A Musical Fairy Tale
by Scott L. McGregor
Lyrics by Arthur Benjamin
Music by Arthur Darrell Turner
Kije! is a musical fairy tale. It was originally written for an annual competition for new musical comedies sponsored at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Kije! was the 1980 competition winner and first premiered in the spring of 1980 at Carnegie Mellon University as the University’s Spring Musical.
Magical Special Effects
Kije! not only features music and dance (as you would expect from a musical) but also a little bit of magic. Most of the magic effects in the show are simple to master parlor tricks, with a few flash pots, a dancing cane, an on-stage disappearance and a magical costume transformation for special effects.
Perfect for Large Ensemble Cast
Kije! is particularly well suited for production by college, school, community theatre groups and any theatre troupe that has a large ensemble company and wishes to give meaningful role to as many actors as possible. There are 13 major roles in total, consisting of 7 major male roles, plus 5 major female roles, and one role of either gender (Punch-the Jester). In addition there are unlimited chorus roles for soldiers, guards, servants, townspeople and revolting peasants.
Kije! is also well suited to performance companies with limited budgets. The initial production was staged with a single set consisting of 3 levels: The main stage is used as “the Great Hall”. Castle walls upon which there are 3 balconies that open off the royal apartments surround the main stage. Below the main stage in the pit are the dungeon and the wizard’s lab. Scene changes require only a change in lighting -- dimming one area, bringing up lights in another. Any other set dressing items desired for a scene can be easily carried in or out by actors at exit or entrance. This allows the show to move continuously at a fast pace – something that today’s TV and Movie watching audiences have come to expect. See the notes on Set Design of the premiere performance, for more on the stage set.
Show for All Ages
Kije! was written with humor and meaning at many different levels from sophisticated literary references, to groaners, puns, physical gags and pratfalls, making it suitable for audiences of all ages and levels of sophistication. Young children instantly recognize the archetypes of the King, Wizard, Princess, Villain and Hero and are amazed by the magical effects, making it a fine choice for children’s theatre or family fare. But with more burlesque or adventurous directorial choices, the show can be geared for purely adult entertainment if desired.
Updated Script awaits New World Premiere
While the basic story line and character archetypes are timeless, the show has undergone substantial changes and updating since its initial premiere production at Carnegie Mellon University. The authors are also ready to work with a theatre company that wishes to produce the show to make any changes necessary for production.
CHARACTERIZATIONS AND CAST OF CHARACTERS
(In Order of Appearance)
WUZ, the land
WUZ is a kingdom under a curse. Things in the kingdom are pretty confused. One of the effects is that most everyone in the kingdom feels lost and without a sense of direction. They think that they want something but they already have it and don't realize it.
Murphy, the Wizard
An absent-minded but somewhat clever old man. Kind and likable. A bit of a wise acre, with fairly bad jokes. Inside him there is great magic, but he has yet to find it; instead he blunders about with poorly executed "tricks". Like Schmendrick in Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn, he wants to find the true magic within himself, but he has confused magic with prestidigitation. His true magic is in his psychology, his ability to see into people's characters and thus predict and manipulate their actions.
Ms. Wiz, the Wizard’s wife
This woman is a sort of Mae West figure whose mind is always on one thing: sex. Ironically, she is married to the cerebral Wizard who encourages her to fulfill her desires through her houseboys and slaves. She married the wizard out of an urge for power and domination, but found that his wizardly powers don't seem to run in that direction. Frustrated, she seeks to dominate in other ways. The wizard's reason for marrying her: alas, another case of Murphy's Law, he drank his own love potion.
Punch, the Jester
A fairly morose character whose grief comes from being a de facto failed comic. Still, a true friend who tries to cheer up the minstrel when he is glum. Punch wants to touch people, but he thinks he can't do this because he can't be heard. In fact, his tragedy touches everyone deeply. Since he doesn't realize this, he has turned to drink.
Dom, the King
A tired old man. His only joy is in his daughter. Short-tempered, he frequently wields the power of his office harshly and has intimidated many members of his court. He wants loyal subjects. He sees everyone as lying to him and is thus disappointed with them. He doesn't see that it is their fear of disappointing him and their loyalty to him that makes them try to deceive him, to tell him what they think he wants to hear, in the first place.
