WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF is a tale of romance
and intrigue set in a country inn in the England of the early nineteenth
century (WAYSIDE INN). A sudden accident to a coach and a gallant
rescue (THE RESCUE) brings to this inn four adventurous people--a
lovely Lady, her Maid, Louise, a dashing Lord, and his Man, Charles (ENTRANCE
POLONAISE). The Lady is the Prince's mistress, all too anxious to run
away and leave behind the kind of life the Lord represents (GOODBYE,
The Innkeeper and his Wife, eager to have these guests
stay longer, hope that a love affair will be kindled (ROMANCE!).
The Lord and Lady seem perfectly matched. But it turns out that the Lord
is more interested in his purse and gaining the favor of the Prince than
he is in romance. The Lady tries to flee on foot, but the Man discovers
her sneaking out through the garden. He recognizes her from her former
life as a well-loved actress. She doubts that she was ever
"well-loved" (LOVER LOST). Meanwhile, the Maid, longing
to return to the palace, flirts with the Lord (ONCE YOU'VE HAD A
Later, while doing their chores, she and the Man meet.
She hopes to marry a nobleman. But the mysterious Charles views life
philosophically (HULLA-BALOO-BALAY). The servants prepare
an elegant table (DINNER MINUET), but during dinner the Lord and
Lady engage in verbal duels (YOU'D BE AMAZED) that lead to acid
insults (A FRIEND LIKE YOU).
The Lord, outraged, plots to see her
humbled. He commands Charles to seduce her--she will be humiliated,
making love to a servant. Charles, however, sees the true woman behind
the Lady's facade of a royal mistress. An assignation is arranged--they
will meet that night in the garden. The Lord accosts the Maid and exacts
a promise to meet in his room. The Man, however, has second thoughts
about the part he must play (COME TO THE MASQUERADE).
enters the garden. At first she suspects a plot (MAN WITH A LOAD OF
MISCHIEF). But she is finally convinced that this man truly loves
her. They kiss, and she goes to her room to await him. As the Man turns
to follow her off, he questions his conscience once more, and the
curtain falls on Act One (COME TO THE MASQUERADE [Reprise]).
The next morning, the
Innkeeper imagines that the Lord and Lady passed a romantic night
together (WHAT STYLE!). The Lady awakes, feeling the joy of
finding her first true love (A WONDER). But the Man,
unconvinced that the Lady is ready to abandon the world to which she
belongs, "confesses" to her that he made love to her on his Lord's
orders. She is devastated, and resolves to leave the inn alone. The Man
longs for her to give up her false world (MAKE WAY FOR MY LADY).
Later, the Maid discovers the Lord having his morning coffee. She is
remembering last night, but he tells her that nights are made to be
Maid, bitter and infuriated, storms out.
The Innkeeper's Wife complains about her husband's faults, but admits
she's content with him the way he is (ANY OTHER WAY). Later, the
Lady informs the Maid that she is about to leave her. The Maid remembers
that the simple things are more important than
the high life
RAG DOLL). The Lord threatens to send the Lady back to the Prince,
but she returns the favor, threatening to tell the Prince that she and
the Lord were lovers (ROMANCE! [Reprise]).
The Lady then
discovers that the Man's confession was only to test her sincerity, that
his love is indeed real (MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF [Reprise]).
The imminent arrival of the Prince brings the intrigues, the stratagems, and the various affairs to a swirling climax
as Charles and the Lady determine to lead a life together, free from the
false pride and the foppish posturing of their shallow society (MAKE
WAY FOR MY LADY [Reprise]).
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