Rex – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1978
It was April of 1509 when Henry VIII was proclaimed “by grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland.” He was not quite eighteen, and until his death January 28, 1547, he would reign as an absolute monarch, a colossus of English history. His father, Henry VII, though never very popular, had brought an end to the War of the Roses, united the houses of York and Lancaster and founded the Tudor dynasty. He had established its tradition of autocratic rule tempered by justice and had brought order out of chaos. The young Henry was exceptionally tall and well-built. He was, some thought, “the handsomest of potentates.” He had style and personality and unpredictable passions. His long and eventful reign would be one of drama and continual change, of magnificence and grandeur, of political maneuver and an ambitious foreign policy. Henry VIII had an endless enthusiasm for learning, for the arts and for personal pleasure. He was an athlete that could wrestle and joust; he could dance everyone into collapse and outdrink most men. He was a monarch who loved pomp and ceremony, and was more than a dilettante in music. Two of his motets O Lord, the Maker of All Things and Quam pulcra es, composed in 1530, are still sung today. Life at his court was, most often, a continuous festival. But there was also a violent atmosphere that highlighted much of the reign. He married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, six weeks after he was crowned. When she bore him a son on New Year’s Day, 1511, Henry and country rejoiced. Now there was a male heir to the throne. The boy died nine days later. Henry was devastated, and the need for a son became paramount. Catherine would bear him seven children. Only a daughter, Mary, would survive. The king’s overriding wish for a legitimate son dominated his court. Rex is the musical story of Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir, the succession of wives (there were six queens) and the autocratic machinations of an absolute monarch at the pinnacle of his power and brilliance to satisfy his personal desires. The show was created by a monumental combination of talents and professionalism. Act I The year is 1520. The idea of a summit meeting between Henry VIII, King of England (Nicol Williamson), and Francis I, King of France (Stephen D. Newman), to be held in June in France is believed to be a stroke of genius, a proper way to bury old rivalries and foster peace between their countries. Henry is not completely sold on the idea. He voices doubts to Cardinal Wolsey (William Griffis) and Norfolk (Charles Rule). Norfolk is against making the trip; Wolsey promotes the alliance. Henry finally approves of the need to make Francis an ally but has no intent to please him to accomplish it. “To France, to France,” the king commands, and preparations for the journey are begun. Arrangements for transporting 5,000 English men and women are made. The castle chosen to house King Henry is not suitable for a King’s lodging, so a gigantic, ornate tent is raised, though the castle will still house many of the royal party. The plans for the historic meeting are so lavish, the richness of the costumes and pavilions so magnificent that the name “Field of Cloth of Gold” seems most appropriate. Henry has arrived in France. He is in his tent, correcting his latest song. He asks his minstrel, Mark Smeaton (Ed Evanko), to sing it – “No Song More Pleasing.” When the king learns dozens and dozens of young ladies are close by, he is eager for instant companionship. But he cautions Smeaton to play quickly if he is dancing with an aged lady, very slowly if the lady is young. Will Somers (Tom Aldredge), the jester, cracks wise about what Henry wants to do with the pretty ones. Cardinal Wolsey is not amused. He slaps the fool’s hand and tells him to mind his lecherous ways. Will mocks him: “Beg pardon, your Eminence. Everyone knows that lechery is a cardinal sin.” Wolsey tries to discuss plans for the treaty with his king and gifts for the French ruler, but Henry wants no part of that. He is most concerned with the betrothal plans for his daughter, Princess Mary (Glenn Close), who looks a bit peaked. Her mother, Queen Catherine (Barbara Andres), thinks it is due to the channel crossing. Mary, however, doesn’t like the idea of marrying the Dauphin (Keith Koppmeier). He’s only ten. Henry reminds her