Why The King’s Legacy?
While an unruly king tears his country apart to acquire a son, an unshakeable young woman (Anne Boleyn) forges a destructive path to queenship and paves the way for her daughter (Elizabeth I) to become England’s Golden Age Queen.
Where We Are
Women’s stories need to be told.
The majority of the traditions and stories of the Musical Theatre Canon are that of the heroic cis-straight-white man. Not only are these characters the center of most of our musical stories, but even when women are the protagonists, the lens through which they are written still tends to be that of the men.
And that must change.
Although I am a cis, white male myself, I am interested in telling stories outside of my own experiences, as well as subverting the so-called “standard” heroic narratives. The King's Legacy celebrates women in history, taking the focus and power away from the man typically at the story's center: King Henry VIII.
His story has been told. Now it’s time to focus on HerStory. And her story is our story.
Throughout our lives we are all - and women in particular - constantly told “no,” “you can’t,” “you shouldn’t,” or “that’s not how it’s done,” and are supposed to take that at face value. You cannot do, acquire, or achieve something that you desire with all your heart, and that’s that. But what happens when women throw off these shackles, stare down their circumstances, and tackle the impossible? They overcome.
And that’s the heart of The King’s Legacy. Overcoming.
And specifically, overcoming seemingly insurmountable barriers - those placed on us by the world, our situations, or by those in power. Obstacles that other people deem impossible.
Anne Boleyn was told she could not keep a king’s interest - then she held him for a decade. When they said she’d never be a queen, she found a way to take the crown anyway. And when they said her daughter - a woman - could never become the heir or a great monarch, Elizabeth I ascended the throne and led England through its first Golden Age.
Anne Boleyn may have died in the process of defying the insurmountable, but wouldn’t we all sacrifice everything to make our deepest desires and greatest dreams come true?
Where We Can Be
Slowly, but certainly, we are moving toward a more woman-centric - or at least more balanced - world. The journey has been arduous and often plodding, but we will get there inch by inch if we must.
And this journey began long ago with women who were bold enough to defy the status quo.
Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I were cast aside and purposefully disenfranchised because of a natural aspect of who they were: women. In today’s social and political climate of fear, bigotry, and purposeful disenfranchisement, this story resonates fiercely.
Three years ago, with the 2016 election, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between Hillary Clinton and Anne Boleyn. I hoped against hope that someone would come after Hillary to succeed where she did not, just as Anne paved the way for Elizabeth. And over the past several years this message has become so much deeper, more meaningful, and more widespread. The need for universal feminism to rise and allow women to be treated with respect, dignity, and real equality continues to be paramount.
Attempted disenfranchisement by men in power has only continued to grow as groups are being made more and more marginalized. All of these people are being told “no” and “you can’t” and “we won’t let you,” but now is the time when people are realizing they need to rise up and fight back if they are going to overcome.
It has happened before and it can happen again.
It may sound a little silly, but this musical story can help remind people that struggles can be overcome - no matter how overwhelming they may seem - and that your individual actions will echo long after you. The King’s Legacy speaks to these struggles, and celebrates those who tried and failed (Anne Boleyn) as well as those who succeeded - and even exceeded expectations (Elizabeth I).
Why This Story?
I first learned about this story in high school when my sister returned from studying abroad in England and gifted me a Horrible Histories book called The Terrible Tudors. And ever since I have been fascinated with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I.
It’s an intriguing tale filled with conflicting desires, dramatic historical moments, and an inspirational surprise ending.
A king decides he needs a son to inherit the throne, no matter the cost. A woman of low nobility decides she needs control over her own life. And somehow they meet and intertwine these two desires – Henry offering Anne queenship and Anne offering Henry an heir.
Shockingly, they were willing to destroy traditions, break all the rules, and completely sever ties with the Catholic Church in order to realize their dreams. Of course, as we know, Henry followed through by first making Anne queen, and then going to all lengths to have her killed after she failed three times to deliver a son. It seemed as though Anne only briefly obtained what she desired, “failing” to fulfill her end of the bargain by delivering a living daughter but never a son.
Yet the greatest irony, in my opinion, is that after the following four wives, a son who reigned shortly before dying from illness, and an elder daughter who also reigned shortly and died of illness, it was Henry and Anne’s daughter that fulfilled both of their desires.
Elizabeth I became a perfect heir, kept peace and strength in England, retained complete control over her own life (without a husband), and brought the country into its first Golden Age.
What Makes This Musical Unique?
The King’s Legacy follows in the footsteps of the great musical theatre structures of the past, while retaining a sense of contemporary sound and message.
Many of the musicals with a message – or “dramatic musicals” as they have been dubbed – that have come to Broadway recently have leaned into something in the composition that errs on the side of “contemporary”: Hamilton with rap, Dear Evan Hansen and Be More Chill with pop infusions, Come From Away with folk music, etc. And as more and more popular music has begun to enter the musical theatre canon - and often from pop music writers themselves - there has been a trend toward a loss of depth and musical dramaturgy amongst new musicals. Techniques such as distinct usage of motif, wordplay, and character interconnection, in both the libretto and the score, have fallen out of use.
I firmly believe that we can continue to write today in exciting new styles and with new sounds, without losing the type of infused dramaturgical writing that has always made the American Musical Theatre an effective, cohesive, and provocative event.
The King’s Legacy mixes the forms of the past with the messages of today and walks a line between them.
Every piece of music in the show has specific dramaturgical reasons for both its lyric and compositional components. And although the musical style may seem to harken back to the golden age at first glance, the ranges and melodic lines are written specifically to utilize legit and contemporary vocal styles, based upon the song's placement in each character's personal story arc. I have taken great care to use tried-and-true musical theatre structure for all character-driven moments, pastiche for fun and light-heartedness, and broke all of the rules at times to write what was necessary and called-for by the piece.
The structure of The King’s Legacy is also quite unique.
The show is performed by 9 Elizabethan Players playing 20 characters, all in honor of Queen Elizabeth I’s 40th year as reigning monarch. We follow two storylines throughout the show: Anne Boleyn’s story from when she arrives at court through her beheading, and Elizabeth I’s story as she grows up under the guidance of the women in her life, through her coronation.
This is the type of challenge I am interested in exploring with an audience. And after the musical's initial production this summer, I have learned that audiences are not only ready for this type of challenge, but they are longing for it as well. The structure was successful in its first produced iteration, and I am excited to continue honing and clarifying as The King’s Legacy moves forward in its theatrical life.
Join Our Journey!
The King’s Legacy is an epic journey and it requires a tenacious, feminist, and visionary team to bring the story to life and out into the world.
Our journey awaits, and we hope you will choose to join us!