Robin, the Minstrel
A bit of Quixote, the minstrel is a romantic young man who lives too much in dreams and is the victim of reality. He is idealistic and struggles to be good and true and comes off as a bit of a "goody-good". He is a Dudley Do-right type. Since he is an outsider, he is even more confused than the others, because he doesn't really comprehend what is going on. In the end he is truly afraid, for while it is fun to dream, when dreams become reality, as his story of Kije does, other people are really affected, and sometimes the effects are not desirable. Moreover, as his story becomes real, he loses control over what goes on in it, and this loss of control is terrifying to him. He wants to be worthy of the princess, but he thinks that his class prevents him. Yet he really is worthy of her on the spiritual plane.
Charity Less, a lady-in-waiting
A status climber. She lusts after power and wealth. She's the type who wants to marry a doctor and drive a Cadillac. She thinks that she wants material wealth, but needs spiritual wealth, a friend to share things with.
Merrilee Ouigaux-Alon, a lady-in-waiting
A simple-minded sort. The dumb-blond-type who just fawns upon any strong or masculine-type man. She thinks she needs physical strength in her man, but really needs a spiritual strength and confidence.
Faith Holsom, a lady-in-waiting
The sensitive type. She is the type who always wants to be mothering someone or something, whether it is a child, a pet, or her husband. She thinks that she needs someone she can mother, but she really needs someone who she can work with as a partner.
Hope, the Princess
A levelheaded but strong-willed young lady with much of the fire of Kate from The Taming of the Shrew but with much better manners. She wants love and affection. She wants to be in love with someone worthwhile, a real class act, but she limits herself from finding him by not looking beyond her social class.
Sonny Dey, a courtier
A sort of a puppy-dog-type character. A perpetual boy who never grows up. Perhaps a little vain about his boyish good looks. A bit more insecure than the rest. He wants to grow up and to be loved, but he thinks he must appear to be a lady-killer (which he is not) instead of just cute and vulnerable (which he is).
Larsen E. Quivocator, a villainous courtier
Sort of a Snidely Whiplash character, who does evil not simply because it benefits him, but because he's in love with the idea of evil for its own sake. However, he does not really enjoy real evil as he discovers when he gets his just desserts in the end.
The Count Ur-Monet, a noble courtier
A real windbag. Loves to talk just to hear himself speak. Very conceited. Aristocratic and snobby. Sort of a Charles Emerson Winchester-III-type from M*A*S*H. He has power and money but thinks he has no friends.
Sir Render, a knight courtier
The type who has a good deal of bravado but in reality is afraid of his own shadow. The cowardly-lion-type from the Wizard of Oz. He thinks himself a coward (as do those around him) but he is just confused about the difference between being brave and not being afraid. When he learns that it is okay to be afraid, he turns out to be brave indeed.
THE CHORUS ROLES
The Soldiers of Wuz
These guys are not really cowards, they are just tired, lost and lack leadership. They have been running away from battles for ten years, only to be gathered together to fight and run away, once again. It's not so much that they aren't strong, but rather they have no hope of winning. They lack leadership and a reason to fight.
The Palace Guards and Royal Servants
The guards and the servants aren’t the brightest people. They are dedicated but bumbling. The guards would fit right into a Keystone cops movie scene, with pratfalls and more. Their motto would probably be "I never get my man".
The Peasants and Townspeople
The Peasants are revolting! That is, they are stupid and dirty and all-around ignorant. Picture the peasants in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Townspeople might be a bit less dirty, and certainly think themselves above the peasants, but they are not any less ignorant. They are easily swayed, or led astray, by men of confidence (or confidence men) such as Larsen.
The play consists of three acts. Each Act covers one day in length, beginning with Wednesday morning (Act I) and running through Friday night (Act III).