that she won’t have to “do it” for years and commands her to smile for England. Catherine sends her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour (April Shawhan), for her jewel box. Always the devout Catholic, Catherine takes out a large cross, drapes it on Henry and tells him he is now properly dressed. The King of England and the King of France express their own private attitudes; despite those, the two courts approach each other, and the meeting begins – “The Field of Cloth of Gold”/”Where Is My Son?” Francis ribs Henry about the fact that he has no sons. Henry doesn’t like the needling at all, especially when he is introduced to the very pregnant Queen Claude of France (Martha Danielle). But he doesn’t mind when he meets Anne Boleyn (Penny Fuller), an English beauty attached to the French court, who translates for the queen. Henry is anxious to show off. He challenges Francis to a wrestling match. And loses. Henry is livid but is calmed by Queen Claude, who thanks him for his gallantry for letting Francis win. He fences verbally with Anne. When he invites her to his tent for the night she cutely passes the invitation to the pregnant queen, who says she can’t oblige in her present condition. Dancing with Anne, Henry presses the invitation. At least, he says, come back to England and join my court. Catherine unhappily watches all this. Her wifely relationship with Henry is almost non-existent – “As Once I Loved You.” Months have passed. Henry has fallen passionately in love with Anne, but she refuses to become his mistress, as her elder sister had been for four years. Anne wants only to become queen and to bear him sons. The astrologer Comus (Merwin Goldsmith) is in his laboratory searching for some pagan magic that will lure Anne to court. He complains to Will about how shabbily Catherine is being treated, and he expresses qualms about his ability to find the right potion for Anne. Will tells him not to worry – no young woman can resist the king for long. Anne is back at Hever Castle, Kent, the home of the Boleyn family. Henry is writing songs to her and making all kinds of excuses and efforts to run into her there. Will, Comus, Smeaton and other court gentlemen have their own observations about what’s going on and how the king is doing – “The Chase.” Henry meets Anne at her castle gate. He says if she won’t be his mistress, it’s her duty to make him stop loving her. “Be ugly. Go bald,” he implores. If she comes with him, he promises her titles, estates. Anne refuses to be bought. Then Henry challenges her to hold his love, to be better than all the other women he has used. “If you are the Anne I think you are, risk a life at court – gamble on your great power to keep my love forever, because that is what you win if you take a chance.” Anne has come to court but still keeps her distance from the king’s bed. Smeaton has fallen in love with her and is making his own tentative moves, his own suggestive remarks when Henry comes upon them. He orders Smeaton to leave. Henry tells Anne how ridiculous she is making him look to the world by keeping him off. He reads double-entendre poems about his failure. When Anne suggests he send the scribbler to the Tower, the king admits he’s the poet. He says it’s the first time he’s ever been rebuffed, that she’s got him acting like a juvenile. Anne offers to return home if it causes him such pain. Henry begs her, “Never threaten that again. I cannot allow you to leave me.” Anne then reminds him if she submits, all he would win is a titled whore. She also admits she loves him and, since Catherine cannot bear him a son, thinks it’s perhaps God’s will that Henry should love Anne as his queen – “Away from You.” Henry visits Catherine in her chapel. He doesn’t often go there, but he has a plan to sell. He wants her to petition the Pope for a divorce. She agrees, with a single proviso: that Henry renounce the throne and enter a monastery as a monk. Mary, their daughter, would become queen. Henry is enraged. “There can never be a woman on my throne,” he shouts. When Catherine asks him to return to her bed and try for another son, he reminds her of the futility, that all of their sons have been born dead. She says it is God’s will. Henry says they have broken God’s law, because she was his brother’s wife. And quotes Leviticus, chapter twenty, verse twenty-one. Catherine has her own chapters and verses – Deuteronomy, chapter twenty-five, verse