ALL IN LOVE is a little known musical from 1961 based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th Century, British comedy of manners, The Rivals, first staged in 1775! The book and lyrics are by Bruce Geller and the music is by Jack Urbont – and the original cast starred Dom DeLuise and Charles Kimbrough (Company, Jim Dial on “Murphy Brown”). The Rivals is a fairly traditional farce, and one of Sheridan’s best-known plays, though it was his first.
ALL IN LOVE is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the original, set in the period, and featuring a score that complements that vision. The plot centers around the love story between Captain Jack Absolute and Miss Lydia Languish, and takes place during a recreational visit to Bath, England (as was common for noblemen at that time.) Lydia would prefer to marry a poor man, rather than a rich one, and so Jack has wooed her under the guise of “Ensign Beverly.” However, when Lydia’s aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, makes a deal with Sir Anthony Absolute, Jack’s father, to let Lydia marry his son, things get tricky. Further complications arise when Bob Acres, Jack’s best friend who as been promised Lydia’s affections, arrives and feels that he needs to defend his honor by challenging Ensign Beverly to a duel – he asks Jack to be his second! Meanwhile, Sir Lucius O’Trigger is also attempting to vie for Lydia’s hand, but Lydia’s crafty maid, Lucy, is mixing up letters on purpose to twist the plot further. Everything resolves it self appropriately, and no one is killed in a duel, but not before allowing for many choice, comedic song moments (like “Honour”, where O’Trigger convinces Acres he must preserve his honor and take on Beverly, even if it kills him) and much angst for the characters.
There is much to be said for adapting old, classic plays like The Rivals into modern musicals. For example, many writers have been very successful putting Shakespeare to this use. First off, that material is in the public domain, which makes adaptation easier on the writers, who don’t have to worry about securing rights or staying true to someone else’s vision in adaptation. Secondly, though audiences may be familiar with the play, they won’t have a definitive vision in their heads of an original production in the way that they might have if it was something that had premiered only a few years earlier. Lastly, adapting this kind of material often gives writers a chance to bring a fresh take to something that might otherwise feel dated.
ALL IN LOVE is a great show for theaters looking for traditional musical comedy fare that hasn’t been seemingly done a million times before. It has some great comedic roles for character actors, as well as parts for young ingénues (both male and female). The music is melodic and light, and well suited for a small orchestra. The comedy of the original shines through in this piece, making it ideal for audiences looking for a laugh.
EllaRC is a bookwriter/lyricist and musical theatre lover. She’s a new contributor to MTI Marquee – add her as a friend on MTI Showspace or check out her musical theatre and social justice blog, StageLeft.