The Arcadians (musical)

The Arcadians (musical)

Infobox Musical
name= The Arcadians

caption= Scene from "The Arcadians", 1909
music= Lionel Monckton
Howard Talbot
lyrics= Arthur Wimperis
book= Mark Ambient
Alexander M. Thompson
productions= 1909 West End

"The Arcadians" is an Edwardian musical comedy styled a "Fantastic Musical Play" in three acts by Mark Ambient and Alexander M. Thompson, with lyrics by Arthur Wimperis and music by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot. It was produced by Robert Courtneidge, opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, on April 29 1909, and ran for 809 performances, the third longest run for any musical theatre piece up to that time. The show starred Phyllis Dare as Eileen, Dan Rolyat as Smith and Florence Smithson as Sombra. [ [ Information and photos of Dan Rolyat, who created the role of Smith, and Florence Smithson] ] Cicely Courtneidge, the producer's daughter, later took over the role of Eileen. [ [ Discussion of musical numbers and cast changes] ] Costume designs were by the imaginative designer C. Wilhelm. ["Mr. Pitcher's Art" - Obituary "The Times" 3 March 1925] A Broadway production opened at the Liberty Theater in 1910, for over 200 performances, starring Frank Moulan and Julia Sanderson. A silent film version was made in 1927. [ [ IMDB entry for 1927 film version] ]


Arcadia was a legendary land of rural perfection peopled by beautiful virtuous innocents, first described by the Ancient Greeks, that was a popular setting for writers of the 19th century, notably W. S. Gilbert (in "Happy Arcadia" and "Iolanthe"). The development of aviation and flying in the early years of the 20th century captivated the public's attention. Writers fantasized about the strange adventures that might befall those who ventured to travel by the new-fangled aeroplane. A forced landing, perhaps, in some long-forgotten land where time has stood still. These stories laid the basis for "The Arcadians". [ [ Information at the NODA website] ]

and musical comedy. The innocent Arcadians represent the older style, and the brash Londoners embody the new. This contrast between simplicity and cynicism drive the plot and its humour, a contrast personified in the character of Smith, who is magically transformed during the piece. [ Article on the rise of Edwardian musical comedy] ]

"The Arcadians" is widely regarded as the finest Edwardian musical comedy. "The Pipes of Pan", "Charming Weather" and "Back your Fancy" are some of the best-known numbers. [ [ Reviews of the musical collected at the Divine Art website] ] This musical was popular for decades. Unlike other contemporary works dated by obscure topical references or racially insensitive themes, "The Arcadians" still plays well and receives occasional performances. [ [ Information from the Edwardian Musical Comedy site] ]


;Act ISombra, one of the beautiful but naïve Arcadians, is troubled by reports of a place beyond the sea where ‘monsters’ live in cages of brick and stone and never tell the truth – a place called London. The Arcadians beg Father Time to bring them a Londoner. He reluctantly agrees and causes amateur aviator James Smith, an ageing London restaurateur with passions for airplanes and philandering, to crash land in Arcadia, where no one tells lies or grows older, where money is unknown, and employment is unnecessary. The Arcadians and Smith exchange stories, and Smith introduces the Arcadians to some new concepts: ugliness, jealousy and lying. He attempts to seduce Sombra by telling a lie. Far from impressed, the Arcadians immerse him in the Well of Truth, from which he emerges transformed into a young man, wearing the scanty costume of Arcadia, with a luxuriant head of hair but minus his mutton-chop whiskers. They christen him "Simplicitas", and he will remain young until he tells a lie. His hosts dispatch him, with missionary zeal and two agelessly beautiful Arcadian nymphs, Sombra and her sister, Chrysea, to wicked London to "set up the truth in England for ever more, and banish the lie."

;Act IIThey begin their crusade at Askwood races, where it is Cup Day. They cause considerable curiosity, being still clothed in the costumes of Arcady (everyone else is dressed up formally in this scene, anticipating the similar scene in "My Fair Lady" 50 years later). But instead of improving the Londoners, the Arcadians adopt some of their wicked ways, including betting on the races. Here Simplicitas meets his wife Mrs. Smith, who, not recognising her husband, proceeds to fall in love with the young stranger. Simplicitas flirts with her and agrees to help her open up an Arcadian restaurant in London. Then comes an opportunity for Simplicitas to distinguish himself. Jack Meadows, a jockey who was to have ridden the temperamental horse "The Deuce" has been been thrown by the ill-tempered animal, and the replacement jockey has also been injured by "The Deuce. Sombra arranges that Simplicitas shall take his mount, as the Arcadians have the gift of speech with animals, and the brute becomes as gentle as a lamb. Simplicitas (while sound asleep), upon "The Deuce," wins the race, to the great satisfaction of its owner. Romantic complications ensue between Meadows and Eileen Cavanagh, a young Irish woman.

