to her village and her previous way of life.

At a council meeting, in a challenge to the Archbishop, Henry makes Thomas the Lord Chancellor, bridging the gap between church and state. This is seen by Henry as a way to build a better England.

A jealous Eleanor reminds herself that she can handle Henry as well as Thomas and Jennie who has, in a gesture of both lust and ambition, come to Henry's bed again. Eleanor is a woman of power and masterminds a war against France. The Archbishop is killed and Henry is defeated. Eleanor is delighted. However, to gain popularity again wit the people of England Henry decides to make Thomas the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas pleads with Henry to reconsider realising that Henry will expect him to speak for the King rather than for the Church. But Henry says that he will go ahead with his plan but Thomas pledges that he will speak for God. tak

Act II

The second act opens with the consecration of Thomas as Archbishop of Canterbury but meanwhile, Eleanor is plotting to bring Thomas to trial for his past misdeeds. But while Eleanor has been otherwise engaged Henry has fallen in love with Jennie. Henry will not allow Thomas to be tried by the Church Court but Thomas defies him by supporting the right of the Church in this matter and he goes to Rome to see the Pope.

In Rome the Cardinals are not kindly disposed towards Thomas and privately plot to have him excommunicated. The Pope is afraid that if he sends Thomas to England, Henry will invade Rome, so, exile is the only solution. Thomas ponders the challenge and the dichotomy with which he is now faced.

Back in England, Jennie suggests that Henry forgives Thomas and that they should try to build their dream for England.

Thomas returns to England and he agrees to obey Henry in legal matters but not on Church matters. Unable to compromise, Henry realises that he will have to destroy Thomas in order to keep his kingdom.

While kneeling in prayer, Thomas is murdered. Henry finds that it is in death that Thomas has achieved martyrdom and, from his grief, Henry vows to build their dream for England.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Processional - Company
  2. Look Around You - Henry, Beckett and Village Girls
  3. Am I Beautiful? - Jennie
  4. Man Of Love - Henry
  5. The Question - Beckett and Henry
  6. What Choice Have I? - Jennie and Beckett
  7. We Shall Do It! - Beckett, Henry and Company
  8. Improbable As Spring - Henry
  9. Power - Eleanor and Foliot
  10. Consecration of Beckett - Company
  11. 'Tis Love - Henry and Jennie
  12. Sincerity - Two Cardinals
  13. The Test - Beckett
  14. Replay the Game - Jennie
  15. A New Way To Turn - Henry, Beckett, Jennie and Company
  16. Will No One Rid Me? - Henry, Eleanor, Jennie and Company
  17. So Many Other Worlds - Finale


Thomas Beckett
Henry II
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Bishop Foliot
Cardinal Rossini
Cardinal Resphigi

Chorus of Bishops, Knights, Courtiers, Village Girls


Original London Cast (Principal Members) - TER 1009