Book and Lyrics by W.H. Post and Brian Hooker from Justin Huntly McCarthy's romance If I Were King. Music by Rudolf Friml

Casino Theatre, Broadway - 21 September, 1925 (511 perfs)
Produced at the Winter Garden Theatre, London, 19 April, 1927 (480 perfs)


Cut-throat and drunkard, pickpocket and braggart - François Villon is all of these. But he is also a poet and a Romantic, and he is adored by the rabble of Louis XI's Paris, which is ringed by the armies of the rebellious Burgundians. Katherine de Vaucelles has received romantic poems from Villon, not knowing his identity. She has rejected the advances of Louis, and has gone to an inn to discover, if she can, more about her unknown admirer. Villon boasts what he would do if he were king, not knowing that Louis is also there spying on Katherine. To revenge himself on Katherine the King brings Villon to Court and offers him twenty-four hours in which to prove himself. By the following dawn he must have won the hand of Katherine, or the hangman's noose will be round his neck. Huguette, a harlot who habitually dresses as a man, and Guy Taberie, a fat fool, are among those who join in Villon's subsequent adventures. Both are to offer their lives in his place, and one of them is to die before Burgundy is routed, and Villon reprieved on the very steps of the gallows. 

For the Chorus

From verminous rabble to exquisite courtiers and back again, this musical is an unrivalled training ground for principals of the future, for everyone on stage must act. The score, solid and effectively harmonized, brilliantly mirrors the story's varying moods and locations. The work was originally designed on a spectacularly massive scale and the script plots every move for 36 girls, 24 men and 9 girl dancers in addition to the 15 major principals. The chorus appear as assorted riff-raff of the Paris underworld, and as members of the King's Court.

Singing Principals

Lady Mary, a courtier
Nodl, a Court popinjay
Oliver, Keeper of the Royal Bath
Captain of the Scotch Archers
Rene, a rogue
The Herald of Burgundy.

Straight Roles

Fat Margot, keeper of a tavern-brothel
King Louis
Tristan, his trusted adviser
Thibaut, his traitorous Grand Marshal.

Smaller Roles

Isabeau and Jehanneton, harlots
The Queen.
Casin, Rogati and Jelian, thieves.
An astrologer. 

The Scenes

Act I Fat Margot's tavern
Acts II and X The King's garden
Act IV A Paris gate (inset or front drop). A Paris street

Musical Numbers

  1. Overture
  2. Opening Chorus - Ensemble - "Life is like a bubblein our glasses"
  3. Love for Sale - Huguette and Chorus - "Here's your dream of happiness"
  4. Drinking Song - Tabarie and Male Chorus - "Lay me to snooze in the mud and the ooze"
    4a Entrance of Villon
  5. Song of the Vagabonds - Villon and Chorus - "Come all you beggars of Paris Town"
  6. Some Day - Katherine - "Some day you will seek me and find me"
    6a - Melos
    6b - Archers Chorus. - "Woof! The boys have lost a brother"
    6c - Melos
  7. Only a Rose - Katherine and Villon - "Red rose out of the East"
  8. Fight Music and Finaletto, Act I - Entire Company

  9. Opening Act II - King, Tristan and Astrologer
  10. Hunting - Noel and Ensemble - "We hunt today for a wilder sort of game"
    10a - Melos
    10b - Melos
    10c - Reprise "Only a Rose"
  11. Scotch Archer's Song - Male Chorus with solos - "There's a crook with a llok like a book full of naughtiness"
    11a - Reprise "Love for Sale"
    11b - Melos
  12. To-morrow - Villon and Katherine - "When you say, 'Not today' … "
  13. Finale, Act II - . Entire Company

  14. Opening, Act III - "Nocturne" - Ensemble
    14b - Ballet (Tarantella)
    14c - Reprise - "Nocturne"
  15. Serenade - Tabarie, Oliver, Lady Mary - "Lullaby, lullaby "
    15a & 15b - Reprise "Nocturne" (Waltz)
  16. Huguette Waltz - Huguette - "Hearts may flower for an hour"
    16a Melos
  17. Love Me To-night (Duet) Katherine and Villon - "Love me tonight … "
    17b - Melos
    17c - Melos "Love for Sale"
  18. Finaletto, Act III

  19. Opening, Act IV - Scene I
  20. Opening, Act IV - Scene II — Church Music - "Te deum laudamus!"
  21. Victory March - Fighters - "Sons of toil and danger"
  22. Melos
  23. Finale, Act IV - Villon, Katherine



This was originally massive, and the full set of parts can still be supplied. Through the years Musical Directors have found satisfactory ways of trimming the requirements to suit their own budget and pit.

In full it consists of Violins, Desks 1, 2, 3 and 4, 1st and 2nd Violas, Cello, Double Bass, 2 Flutes, Oboe, 2 Clarinets, Bassoon, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3rd Trumpet, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone (a special score can be provided where only one Trombone is employed), Drums, Harp