In Act I, the Wizard and the rest of the people of the kingdom welcome the Princess back to Wuz. She has returned to Wuz to select a suitor and get married. The King puts the Wizard in charge of the evening’s festivities, and the Wizard complies with a little magic, which fails badly. When this fails, the Wizard introduces the minstrel who sings a beautiful ballad, during which the Minstrel falls hopelessly in love with the Princess. The Princess dances with each of the courtiers but is interested in none of them. After the dance, the ladies and Ms. Wiz discuss who they think the princess will marry. She surprises them by telling them that she is interested in none of the Courtiers, but shares with them her idea of a dream lover. When the King hears that the Princess is not interested in any of the Courtiers, he calls the Wizard and asks for advice. The Wizard suggests a competition, and when the King suggests that the most desirable quality is honesty, the Wizard suggests telling a lie and seeing who corrects the King first. The suggested lie is about an imaginary hero, “Kije”. Unfortunately, none of the Courtiers exposes the lie, but rather they all play along inventing fabulous tales of Kije's exploits. The Princess hears this and falls in love with Kije. She sings of her love of Kije, as the Minstrel sings of his love of the princess. Larson overhears the princess and concludes that she has fallen in love with him.
As Act II begins, Ms. Wiz is pestering her husband for a new slave. We then find the minstrel discussing the futility of his love for the princess with the jester, Punch. Meanwhile the king is worrying about what to do about the princess being in love with the imaginary hero. The wizard suggests that they turn on the heat a little more to see which courtier comes forth first. He suggests that the courtiers be asked to produce Kije. The courtiers are worried that the King will want to hear more, so they contract the minstrel to make up a further story. When the King calls them all together, the Minstrel sings his ballad. Then the princess asks the king to send for Kije, which he was planning to do. The Courtiers split up to figure out what to do. Larsen's plan is to disguise himself as Kije and seduce the love struck Princess. As the seduction is being tried, the Minstrel worries about what to do now that he is caught up in the lie. He concludes that he must announce that Kije has died. The guards announce this just as the seduction begins to get serious, and Larsen is exposed. The Princess decides to become a nun since she has lost the only man that she loved.
As Act III begins, Larsen is in the stocks, and the minstrel is ashamed of his own involvement. When he finds out how hurt the princess was, he is becomes bitterly unhappy. The King is also disturbed as he finds out how the princess is taking it. Hoping again to expose the lie he asks for more news of Kije, but the minstrel sings of the hero's fateful demise. The Princess is particularly touched, and suggests that Kije be brought home for a hero's funeral. This suits the King just fine, since he is sure that this will finally expose the lie. The courtiers are worried now, since they must solve this problem without help from Larsen. They go to the ladies and retrieve a wooden box, some stones to weight it with, and a coat of arms to drape it with to pretend it is the remains of Kije. When the Minstrel sees the coffin, he decides that the only suiting punishment for his own involvement is to be buried alive. He writes a final letter to the princess purportedly from Kije and climbs in. As things seem to have reached their absolute lowest point, the Wizard finally discovers the key to magic that has eluded him. Instead of searching for magic in his books, he turns to his intuition and just guesses. Suddenly his magic is working! Finally it is time for the funeral. The King insists that the Courtiers open the coffin, but the Courtiers protest. Suddenly the soldiers march up. After having lost battle after battle for 10 years, they have suddenly won the war, inspired by the noble exploits of Kije! The soldiers open the coffin to give Kije the sword of the commander of the enemy. The Courtiers are astonished to see a body! The Princess reaches over to pin a medal on him, and stabs him with the fastener. The Minstrel (transformed by magic into the fancy dress uniform of an officer) cries out in pain revealing that he is still alive. A celebration ensues until it is discovered that he is the Minstrel, which he readily admits, thus finally ending the lie of Kije. The Princess is hurt until she finds out that it was the minstrel who wrote the final letter. The King is furious, but is guided by the Wizard into seeing that the contest has finally produced the most noble person after all. The show ends as the planned wedding is announced and the wedding and victory are celebrated.
PERFORMANCE NOTES: THE BIRTH OF KIJE!
