Loosely inspired by Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Grand Duchy is a 30’s-style screwball comedy that tells the story of a Prince and a Rebel who switch places and turn everything upside down in the tiniest country in Europe.
With book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music by John Bayless, Grand Duchy began as a graduate thesis project at NYU. Ira Weitzman, then the director of Musical Theatre development for off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, saw the first act of Grand Duchy and offered Robert and John a staged reading when the show was completed.
In March, 1984, the staged reading of Grand Duchy was performed twice at Playwrights Horizons, with a cast including Reathel Bean, Stephen Berger, Stephen Bogardus, Michael Brian, Ron Fassler, Diane Fratantoni, Jane Galloway, Mary-Pat Green, Myvanwy Jenn, Jean Kauffman, Clark Sayre, Janie Sell and David Wohl, directed by Michael Leeds. Despite a positive response, buzz about a production at Goodspeed, and other venues, never came to fruition.
Two years later, New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse produced a staged reading starring Brent Barrett, Jane Connell, Larry Francer, Jean Kauffman, Marcia Lewis, Paige O’Hara, Roxanne Paker and John Sher, among others, directed by Philip Wm. McKinley.
In August, 2000, another staged reading was produced at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California, starring John Alee, David Burnham, Richard Fox, Fiama Fricano, Jean Kauffman, Robert Mandan, Marian Mercer, Sean Smith, Clay Storseth, Elizabeth Ann Traub, and others, directed by Jules Aaron.
Finally (and not a moment too soon), in November, 2003, Grand Duchy received its world premiere production, directed by Clark Sayre (who was in the 1984 reading at Playwrights Horizons) at the Charger Theatre, at Dos Pueblos High School, near Santa Barbara, California.