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Maria Marten

    a Musical Melodrama by Jeremy Browne and Milton Reame-James



"A feast of delights ..."
"... a script of heroic couplets which proffers mirth as well as edification ..."

'Maria Marten' - a melodramatic play with music by Jeremy Browne and Milton Reame-James

‘Maria Marten’ is a re-telling of the infamous real-life murder in 1827 of Maria by the dastardly William Corder.

In this version of the well-known Victorian melodrama,
Jeremy Browne (Radio 2 : 'The News Huddlines') and
Milton Reame-James (Keyboards : Cockney Rebel)
have used rhyming couplets throughout, and a cornucopia of
well-known melodies with suitable lyrics. The audience have plenty of opportunity to boo and hiss the villain, and to cheer our hero and heroine.

Synopsis

We are introduced to the village and its inhabitants at a dance on the village green ('Dance Around The Maypole’), including Tim, Anne, Giles and Maria with her parents. Once they’ve all gone home, Esmeralda, a gipsy woman tells of the loss of her daughter, Zella, to William Corder some years before, and how he forced her only son Pharos Lee, to emigrate, and how now she will seek revenge on him. By a happy chance, Corder appears, wearing a cloak, stick and top hat. He introduces himself (to the tune of ‘Champagne Charlie’) and pays her money to ‘adjust’ her forthcoming reading of Maria’s palm to show him as a highly suitable suitor. As this fits in with her plans, she agrees to do his bidding.

At the Village Fair, the Showman tells the villagers about the freaks and curiosities in his travelling show (to the tune of ‘As Someday It May Happen’ from ‘The Mikado’), and Esmeralda, as arranged, tells Maria her fortune. She will meet a handsome gentleman wearing a cloak, stick and top hat and the Old Red Barn will be involved. By a curious stroke of luck, the meeting between Corder and Maria duly happens.

A year later, having dallied with Maria and caused her to have a baby, Corder meets the gipsy woman again in order to buy some poison. “For the rats” he says, but in reality it’s to dispose of the annoying and complicating part of his life that Maria has presented him with. Esmeralda isn’t too bothered by this telling us that she’s none too keen on babies anyway (to the tune of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No 5).

'Maria Marten' - a melodramatic play with music by Jeremy Browne and Milton Reame-JamesMeanwhile Anne (Maria’s sister) and Tim (her betrothed) visit Maria and the rather sickly baby, closely followed by Maria’s parents who are horribly ashamed of Maria’s out-of-wedlock baby and the situation it has now placed them in. They want to forgive her though, and they ask her to return home with them (Daughter, Poor Daughter), despite the disapproval they will receive from the other villagers. Maria declines, showing them a letter from Corder - written proof that he says he’ll marry her.

Corder then visits Maria, who is expecting him to bring the Doctor. Instead, he brings the 'rat' poison saying that it’s medicine from the Doctor, and lets Maria give it to the baby, who promptly dies. To Maria’s despair and Corder’s delight, he gets out his spade and they bury the baby in an unmarked grave. Unfortunately though (for him) Esmeralda has seen the spot and vows to remember it should she be called upon to vanquish villainy.

Esmeralda’s fellow gipsies, Aida and Carmen arrive, and are incensed because Corder has banned the gipsy band from camping on the Common and has imprisoned all the gipsy men. They want revenge, but Esmeralda reminds them about her prior claim through the death of Zella. They depart briefly, as Corder, who has overheard their conversation, enters and shoots Esmeralda.

Hearing the shot, the gipsy women return together with their kinsfolk and Esmeralda dies a long, slow, and rather OTT death (to the tune of the Beethoven Violin Concerto) before mercifully the curtain falls at the end of Act One.

Returning after a stiff drink in the Interval, the audience see and hear Maria mourning her baby’s plight and questioning whether the death was really an accident, or something more sinister (Home Once Again). Being a trusting sort she asks Corder, who diverts her attention away from such thoughts by suggesting a marriage – but not in the village, as, for family reasons, nobody must know and so London is the necessary venue. He tells her to dress as a man (again for a bizarre, but perfectly sensible) reason, and to meet him at the Old Red Barn at midnight (to catch the midnight coach, why else?).

Corder checks that he has all his implements of murder, but forgets to pack his spade, so he borrows one from the simple-minded Tim, who then gets annoyed as he sees Maria (dressed as a man) kissing sister Anne goodbye. Anne toys with her boy before finally letting on (Now There's A Proper Fellow) that it was Maria.

That night Corder digs Maria’s grave in the Barn. When she arrives he accuses her of treachery in that the baby was not his, but that of a village lad. They argue (You Must Die, to the tune of Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma'), but he prevails and though her last words are that she forgives him, with gun in hand he does the deed, and she goes to her grave. He stands there, filled (rather late in the day) with remorse, later sending a letter to Maria's parents ostensibly from her saying that she's happily married in London.

Exactly a year later, Mrs Marten awakes having been dreaming and shouts that Maria has been shot and quickly despatches her husband and some villagers to the Barn, who, after some searching discover the awful truth. Mrs Marten and the village ladies now arrive to great consternation, then leave while Mr Marten cries out in his grief. Lurking and listening in the background, though unseen by the villagers, is none other than Esmeralda’s son, Pharos Lee, now returned from foreign parts and gainfully employed as a Constable.

Time passes and Corder is now married to a wealthy woman and ensconced in a luxury house in London. Enter our hero again, Pharos Lee who, preventing Corder from whipping out his weapon, arrests him and takes him away for trial. Hurrah!

Back in the village, Tim finally proposes properly to Anne (I've Got A Little Something For You) and coincidentally happens to involve the audience in a spot of competitive singing.

Corder is visited in prison by Mr Marten as it is his right to see the condemned man before an execution, and so moved by this is Corder that, despite having proclaimed his innocence in Court, he repents and admits his guilt to Mr Marten before writing down and disclosing his confession to the audience (Maria Is Now An Angel). The musical melodrama concludes with the company singing its opposition to Villainy and its support for Victoria (to a medley of patriotic tunes by Handel).


Characters

(6m, 7f plus Chorus)
 

Principals (3m, 4f)

  William Corder - a villain
  Maria Marten - a heroine
  Tim Bobbin - a simple fellow, betrothed to Anne Marten
  Esmeralda - a Gipsy
  Mr Marten - Maria's distraught father
  Mrs Marten - a grieving mother
  Anne Marten - a sweet young thing

Support (3m, 3f)

  Giles Whackstraw - a lovelorn lad
  Showman - a fast-talking fairground huckster
  Carmen - another Gipsy
  Aida - yet another Gipsy
  Pharos Lee - a Constable, Gipsy-born
  Maid - a servant in Corder's London establishment

  Chorus : Villagers, Fairground People, Gipsies, Scenesetters



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