Kije! was originally conceived in 1978 by author Scott McGregor while he was a senior at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
While suffering in bed with a feverish flu, a friend gave Scott a recording and introduced him to a favorite piece of classical music, the Lt. Kijé Suite by Sergei Prokofiev. On the back of the record jacket was a one-paragraph blurb that said the music was originally developed as a film score for a Russian movie and then later rewritten as an orchestral suite. According to the blurb the movements tell the story of Kijé. The birth of Kijé occurs when the Tsar, listening to military advisors reading reports from the field, mishears part of a report and imagines that he has heard the a report of a heroic lieutenant named “Kijé”. The Tsar wants to hear know more about him. Since it is a serious offence to contradict the Tsar, the military advisors invent stories about this mythical person. The plot (and suite) continues with 4 stories told by the advisors: Kijé’s romance, wedding, the couple leaving the wedding in a three horse open sleigh, and finally Kijé ‘s death and burial – thus ending the Tsar’s interest in the mythical lieutenant.
The combination of the music, the blurb, the fever, and a collection of Wizard of Id comic strips penned by artist Johnny Hart, resulted in a vivid dream that Scott subsequently recorded as notes for a future full-length play named Kije!
In 1979, as a 2nd year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, Scott became aware of a prestigious contest to select the university’s annual spring musical. Years before, Stephen Schwarz’ Pippin won this same contest and subsequently went on to Broadway, where it became a Tony winner.
Scott then created a treatment for Kije! conceived as a musical fairy tale that would be enjoyable to both adults and children, mountable on a single set, with a modest ensemble cast of players, with a considerable freedom of interpretation left to the director. Scott submitted his treatment for consideration and it was selected as one of three potential candidates for the final production. The final decision would be based upon a complete script and music. At this point, Scott added two fellow Carnegie Mellon University students: lyricist Arthur Benjamin and composer Arthur Darrell Turner as collaborators. The three worked diligently and speedily to complete there submission by the final deadline.
When the finalist’s scripts were all submitted and reviewed, Kije! was the year’s selection and premiered in April 1980.
In the years since 1980, the show has been considerably reworked, featuring many new and revised lyrics and music, as well as substantial changes to the ordering and contents of the scenes. Music and lyrics by others, which had been in the original show, have been replaced to achieve a higher level of artistic consistency.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Scott McGregor, author of Kije!, received a Bachelor's degree from Haverford College in 1978, and a Master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980. In addition to Kije!, he is the author of Eggs, and Subplots, which were produced at Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College and Carnegie-Mellon University. He is a software entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.
Arthur Benjamin, lyricist, received his Bachelor's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1983, and received a Ph.D from John Hopkins University. As well as writing lyrics, he is an accomplished magician and mentalist, and is the only American born lightening calculator presently performing. He has appeared on national TV, at Hollywood’s Magic Castle and in a number of magazines in regards to his accomplishments as a lightening calculator. He is a Professor of Math at Harvey Mudd College.
Arthur Darrell Turner, composer, received his Bachelor's degree in composition from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984. He has been involved in a number of theatrical ventures in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to composing the music for Kije!, he has composed the music for several musicals including a few for which he also wrote the book and lyrics.
The play utilizes a single set of the Castle of Wuz. The main stage is divided into three main playing levels. The lowest level, the downstage area, represents the bowels of the castle. Down right is the MINSTREL and PUNCH's dungeon room. Down center is an open playing area, and down left is the WIZARD's lab. The next level, the center and upstage floor areas are elevated from the downstage areas by three or four foot tall platforms. This level contains five entrances and is joined to the downstage area by four sets of stairs. The entrances are up right, up center, up left, center right and center left. The stairs are down left, down right, and a pair down center. This level comprises the great hall and various rooms in the castle. The final level consisting of three balconies, center right, up center and center left are balconies adjoining the rooms of the royalty. Specifically, the center right balcony is the KING's balcony, center left is the PRINCESS's balcony and up center is the center passageway.
The play consists of 3 acts, each act being one day in length, starting with Wednesday afternoon. The other acts begin with dawn and end at midnight. Act I begins on Wednesday. There are no breaks between scenes, as the play is designed to flow smoothly from scene to scene without blackouts, through the use of the unified stage areas. All props may be carried on and off stage by the principals who use them. The WIZARD remains on stage at all times. When not otherwise occupied, he spends his time in his lab staring into his crystal ball, lit only by dim green light diffused upon him from below the crystal ball.