Thomas and the King

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Thomas and the King is a stage musical with music by John Williams, lyrics by James Harbert, and a book by Edward Anhalt. It is based on the story of Thomas Becket and Henry II of England, and set in 12th century England. It opened at Her Majesty's Theatre London, 16 October 1975 to poor reviews and failed to make it to Broadway. The set was designed by Tim Goodchild. The musical was directed and choreographed by Norman Maen. The cast included James Smilie, Richard Johnson, Caroline Villiers, Martin McEvoy, and Dilys Hamlett.

Musical theatre work that combines songs, music, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it may be distinguished by the equal importance given to the music as compared with the dialogue, movement and other elements. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called, simply, musicals.

John Williams American composer, conductor and pianist

John Towner Williams is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. With a career spanning over six decades, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable, and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history, including those of the Star Wars series, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, the first two Home Alone films, Hook, the first two Jurassic Park films, Schindler's List, and the first three Harry Potter films. Williams has been associated with director Steven Spielberg since 1974, composing music for all but four of his feature films––Duel, The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, and Ready Player One. Other works by Williams include theme music for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, NBC Sunday Night Football, "The Mission" theme used by NBC News and Seven News in Australia, the television series Lost in Space and Land of the Giants, and the incidental music for the first season of Gilligan's Island. Williams has also composed numerous classical concertos and other works for orchestral ensembles and solo instruments. He served as the Boston Pops's principal conductor from 1980 to 1993, and is currently the orchestra's laureate conductor.

Edward Anhalt was a noted screenwriter, producer, and documentary filmmaker. After working as a journalist and documentary filmmaker for Pathé and CBS-TV he teamed with his wife Edna Anhalt, one of his five wives, during World War II to write pulp fiction.



Act I

The story begins with a (Pilgrimage 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 Becket to join him (Look Around You). Thomas meets Jennie, a peasant girl who wants to better herself even though it means yielding her maidenhood to Henry. Left alone, she expresses her insecurities (Am I Beautiful?). Thomas warns Henry that Jennie is an intelligent girl, 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' inability to reform Henry's ways, which leads to a discussion between Henry and Thomas as to the true nature of love (The Question). 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 Jennie is now unable to return to her village and her previous way of life (What Choice Have I?).

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 (We Shall Do It!). 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 and he finds that feeling of affection for the peasant wench is (Improbable As Spring). 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 with 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 (The Question - Reprise).

Act II

The second act opens with the (Consecration) of Thomas as Archbishop of Canterbury, but Eleanor is plotting to bring Thomas to trial for his past misdeeds. While Eleanor has been otherwise engaged Henry has fallen in love with Jennie ('Tis Love). 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 (Sincerity). 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 (The Test).

Back in England, Jennie suggests that Henry forgive Thomas (Replay The Game) and that they should try to build their dream for England (A New Way To Turn).

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 (Will No One Rid Me?). 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 (So Many Worlds - Finale). [1]

Musical numbers

Cast album

The musical (principal members) was recorded a few years after its West End production, with some of the original cast participating. Lewis Fiander sang the role of Thomas, with Michael Sammes as Bishop Foliot, Richard Day-lewis as Cardinal Rossini and Tom Saffery as Cardinal Resphigi. [2] The album was recorded at PRT Studios, London 27/28 Aug 1981. The orchestrator for the musical was John Williams' regular collaborator Herbert W. Spencer.

Lewis Fiander Australian actor

Lewis Fiander was an Australian film, stage, and television actor.

Herbert Winfield Spencer was a Chilean-born American film and television composer and orchestrator.

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  1. Thomas And The King, Original London Cast, TER, Jay Productions Ltd., 1998
  2. Thomas And The King,TER CDTER 1009, (insert notes) by Jeffrey Dunn, London, 1981.