Back to the 35th Annual Festival of New Musicals

Never Be King

2023 Festival

Abbey O'Brien

Music Director
Alyssa Kay Thompson

Contact for Rights

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Number of Acts: 2
Number of Principals (Male): 4
Number of Principals (Female): 3
Number of Principals (Trans / GNC): 2
Preferred Ensemble Size: 9
Total Cast Size: 18
Orchestra Breakdown:

Conductor/Keys/Guitar, Guitar 1, Guitar 2, Bass, Drums, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello

Casting Notes:

One principal is intended to double in an ensemble, the ideal split is 8 + 8. The 8 person ensemble but be 2/ea soprano, alto, tenor, bass

Genre & Style:

Pop-Punk Conspiracy meets 16th Century Catholic Mass

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Henry of Navarre never dreamed of being the King of France–until everything around him started mysteriously falling into place. Never Be King is a baroque meets pop-punk musical that asks how far we would go to be a footnote in someone else’s story. After all, history’s just a he-said she-said.

Development History

Never Be King was dreamt up on a lunch break at City Kitchen in the summer of 2018. Subsequently, the show’s beginnings were developed at Baldwin Wallace University, where writing duo Charlie H. Ray and Sam Columbus were students. Never Be King entered into developmental readings beginning in 2021. In the fall of 2022, the Never Be King E.P. was released to streaming services, garnering 10,000+ streams in its first ten days. Never Be King heads to 54 Below on November 6th, 2023 for a concert featuring the E.P. cast.

5 Things You Should Know

  1. Same story, two different acts, two different perspectives. Never Be King recounts the same historical events from two different perspectives across each act. While we certainly utilize new songs and material, similar dialogue and scenes appear in both acts as connective tissue, sometimes with only a single word or inflection changed to alter the meaning entirely. In our previous collaboration, we recounted history from one perspective – the one that history textbooks deemed true. We came to find this confining, as there were many primary sources about the events available to us, each with a slightly different account of events and sense of truth. In that moment, we vowed to do something a bit different with perspective on our next historical show; and thus, Never Be King was born.
  2. The collaboration was born over a dressing room table in college. We (Sam and Charlie) met in 2016 at Baldwin Wallace University. We were both performing in West Side Story and shared a dressing station, as we were the two least important cast members of the show (Glad Hand and Big Deal – the non-singing Jet, of course). Sam was doing an orchestrational study of The Music Man during his offstage time – Charlie was writing a musical and wanted a collaborator like Sam. We joined forces on a show called Freedom Summer, which played NYMF and was picked up for production by Playhouse Square in 2020. Never Be King marks our sophomore collaboration.
  3. A sharp musical melange of pop-punk and choral music. We were both born in the late 90s, which means that angsty, anthemic pop-punk music dominated each of our middle school dances and social functions. We find immense value in music of this style and its proclivity towards being theatrical. We found a perfect match of this musical style with Never Be King; thus, the show has become a vehicle of 2000s pop-punk bangers meant to evoke Avril Lavigne, Blink-182, or even early Katy Perry (if you know, you know). Yet Never Be King is all about dichotomy, and the music is no exception. The backdrop for all of the pop-punk debauchery is a proud love letter to choral music – particularly contemporary choral music of the late 20th and early 21st Century. Much of the choral music of this time (think John Rutter, Eric Whitacre) is written in homage to earlier choral music from the 16th and 17th Century – the exact historical period of Never Be King. As students from a formal music conservatory, we learned this material, became comfortable with it, and became eager stewards of the genre. The inclusion of honest choral writing emerged as the secret weapon to Never Be King, a world where everything is about this-or-that, his-or-hers, history-or-conspiracy… dichotomy.
  4. Equal parts artistic and commercial. Oftentimes as writers, we (and that collective “we” includes us) become hyper-focused on writing theatre that is only meant to serve the savviest theatre audiences – perfect, beautiful, heart-wrenching art that can only be consumed by someone who has been attending the theatre weekly since the late 80s. With Never Be King, we unlocked an absolutely thrilling middle ground wherein we have created something artistically impactful and moving that is also built to be commercially viable. The ardent theatre-goer will certainly have the most to get out of Never Be King, but there is a substantial and well-backed incentive for an audience member to attend the theatre for the first time by seeing Never Be King. We’re building this show as a product that can be marketed, sold, and consumed by numerous audience demographics; all the while, we have never lost sight of the artistic heart of the show, the dramatic integrity, or the big, bold statements that we believe will enter Never Be King into the zeitgeist.
  5. Curious to hear more? We have an E.P. We’re so excited to see you at the Festival – and we hope you share a similar excitement to learn more about the show. If you’re interested in diving deeper in the meantime, we have good news: in the fall of 2022, we released a 5-song E.P. (featuring a few artists who may appear at the Festival!) on all music platforms. Take a listen anywhere you stream music – oh, and by the way: we take absolutely no responsibility for any earworms from the album permeating and dominating your life.