Plague! The Musical

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Plague! The Musical
Plague! The Musical 2010 poster
2010 Production Poster
Music David Massingham, Matt Townend
Lyrics David Massingham, Matt Townend
Book David Massingham, Matt Townend
Productions 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
2010 Upstairs At The Gatehouse
2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Plague! The Musical is a musical with book, music and lyrics by David Massingham and Matthew Townend. It is a dark comedy based loosely on the events of the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666.

Plague premiered in 2008 at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London [1] before transferring to C venues at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival[2] where it was named a 2008 sell out show. A new production was performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[3] It was again performed at C venues with London previews at Upstairs at The Gatehouse.


It is 1665 and Clive Hucklefish has come to London to start a career as an actor on the London stage. Mugged and left for dead within minutes of arrival, he finds himself being loaded onto a cart by Jerry Muldoon, assistant to destitute undertaker Phil Anbury. Clive soon agrees to join the undertakers to help revive their failing business.

During his training, Clive befriends Milly, the buxom barmaid of the local pub, and also the beggars of London thanks to his generosity. He also wins the attentions of the beautiful Isabella, daughter of the evil Alchemist who plans to ruin the undertakers forever by distilling the fabled Elixir of life.

The undertaker's business is already suffering, however, and the pressure soon takes its toll on Clive's relationship with Isabella. Alone and distraught, Clive is approached by a sinister duo with an offer he can't refuse. He is led deep into the London sewers to meet the mysterious Rat King, a visionary patriarch who begs Clive to uncover the bones of a great martyr to rat-kind - Elman Squatcherd. In return, the Rat King promises that the business will prosper. Clive is swayed and delivers the exhumed remains to the sewer.

Unbeknownst to Clive, however, Elman Squatcherd was the last known victim of the Black Death and the Rat King actually uses the remains to infect London with the deadly bubonic plague! His henchmen also steal the Elixir of life to ensure that salvation is impossible.

The Londoners quickly assemble at the town hall looking for leadership but, without a cure, the devious Lord Mayor can only appease the mob with a scapegoat – the Alchemist. Desperate, Isabella turns to Clive to protect her father. Clive, however, has his own problems: he has been visited by an overworked Death and informed that he must end the plague or face the consequences. Clive soon realises that the rats must be behind everything and forms a plan to destroy them. The Rat King, however, is continually one step ahead and ambushes Clive, informing him that the age of rat has begun. All seems lost but, thanks to the timely assistance of the beggars and the undertaker, the Rat King falls to a watery grave taking the stolen Elixir of life with him.

Returning to Isabella, Clive's heart is broken to learn that she has caught the plague and there are but a few precious moments before she passes away in his arms. Death appears to collect her prize but, instead, informs Clive that the Elixir has spread throughout the water system and that the plague has, against all odds, been cured. As a reward for his endeavour, she agrees to grant Isabella a reprieve.

All London celebrates the end of the disaster. Clive and Isabella are re-united, the Alchemist and the Undertaker put aside their differences, and even Death seems content, allowing herself to be wooed by the ever-daring Jerry. It is the indefatigable Rat King who has the last laugh, however, for he has just begun the next London-wide calamity by starting a small fire in a certain Pudding Lane.

Song List[edit]

  • Oh London Town
  • I've Got It Made
  • The Elixir Of Life
  • Spend A Penny
  • Never Felt Like This Before
  • Coffin Of Your Past
  • The Rat King
  • Man and Rat
  • It's Bubonic
  • Someone To Blame
  • Pay The Piper
  • You're Here / So The Plague Was Cured


Critical reception[edit]

Plague! was generally well received with the British Theatre Guide calling it "an astoundingly good production"[4] and What's On Stage calling it "one of the most ridiculous, outrageous, over the top and watchable pieces of musical theatre in a long time".[5] The Herald called it "infectiously silly late night fun"[6] while The Stage commented "this is what you come to the fringe for".[7] Other positive reviews were found in View From The Stalls,[8] The Groggy Squirrel[9] and BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks.[10]

There also were some notable poor reviews with Broadway Baby branding Plague! "a mild rash"[11] and Fest Magazine commenting that Plague! was an "anarchic subversion of the musical tradition" imitated from the Rocky Horror Show.[12] Hairline commented that although Plague is a "good idea with nice enjoyable sections" that "more thought and work is needed to produce a musical that can play to a Fringe audience for such a long period and keep them engaged and enthralled".[13]


Plague! The Musical was awarded 2008 sell-out show status. It was also named a Mervyn Stutter 'Pick Of The Fringe'.[14]

U.S. Debut[edit]

Plague! The Musical opened for the first time to U.S. audiences on 18 October 2013 for a four show run.[15] Performed by the Marble Valley Players, Vermont's oldest, continuously operating community theater group, it debuted successfully at the West Rutland Town Hall Theater in West Rutland, VT. During the second show, the cast and crew of the U.S. version of Plague! were treated to a special surprise visit by the writers, David Massingham and Matthew Townend.

Under the direction of Martin Bones, two of the shows reached sell-out status, while the remaining shows performed to respectable full houses. The musical direction was led by Gary Schmidt, and Erika Schmidt directed the choreography.[16]


  1. ^ Plague! The Musical Questors Theatre Listing, July 2008
  2. ^ Remote Goat Event Information - Plague! The Musical
  3. ^ New production announcement on Plague website, 1 October 2009
  4. ^ British Theatre Guide Review, Graeme Strachan,August 2008
  5. ^ What's On Stage Review, Helen Raw,19 August 2008
  6. ^ The Herald Review, Shona Craven,12 August 2008
  7. ^ The Stage Review, Gerald Berkowitz,18 August 2008
  8. ^ View From The Stalls Review, 1 August 2008
  9. ^ The Groggy Squirrel Review, Ron Bingham,7 August 2008
  10. ^ BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks Edinburgh Fringe Feature, Judi Herman,13 August 2008
  11. ^ Broadway Baby Review, Ian Billings,9 August 2008
  12. ^ Fest Magazine Review, Frank Lazarski,18 August 2008
  13. ^ Hairline review of Plague! The Musical, Chris Kidd, August 2008
  14. ^ Sell-out and Pick Of The Fringe Announcements on Plague website
  15. ^ Plague! The Musical U.S. Debut, W. Rutland, VT, The Marble Valley Players Website
  16. ^ Plague! The Musical Vermont Public Radio (VPR), VPR Article and Audio Feature

External links[edit]