The Vagabond King

Full-Length Musical, Melodrama  /  10w, 3m

Book and Lyrics by Brian Hooker, Russell Janney and W.H. Post / Music by Rudolf Friml / Based on If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy

This swashbuckling operetta is based on Justin Huntly McCarthy’s 1901 romantic novel and play If I Were King, about the 15th-century poet and thief François Villon.

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    10w, 3m
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Adaptations (Literature), Period
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Appropriate for all audiences
The Vagabond King


The Vagabond King is an operetta in four acts based on Justin Huntly McCarthy’s 1901 romantic novel and play If I Were King. The story paints an episode in the life of 15th-century poet and thief François Villon, centering on his wooing of Katherine De Vaucelles (the cousin of King Louis XI), and relating how he becomes “king for a day” and defends France against the invading forces of the Duke of Burgundy.
The Vagabond King opened on Broadway at the Casino Theatre on September 21, 1925, starring Dennis King in the title role and Carolyn Thomson as Katherine de Vaucelles. The operetta later transferred to the Century Theatre, playing a total of 511 performances.
Paris is under siege by the forces of the Duke of Burgundy; popular support for King Louis XI is at a low point. Villon – poet, braggart, thief and darling of the Paris rabble – has sent anonymous love poems to the beautiful Katherine de Vaucelles. These have caused her to reject proposals from King Louis. She goes to seek the mysterious poet at an inn, but King Louis shadows her in disguise. Louis is incensed to hear Villon mocking the failures of his reign and saying what he would do instead "if I were king." The infuriated monarch reveals himself. The king gives Villon a hard choice: as punishment for speaking treasonously, he must either stop courting Katherine or accept the position of Grand Marshal, with all the powers of King, for 24 hours, during which time he must make good on his boasts and free Paris. At the end of the 24 hours, Villon will hang. Villon's dilemma is that he has promised himself to Huguette, his mistress, but now is deeply in love with Katherine.

Villon and Katherine declare their love for each other ("Only a Rose"). Hugette describes her means of livelihood ("Love for Sale"). Villon accepts Louis' challenge. Rather than sending the King's Scottish mercenaries against the Burgundians, Villon rouses the Paris mob to defend the city. Huguette discovers that Thibault, one of Louis's advisors, is a traitor. When Thibault ambushes Villon and tries to stab him to death, Huguette steps in front of the blade and takes the blow, thus sacrificing her life, and freeing Villon to be with Katherine. He kills Thibault in retaliation and then leads the Paris rabble to fight the Burgundians. The Parisians emerge victorious. After the battle is over, Katharine offers to sacrifice herself to the hangman in order to save Villon. Louis, realizing he cannot shed noble blood without a just cause, rewards Villon with exile instead of death, and the two lovers leave together.

(3 female; 10 male)

Katherine de Vauchelles - Prima Donna
Hugette du Hamel - Mezzo Soprano
Lady Mary  - Mezzo, should dance

Francois Villon - Baritone or Tenor Lead
Noel le Jolys - Tenor
Rene de Montigny - Baritone
Casin Cholet - Baritone
Toison D'Or (Burgundian Herald) - Baritone
Captain of Scotch Archers - Basso
Guy Tabarie - Comedy Lead; Fat & Jolly
Oliver le Dain Second Comedy, should be fat
Louis XI - Non-singing


Tristan L'Hermite - Non-singing
Rogati - Astrologer
Colin de Cayeul
Margot - Non-singing Character Woman
Thibault D’Aussigny - Non-singing
An Astrologer - Non-singing
Jehan le Loup
Trios Eschelles
The Bishop
The Hangman
First Court Lady
Second Court Lady
First Courtier
Second Courtier
Master of the Hunt
Dame de Chase


Vagabonds, Archers, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, Nuns, Dancing Girls, Pages, etc.

  • Time Period 15th Century
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Additional Features Stage Combat
  • Duration More than 120 minutes (2 hours)


Music Samples

Act I

"Opening" - Rene & Ensemble
"Love For Sale" - Huguette & Ensemble
"Drinking Song (A Flagon of Wine)" - Tabarie and Men
"Song of the Vagabonds" - Villon and Ensemble
"Some Day" - Katherine
"Archers' Song" (Preview) - Ensemble
"Only a Rose" - Katherine and Villon

Act II

"Hunting" - Noel & Ensemble
"Archers' Song" - Captain & Ensemble
"Tomorrow" - Katherine, Villon and Ensemble
Finaletto Act II - Orchestra


"Nocturne" - Ensemble
"Serenade" - Oliver, Tabarie and Lady Mary
"Waltz Huguette" - Huguette and Noel
"Love Me Tonight" - Katherine and Villon
"Song of the Vagabonds" (Reprise) - Ensemble

Act IV

"Te Deum" - Ensemble
Victory March ("Vagabonds" Reprise) - Ensemble
Finale: "Some Day"/"Only A Rose"/"Song of the Vagabonds" - Company

Full Orchestration

Violin I (Stand 1)
Violin I (Stand 2)
Violin II

Flutes I & II
Clarinets I & II (Bb & A)
Horn I & II
Trumpet I & II (Bb & A)
Trumpet III (Bb & A)


  • Musical Style Operetta
  • Dance Requirements Moderate
  • Vocal DemandsDifficult
  • Orchestra Size Medium
  • Chorus Size Large

Licensing & Materials

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.

Music Rentals

Concord offers a full suite of resources to help you put on the show of a lifetime!
35 Libretto-Vocal Book
1 Piano-Conductor
2 Flute 1&2
1 Oboe
2 Clarinet 1&2
1 Bassoon
1 Horn 1&2
2 Trumpet 1&2
1 Trumpet 3
1 Trombone
1 Percussion
1 Harp
1 Violin 1 - Stand 1
1 Violin 1 - Stand 2
1 Viola
1 Cello
1 Bass
35 Libretto-Vocal Book
1 Piano-Conductor


Take a look below at how you can enhance your show!


Brian Hooker

BRIAN HOOKER was an American poet, lyricist, librettist and translator. Born in New York City in 1880 to a prominent Connecticut family, Hooker attended Yale College and was published in The Century Magazine, The Forum, Hampton’s Magazine, Harper’s, McClure’s, Smart Set and t ...

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Russell Janney

RUSSELL JANNEY was a producer and author, best known for his first novel The Miracle of the Bells. He also produced and co-authored the 1925 musical The Vagabond King, with Brian Hooker and composer Rudolf Friml. Other productions include Marjolaine (1922) based on Pomander W ...

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W.H. Post

WILLIAM H. POST was born in New York City on July 8, 1867. He was a writer and actor, best known for his work on Never Say Die (1912) and the operetta The Vagabond King (1930). Other credits include The Belle of Broadway (1902), Marjolaine (1922) and White Eagle (1927). He di ...

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Rudolf Friml

Justin Huntly McCarthy

Justin Huntly McCarthy was an Irish author and a nationalist politician. A Member of Parliament (MP) from 1884 to 1892, McCarthy also wrote various novels, translations, plays, poetical pieces, biographies and short histories. His play If I Were King was named the Best Play o ...

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