five; St. Augustine; the Patriarch Jacob; the story of Ruth. Henry is stunned at her preparedness, as though she had anticipated this confrontation for years. But he insists on a divorce, no matter what the Pope might say. Catherine vows to remain his wife until the day she dies. Henry is meeting with Cardinal Wolsey, who tells him the Pope has refused his request to divorce Catherine. Henry says he will pay no attention, his own bishops will grant the divorce – that he, Henry, sits on the throne and he will throw off the yoke of Rome and become Vicar of Christ in England. When Wolsey reminds him there is a hell, Henry answers, “Every day that passes without a male heir to my throne I live in hell.” Wolsey then warns of the likelihood of a Holy War from Catholic Europe and Spanish warships up the Thames in a year. Norfolk pledges his allegiance. Wolsey will not, and is permanently dismissed. Anne enters, and Henry tells her of his unprecedented act. Now he will make her his queen. She will make “a paradise for the sons we’ll make together.” Henry asks her to stay with him that night. Nine months later, in the corridor of Hampton Court Palace, Mary storms at Will Somers. The King has declared her illegitimate, anticipating the birth of a son that night. Will tries to reason with her, to keep her from displeasing her father. Henry comes upon them a moment later. He has something for Mary to sign, an oath of allegiance to the king, acknowledging him as head of her church. She says she cannot forswear her Catholic faith. The king says she is disloyal and must be punished, even though he loves her as a daughter. Just then, courtiers enter to announce that the child is born. It is alive, lusty, bawling. Henry is ecstatic. “Praise God! England has an heir! A son and heir!” Anne is in bed, the baby in her arms when Henry walks in. He kisses her, says how happy she has made him and asks, “What shall we call him?” Anne answers: “Elizabeth.” Henry is outraged – at Anne for promising England a son; at Comus for predicting a son. Anne roars with laughter. The king is amazed at her amusement. Tenderly, she tells him they will have sons – later. Henry replies threateningly, “Perhaps, perhaps.” Lady Jane Seymour innocently remarks that Anne speaks the truth. “I was the first-born in my family,” she says, “followed by five brothers! Boys!” Though Henry seems interested in the statistics, Anne sees the intrigue Jane has begun, wondering if she wants to become a royal mistress. Lady Jane is excused, and when Henry leaves, Anne asks for Smeaton to sing a lullaby. Her child must begin life with a song – “Elizabeth.” Henry softens. He returns to his wife, picks up the baby and places an arm around Anne. They are clearly reconciled. The birth of a second child is imminent. Henry visits Comus. The astrologer is reading the stars, holding a horoscope, checking his chart. As Henry reads the horoscope, he complains that it is merely a sermon on the zodiac when all he wants to know is the sex of his forthcoming child. Comus says the signs point to a son but also indicate that the queen is in great danger from this birth. Will arrives with the bad news – “Her majesty is well. She has been delivered of a son. A dead son.” Henry is anguished, incredulous. He rants to heaven, convinced his God has turned away from him. Why? More time has passed. Anne finds Henry alone with Jane. Upset at the carryings-on, the queen wants Jane sent back to her family. Henry asks what kind of love Anne can offer him – constant rages, broken promises, two stillborn sons? Anne reminds him of their daughter Elizabeth, and Henry’s anger towards both of them subsides. He is stunned, however, when Anne asks for his love; she wants them all to go to the country to avoid the plague. Henry says he can’t leave the court because of his regal duties, and when he learns that she has assumed kingly power without authority, his anger is monumental, and he tells her their marriage is cursed by God. The child enters and playfully climbs up on the throne. Henry immediately orders a nurse to take her off. Anne, upset, recalls that she warned him she would give birth to England’s heir. Furthermore, if Henry cannot give her sons, Elizabeth will be queen. Henry coldly states: “Lady, I have raised you up. I can cast you down,” and storms out, leaving her distraught – “So Much You Loved Me.” Anne asks for Mark Smeaton. She wants to be lullabied but is told