Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime is a new musical written by Kirby & Beverly Ward, based on the Oscar Wilde short story by the same name. It started life in 2012 as a second-year project at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York City. As a result of that twenty minute presentation, the show was invited to the Wilton Playshop in Southwestern Connecticut. On September 28th, 2013, and with minimal rehearsal, the entire show debuted to two very appreciative audiences in an informal “reading” format.
After further development at the York Theatre in Manhattan, Lord Arthur was selected by the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington to be one of five musicals presented at their 2014 annual Festival of New Works. For the festival, the show’s title was changed to Deadly Beloved.
Following the Village Theatre festival, the original Oscar Wilde title was restored and a 45-minute selection was featured in the “Page to Stage Festival” at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the West End of London.
In 2020, after further rewrites, Lord Arthur was presented onstage at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA as part of the theatre’s “Plays in Progress” series – again in a “reading” format. Rubicon now plans to include the show on their main stage during their next fully produced season.
Here is a sampling of the score and a synopsis of the plot.
With only a fortnight until his wedding to the beautiful Sybil Merton, Lord Arthur Savile attends a society party where an unusually convincing palm reader named Podgers entertains (SONG: What’s To Be). When Arthur offers his palm, Podgers foretells an ominous event in his future: he will commit murder. Stunned, Lord Arthur fears a happy marriage is impossible in light of this news (SONG: What Do I Do?). His concerns are compounded the next morning when a series of frightening mishaps lead him to believe he may in fact murder his darling Sybil if he doesn’t do something quickly. With the help of his trusted manservant, Saunders, Arthur decides the only conscientious course of action is to kill someone right away (SONG: Why Not Do The Deed?).
He determines poison is the safest method, and his aged second cousin Lady Clementina Clarke the ideal subject (SONG: One Foot In The Grave). After presenting her with a poison pill disguised as the latest cure for her chronic indigestion, Lord Arthur postpones his wedding (SONG: A Little While Longer) and travels to Italy where he impatiently awaits the news of her passing (SONG: All I Deserve). When word of her death comes, an exultant Arthur returns to London and his Sybil, only to find that Lady Clem has actually died of natural causes.
To the great dismay of Sybil’s mother, Lord Arthur again postpones the wedding (SONG: Enough). Feeling a failure as a murderer, he next seeks the advice of recent acquaintance and acclaimed revolutionary, Igor Ivanovich (SONG: What Made Alexander Great). Igor suggests a bomb. The new target? Arthur’s obnoxious uncle, the Dean of Chichester. Igor refers Arthur to a London bomb maker who supplies him with an armed and soon-to-explode clock (SONG: Mitt De Boom).
As Arthur carries the ticking bomb in a box through the streets of London, he begins to lose his resolve. He seeks refuge in his men’s club where he bumps into Sybil. He instructs the barman to “take care” of the package for a moment while they speak. Arthur tells Sybil he has something he needs to do and he’s worried if he tells her what it is, she won’t love him. Before she leaves, Sybil convinces Arthur that he’s a good man and she’ll always be devoted to him. With new determination, Arthur decides he’s being foolish. He’ll destroy the clock and go ahead with the wedding. But when he asks the barman for the package, the barman tells Arthur he “took care” of it and sent it to the name and address written on the top.
With only minutes to spare, Arthur and Saunders rush to the Dean of Chichester’s house, unaware that Sybil is in close pursuit. They get inside and, at the moment of detonation, Arthur throws the clock out the doors and – unintentionally – into the waiting arms of his fiancé who has climbed unseen onto the terrace. She catches the clock and falls backward off the balcony and into the Thames. There’s an explosion and a splash.
In anguish and convinced he’s actually killed Sybil, Arthur rushes to the Tower Bridge to throw himself off. There he encounters Podgers who is preparing to do the same. Arthur lashes out at Podgers, blaming him for his misery. Podgers loses his footing and falls into he river. Just then, Arthur’s brother Reggie motors by on his boat. He’s fished Sybil out of the water…and she’s unharmed! Arthur pulls her to shore, instructs his bother to go and see if he can rescue Podgers…and Sybil and Arthur begin planning their wedding anew.
The show ends at Sybil and Arthur’s wedding.