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by David Crump & Peter Smith

Now playing : 'Capital K'  

Musical Theatre: 'Khaotic' by David Crump & Peter Smith
There’s an expression: “Just like Fred Karno's Army”, but who was Fred Karno?


Musical Theatre: 'Khaotic' by David Crump & Peter Smith


‘Khaotic!’ tells the story of Fred Karno, one of the great impresarios of the British music hall era. It combines new music written for the show with original music hall songs from Karno’s time giving the show both a freshness and a touch of familiarity to its audiences who can hardly resist singing along to ‘Waiting At The Church’, ‘The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery’, ‘All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor’ and ‘It's A Long Way To Tipperary’. 

Karno’s life was a true rags-to-riches then riches-to-rags story during which not only was he was the pioneer of slapstick comedy and is credited with inventing the ‘custard-pie-in-the-face’ gag, but he discovered Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin. He was a hard taskmaster and a womaniser, but, despite the flaws in his character he was a comic genius who was instrumental in creating modern comedy. 

Musical Theatre: 'Khaotic' by David Crump & Peter Smith

His artists (known as Fred Karno’s Army) became the mainstay of the silent film industry and therefore film culture as we know it today. In many ways the musical is a prequel to both ‘Underneath the Arches’ (the story of Flanagan and Allen), and ‘Mack and Mabel’ (the story of the early silent film pioneer, Mack Sennett). Both owed much to Karno.

‘Khaotic!’ tells Fred Karno’s life story set against a tumultuous period in British history, with two world wars, the end of the Victorian age, and events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Dr Crippen murder case. Ultimately though it is the tale of a man corrupted by success and driven by ambition at the expense of his family, who rises to the pinnacle of worldwide fame, but dies forgotten and alone.

When premiered in Birmingham in 2010 the show won the NODA best musical award. The audience response demonstrated that not only was this an evening’s entertainment with music, comedy and tragedy but that the historical context added greatly to the story.


Principals (2m, 3f)

  • Fred Karno Junior (Freddie) : Karno’s eldest son, a comic in his own right and the narrator of the show. Plays a number of characters in the sketches. His playing age changes between 50s at the start and younger during the sketches. Sings in most chorus numbers but has no solos.
  • Fred Karno (Karno) : driven by ambition, has a natural flair for showmanship, ages from a young man (when he was an athletic and extremely accomplished acrobat) to an old man (when he was an arrogant, hard-nosed, businessman). He was not a popular character and was a tough taskmaster
  • Edith Karno : a warm-hearted, kindly, woman, quiet by nature, a talented actress appearing in the early Karno shows.
  • Marie Lloyd (Marie) : the most famous female artist of her day, feisty and charismatic with a reputation for suggestiveness. (Pronounced ‘Mar-ee’).
  • Marie Moore (Moore) : Fred’s second wife, American, vivacious and brash.
Support (14m, 7f)

  Doubled characters:
  • Mrs Farook / Muriel Palmer (f)
  • Syd Chaplin / Olvene (m)
  • Fred Kitchen / Harry Champion / Hal Roach (m)
  • Barber / Bob Sewall (m)
  • Charlie Chaplin / Convict 2 / Ted Tysall (m)
  • Charlie Bell / Convict 1 / Tommy Whitaker (m)
  • Mr Jolly / Ringmaster / Maurice De Freece / Billy Reeves / Edgar Kennedy / Bailiff (m)
  • Agent / Doctor / Billy Ritchie / Will Hay (m)
  • Farook / Charles Coburn / A J Jefferson / Jimmy Parrot (m)
  • Stan Laurel / Mr Perkins / Mark Sheridan / William Revill (m)
  • Oliver ‘Babe Hardy / Mr Shepherd (m)
  • John Westcott / Dave Barnard / Fred Miller (m)
  • Polly / Florrie Ford (f)
  • Chorus Girl / Clarice Mayne (f)
  • Katie Lawrence / Woman Cyclist / Belle Elmore (f)
  • Vesta Victoria / Lady of the Guild (f)
  • Amy Minister / Gracie Lloyd (f)
  • Alice Lloyd / Old Woman (f)
  • Stagehand / Telegram Boy / Reporter / Footballer / Joe (m)
  • Newspaper Vendor / Stagehand/ Reporter (m)
  • Leslie Karno / Agent / Chairman (m)

Other Chorus Parts

  Theatrical Agents, Chorus Girls, Old Women, Stagehands, Cyclist, Reporters, Footballers, Ladies of the Music Hall Guild, Dancers, etc.


Act One

  1. Overture
  2. The Rest of the Day’s Your Own – Karno and Company
  3. The Gymnast – Farook and Male Company
  4. The Gymnast (Reprise) – Male Company
  5. Poverty Corner – Bob, Karno and Company
  6. Music Hall Medley – Company
  7. The Boy in the Gallery – Marie Lloyd
  8. Stage Door Romance – Edith and Karno
  9. Waiting at the Church – Vesta Victoria and Company
  10. Publicity – A.J. Jefferson and Karno
  11. Publicity (Reprise) – Karno
  12. Handy Jack – Fred Kitchen
  13. Handy Jack (Reprise) – Fred Kitchen
  14. Important to Me – Edith and Karno


Act Two

  1. Entr’acte
  2. The Casting Couch – Marie Moore and Female Company
  3. Oh Mr Karno! – Edith and Company
  4. Stiffy the Goalkeeper – Fred Kitchen and Male Company
  5. Naughty Naughty Men – Marie Moore
  6. Socialites – Marie Moore, Karno and Company
  7. World War One Medley – Florrie Ford
  8. Fred Karno’s Army – Male Company
  9. Socialites (Reprise) – Karno, Marie Moore and Company
  10. Capital K – Karno and Company
  11. Finale
  12. Capital K (Reprise) - Company

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