that he has been taken to the Tower, accused of committing adultery with the queen. He has been tortured and supposedly confessed. The embittered Anne turns around to find two guards, who have now come to take her to the Tower. Will, there to comfort her, is crushed. He thinks the king will pardon her, but Anne knows better. “From marquise, I have been raised to queen. Now, having no higher honor to bestow upon me, he raises me to rank of martyr.” She is beheaded. Within hours Henry marries Jane Seymour. A cortège accompanies Henry and his new bride to his bedroom. As servants begin to undress Jane, Comus appears with a potion the king has ordered to insure the birth of a male. Jane confesses that her family pressed her to entice the king. Henry is tired of intrigues. He wants simple truths and an heir. As she climbs aboard the wedding bed, she asks how she may please him. “Simply close your eyes,” Henry says, “and pray for a son!” A son is born, although Queen Jane dies in childbirth. Now Prince Edward is to be fully protected. No one may approach the cradle without a signed permit from the king himself. Each morsel of food must be tasted, and no one exposed to the London plague may come near him. Norfolk announces that Parliament has confirmed the illegitimacy of Elizabeth and removed her from the line of succession to the throne. The intrigues to find a new bride for Henry now begin. Cromwell talks of an alliance between France and Spain that spells danger and mentions the fact that the German Prince of Cleves has a daughter, a Protestant and a beauty. Norfolk introduces his young niece, Lady Catherine Howard. It all makes Henry laugh. His one command is: “Bring me my son!” Act II It is Christmas at Hampton Court nine years later. In the interim, Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves; although they slept together the marriage allegedly was never consummated and was soon annulled. He also married Lady Catherine Howard, but learning of her adulterous past ordered her beheaded. Finally, he married the widow Katherine Parr (Martha Danielle). The three royal children, nine-year-old Edward (Michael John), an adolescent Elizabeth (Penny Fuller), and now a mature Mary, wait to enter the court. The Herald (Charles Rule) announces them – “Christmas at Hampton Court.” Will Somers appears; he has been designated Master of the Revels, and the three children embrace him. When Henry enters, Mary kisses him. Elizabeth does the same and presents him with a book, a Bible she has translated into Latin, French, and Italian. Henry’s main concern is Edward. He asks him about all the things he’s learned; he also has gifts for him. Norfolk announces the arrival of King Francis of France, who will join His Majesty shortly. Will shouts, “Let the revels begin!” – “The Wee Golden Warrior.” During the masque, Will helps Edward act the part of the hero, freeing the two captive princesses. The Arthurian romance culminates in a dance between the masked Henry and Elizabeth. She innocently steals attention from her brother by her graceful and enthusiastic dancing. Henry admires her verve but is annoyed by her superiority. He cheers the antics of his son. The King is suddenly serious. He insists that Mary sign her oath of allegiance and end the possibility of a Catholic plot that would use her against Edward. Finally, she scribbles her name. Now the king’s only annoyance seems to be Elizabeth. It is her sense of authority and self-confidence that upsets him. Francis I is heralded in. By now he is a stooped, haggard man. He talks of peace. Henry recounts his old grievances, boasting how he will take Paris as a toy for Edward. Francis, who is enamored with Elizabeth, offers to marry her. It would bring peace, but she rejects the idea. He also questions young Edward about his wishes – if his father dies in battle, is he prepared to rule? When the boy opts for no war, Henry is mortified and furious. He promises to get even with Francis the next time they meet. As Henry berates Edward for being meek, Elizabeth stands up to her father. He threatens her. She haughtily shows no fear of the king’s wrath. They all rail back and forth at each other. She tosses insults. Finally Henry has had enough. He banishes her from the court and condemns all who will speak to her with death. “Go,” he commands, “leave her to God’s mercy. She shall have none from me.” But privately he loves her spunk – “From Afar.” Will