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Cross-country convection current creates ‘Hail and Reign’
Bainbridge composer e-connects with East
Coast playwright to produce satirical and poignant musical set in medieval England.
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — As presidential candidates battle for the most powerful post in the free world, this show is a reminder of how that quest (and lust) for power has spanned the ages of history.
Through satire, sarcasm and song, this historical story also illuminates some of the hard realities and utter ridiculousness of said quest.
It’s the year 1135 in England, a chronicler in full medieval garb announces at the beginning of “Hail and Reign,” an original production which will have its world premier at Bainbridge Performing Arts this weekend.
The throne of England is up for grabs as the Great King Henry I, has just died, having overdosed on stewed eels.
“And on that note, we can start our play,” the chronicler continues quite sarcastically and matter-of-factly, played adeptly by Carter Kight in his first lead role at BPA.
King Henry had planned to leave the throne to his only daughter, a self-indulgent, snobby shrew of an heiress living in France going by the name “the Empress Matilda.”
Upon receiving the news of her father’s passing, Matilda (played by BPA’s queen diva Michele Lorenz Odell) decries it terrible for a few short minutes. But soon thereafter, she’s joyously promenading, giving the beauty-queen wave to an imaginary court, envisioning her step up to the throne of England as she sings — “Here I come to save you from your current ghastly state ... Queen Matilda, The Really Great.”
Funny song, but not everyone agrees.
Chiefly, the powerful Bishop of Winchester (Chris Kolbegger), who defiles Matilda as having “a mouth like a garbage disposal and a temper like a tornado.” The Bishop predicts that her rule would be one of Godlessness. So he stages a plot to deny her the throne, planning a usurpation by a well-meaning, ladies’ man of a nobleman (played by Corey McDaniel) — “who thinks God is a good idea,” the chronicler interjects.
With that, the stage is set for the power grab. Matilda declares war through a foot-stomping chorus line and the country descends into chaos under a King who, himself, wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“Between this and ‘Macbeth’ and what’s happening in Washington (D.C.), it’s all connected,” said BPA’s artistic director Steven Fogell, who is also the director of “Hail and Reign” ( as well as “Macbeth,” which opens Oct. 16.) “Everything’s about power, everything’s about control.”
But interestingly deviant from its subject matter, “Hail and Reign” was created in a powerfully collaborative setting.
The playwright Colin Speer Crowley — who lives and works as a research writer in New England — had put out an e-classified ad of sorts a few years back, calling for composers who would be interested in working on a musical, and Bainbridge composer Paul Lewis answered.
Through tele- and e-communication, Lewis and Crowley hammered out the details of the show which is now on the verge of its world premiere. They’ll meet face-to-face for the first time at rehearsal this week.
For more on the East Coast/West Coast collaboration, check out Lindsay Latimore’s report in this Wednesday’s edition of the Bainbridge Review.