;Act IIIBack in London, Smith's Arcadian restaurant has become the rage of London, as the menu is that of the simple life. Smith, however, is not living and spreading the simple life as his Arcadian friends had hoped, but rather is having "the time of his life." Mrs. Smith becomes suspicious of Simplicitas, and in endeavouring to explain the reason for an all-night absence, he tells another lie. He falls into the ornamental well in the restaurant and emerges as his former self, with his bald head and shaggy whiskers, to the astonishment and somewhat to the confusion of his wife. Sombra and Chrysea, realising that their mission to make all London tell the truth has failed, return to Arcadia – but they do leave two happy couples behind.

Roles and original cast

*Smith/Simplicitas, an Elderly Businessman (Baritone) - Dan Rolyat
*Sombra, an Arcadian (Soprano) - Florence Smithson
*Eileen Cavanagh, a Natural Irish Girl (Mezzo-Soprano) - Phyllis Dare
*Chrysaea, an Arcadian (Soubrette Soprano) - May Kinder
*Mrs. Smith, Smith's Wife (non-singing) - Ada Blanche
*Jack Meadows, led (Baritone) - Harry Welchman
*Bobby, a Man-about-town (Baritone) - Nelson Keys
*Peter Doody, an unsuccessful jockey (Baritone) - Alfred Lester
*Astrophel, an Arcadian Shepherd (Tenor) - H. E. Pearce
*Amaryllis, an Arcadian Shepherdess (Soprano) - Billie Sinclair
*Strephon, an Arcadian Shepherd (Baritone) - Charles Charteris
*Sir George Paddock, a Racegoer (non-singing) - Akerman May
*Lady Barclay (non-singing) - Violet Graham
*Time, Father Time (non-singing) - George Elton
*Percy Marsh (non-singing) - Deane Percival

Musical numbers

;Act I
* Overture
* "Arcadians are we" - Chorus
* "I quite forgot Arcadia" - Time & Chorus
* "The Joy of Life" - Sombra, Chrysæa, Strephon & Astrophel
* "Look what hovers there above us" - Chorus
* "The Pipes of Pan are calling" - Sombra
* "All a lie!" Chorus
* "Sweet Simplicitas" - Simplicitas & Chorus
* Finale - "To all and each" Sombra, Chrysæa, Strephon, Astrophel & Chorus;Act II
* "That’s all over, bar the shouting" - Chorus
* "Back your fancy" - Bobbie & Chorus
* "The Girl with a Brogue" - Eileen & Chorus
* "This is really altogether too provoking" - Chorus
* "Arcady is ever young" - Sombra
* "Somewhere" - Simplicitas
* "Charming Weather" - Eileen & Jack
* Finale - "The horses are out";Act III
* "Plant your posies" - Chorus
* "I like London" - Chrysæa
* "Half-past two" - Eileen & Jack
* "Cheer for Simplicitas!" - Chorus
* "All down Piccadilly" - Simplicitas & Chorus
* "Truth is so beautiful" - Jack, Bobbie & Simplicitas
* "My Motter" - Doody
* "My heart flies homing" - Sombra
* Finale - "Truth is so beautiful"... All down Piccadilly"


"The Arcadians" was recorded several times, including in 1968, [ [ 1968 recording of highlights from "The Arcadians"] with June Bronhill] 1969 [ [ List of studio casts] ] and 1999 (by Ohio Light Opera). [ [ Information about Ohio Light Opera recording] ] In addition, Theatre Bel-Etage chorus and orchestra, conductor Mart Sander, recorded Monckton selections, including several from "The Arcadians", in 2003. [ [ Information about the Bel-Etage recording] ]



* [ Synopsis, cast list, discussions, reviews, and other links]
* [ Synopsis and info]
* [ Review, photos, script and other information]
* [ Synopsis]
* [ Article on the rise of Edwardian musical comedy, praising "The Arcadians"]

External links

* [ Libretto]
* [ Complete MIDI files]
* [ Information about the 1910 NY production]
* [ Information about a modern production of "The Arcadians"]
* [ 1909 NY Times review]
* [ List of longest running plays in London and New York]
* [ Reviews of the 2004 Bel-Etage recording of Monckton works, including "The Arcadians"]
* [ 1999 recording of "The Arcadians"] from Ohio Light Opera
* [ 1968 recording of highlights from "The Arcadians"] with June Bronhill

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