meets Elizabeth in a court corridor. In pantomime he begs her to ask her father for forgiveness. She knows it is futile, Henry does not want her in line for his throne. Ladylike, she craves flattery, wanting to be told she is beautiful. When Will indicates that she is a carbon copy of her father, she is enraged, kicks the jester, then says how sorry she is – and wonders about her future. He plays a charade, miming a ticking clock, to indicate where she will find the answer – “In Time.” Comus is in his laboratory, preparing a chart. Will comes in and is shown two horoscopes. One, for E.R. (Edward Rex), points to a brief reign. The other, for E.R. (Elizabeth Regina), predicts a fifty-year rule. (In Edward’s case the royal physician concurs). Comus hasn’t told the king of his findings, for it is treason to predict the death of a prince. Henry enters and demands to see Edward’s horoscope. Lying, Comus says it is not finished yet. Henry needs answers; he doesn’t want to sail for France to fight until he knows that Edward will survive his latest illness. Also, to insure victory, the king asks Comus to mix one of his best brews. The wizard digs out an ancient potion that can be used only once every five years. It is a horrible concoction, which sounds so awful Will is convulsed with laughter. Henry doesn’t want to swallow such an unappetizing mess. And Comus tells him that is not necessary, only that someone close to the king drink it – such as his Fool. Will gulps it down, begins a wild, frenetic “dance of death.” The king roars, then appears to join in the dance. It is anything but that – Henry is having a heart seizure. Will finally realizes what is happening and shouts for help. The king is carried to his bedroom. He is sick, deathly sick. All the family is present. Henry talks to Edward, telling him he is England’s hope and to make his noise in the world. His majesty asks for E.R.’s horoscope. Comus tries to read it but can’t get the words out. Henry grabs it, sees the prediction that his heir will reign for fifty years – “the chief ornament of a glorious age.” He looks from Edward to Elizabeth, disturbed, musing that he might have been reading her horoscope. He calls Bess close, restores title of princess to her (and to Mary), then begs that she watch out for her brother. He also confesses to Mary that he needs final rites from his old church, that he can’t trust his immortal soul to the Church of England. The King is dead. Elizabeth and Edward are in the throne room alone with the body of Henry VIII. She tells her young brother he must show himself to his people, that the throne is only a chair, with no danger in it, then sits on it to prove her point. As other members of the court enter, Elizabeth straightens the crown on Edward’s head. Will adds his encouragement: “Majesty, England is waiting.” Mary and Queen Catherine lead him toward the cheering crowd. Elizabeth remains on the throne and looks down upon her father’s bier. Will and Comus, awed by the vision of her natural majesty, bow deeply to her. She is lost in her thoughts – a young queen frozen in time – Finale (“Te Deum”).
– Reprinted from the original 1976 album
Norfolk: Charles Rule Cardinal Wolsey: William Griffis Will Somers: Tom Aldredge Henry VIII, King of England: Nicol Williamson Mark Smeaton: Ed Evanko Princess Mary: Glenn Close Queen Catherine of England: Barbara Andres Lady Jane Seymour: April Shawhan Francis, King of France: Stephen D. Newman English Herald: Danny Ruvolo French Herald: Jeff Phillips Queen Claude of France: Martha Danielle Anne Boleyn; Princess Elizabeth: Penny Fuller Dauphin: Keith Koppmeier Comus: Merwin Goldsmith First Guard: Ken Henley Lady Margaret: Martha Danielle Lady In Waiting: Melanie Vaughan Young Princess Elizabeth: Sparky Shapiro Nurse: Lillian Shelby Second Guard: Dennis Daniels Thomas Cromwell: Gerald R. Teijelo Catherine Howard: Valerie Mahaffey Prince Edward: Michael John Queen Katherine Parr of England: Martha Danielle Ladies & Gentlemen of the Court: Dennis Daniels, Harry Fawcett, Paul Forrest, Pat Gideon, Ken Henley, Dawn Herbert, Robin Hoff, Don Johanson, Jim Litten, Craig Lucas, Carol Jo Lugenbeal, Valerie Mahaffey, G. Eugene Moose, Jeff Phillips, Charles Rule, Danny Ruvolo, Lillian Shelby, Jo Speros, Gerald R. Teijelo, Jr., Candace Tovar, John Ulrickson, Melanie Vaughan Sword and Morris Dancers: Dennis Daniels, Ken Henley, Don Johanson, Jim Litten, Jeff Phillips, Danny Ruvolo