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The Princess and the Pea-1988

(three children choruses & chamber orchestra)

- staged oratorio

Music by: Andrew Thomas
Story version & Libretto by:
Arthur L. Thomas
Sage directions by:
Howard L. Kessler

Copyright © 1988

Parts & score available through: Get a Business Card


(‘Children’ and ‘Full’ Choruses pre -set on risers. ‘Childrens Chorus‘ sing.)

Once upon a time

(Procession of the Prince folowed by a train of followers, the ‘Chamber Precussion Choir’. ‘Full Chorus’ Sing.)

it became time for the Prince to marry.

(‘Cook’ enters with food and proceeds to tie a huge napkin on the prince and then Feed him.)

Gnawing upon a lovely roast half chicken that his cook had roasted for him and which she had seasoned with garlic and rosemary, he ordered his wise men to search throughout his kingdom for the perfect bride.

(‘Prince’ and ‘Cook’ take one unison beat to observe what is about to go on and then they totally ignore the whole thing until the ‘answers’ are given and then they go back into the eating frenzy)

First they tested each girl's (and woman's) knowledge of courtly etiquette. For example:

QUESTION: When the gentleman sitting on your right at the banquet spills a spoonful of soup down his front, what do you do?

ANSWER: Offer him a spoonful of your own soup so he won't go hungry.


ANSWER: Engage the gentleman sitting on your left in conversation until the gentleman on your right has had time to make temporary repairs to his attire.


Next, they tested each girl (and woman) who passed her etiquette test for her deportment. For example:

While she listens to a boring lecture about genealogy, a wise man standing several feet behind her suddenly throws a gooey wad at her, smack on the back of her head.

RESPONSE: Scream out, "TEEEEACHER!! It's all stuck in my HAAAAIIIIR!!!"


RESPONSE: Raise your hand. When recognized, say, "I'm very sorry to interrupt, but something distressing has happened to my hair. May I have permission to leave to make temporary repairs?"


Next, they tested the few girls (and women) who had passed both trials for their accomplishments :

(The following is divided into three separate choruses singing three separate sambas. Finally,then they are all sung concurrently as one.)

(piano, singing, watercolor painting, finger painting, making attractive ashtrays and other figurines out of modeling clay, reciting, knitting, charades, embroidery, macrame work, bead stringing, flower arranging, personal hygiene [including dental hygiene], doll dressing, acoustic guitar, chairing charitable meetings, fashions and clothing selection, care of house plants, cross-stitching samplers, fads, hair styling, social chattering, graciousness in almsgiving, taste in wallpaper and furniture fabrics, card games, wine and cheese selection, arcade games, typing, needlepoint, wool sculpture, discussing weather and dreams, beading bags, reticules, belts and slippers, painting fans and hand screens, pressing flowers, collecting seashells, familiarity with Gothic and other romantic fiction, mantle piece decoration, papier-mache work, tea serving, cliches, penmanship, design and preparation of friendship cards, making of lace valentines, making fancy pincushions, making wax flowers, creative use of seeds, eggshells, tiny seashell, feathers, ribbons, and other decorative substances, spelling, managing servants, finger and toe nail painting, Easter egg dying, social fibbing, writing sentimental, seasonal, or gloomy poetry, not overfeeding goldfish, ball room dancing, tap dancing, making clever gifts out of ordinary boxes and other things that you can find about any palace, etc.)

Once their accomplishments had been tested, there were only two girls left for the final trial.

To try the first girl, the Prince's wise men went to the palace's storage cellar and brought back a single dried pea.

(‘The Wise Man’, one of the choruses members returns and indicates that he found nothing. The ‘Cook’ takes out a pea from the bowl which she is using to feed the ‘Prince’ and tosses it over to the ‘Wise Man’. He runs off with the Pea.)

On top of this they piled 67 inner-spring mattresses, 38 down comforters, and a thick, thick quilt that had been sewn by the Prince's maternal Great Aunt. With the aid of a ladder, the first girl climbed to the top and spent the night.

Sleep Song

(‘Cook’ puts a night cap on ‘Prince’ and then gives him a large baby bottle. He falls asleep on the shoulder of the ‘Cook’)

The next morning the wise men asked her how she had slept.

(‘Cook’ wakes up the ‘Prince’ , takes off his night cap and washes his face with a cloth.)

"Lovely," she replied, "Utterly fab! I've never had a softer bed."

(‘Cook’ brings in a large stack of pancakes and feeds the ‘Prince’)

Upon hearing this, the wise men knew that her skin lacked the delicate sensitivity that a true princess's skin always has.

They decided to make the test even harder for the second girl. On top of a cooked pea (which they obtained from the Prince's cook)

(‘Cook’ takes a pea from a pot, Winds up for the pitch and the ‘Wise Man’ catches it in a large baseball mit then runs off)

they piled the 67 inner-spring mattresses, the 30 down comforters, twelve water beds (filled with warm rose water), and the thick, thick quilt that had been sewn by the Prince's Great Aunt.


Sleep Song

(Again the ‘Cook’ puts a night cap on ‘Prince’ and then gives him a large baby bottle. He falls asleep on the shoulder of the ‘Cook’. The ‘Cook’ kisses the ‘Prince’ on the far head)

The next morning the wise men asked her how she had slept.

(Again, the ‘Cook’ wakes up the ‘Prince’ , takes off his night cap and washes his face with a cloth and begins to feed the ‘Prince’)

"I regret terribly to tell you," she began (for her etiquette and deportment were very good), "that all night I tossed and turned because of a great LUMP in the middle of my bed. Indeed," she continued, blushing, " I am bruised from head to toe."

(‘Prince’ reacts by spitting out the food. The ‘Cook’ stares out in the direction of the ‘Princess to be’ and wipes the face of the ‘Prince’.)

The wise men verified that her face, hands, and toes were bruised, but had the delicacy not to verify matters further (their etiquette and deportment were very good, too).

"Sire," they said to the Prince, " Although both girls have passed all of their other tests, only the second one has a really delicate skin. She is a true princess."

(The ‘Prince’ pulls him self together and stands. He waves off the ‘Cook’ who in a last effort removes his napkin.)
(The ‘Prince ‘ sings’


(The ‘Full Chorus’ continues.)

(The ‘Prince’ sits again . The ‘Cook’ ties on the napkin again . And again, begins to eat a wilder range of fare and at a quicker pase.)

mused the Prince, gnawing upon a lovely half leg of lamb that his cook had roasted for him and which she had seasoned with garlic and rosemary,

"But if one soggy pea under all those mattresses, comforters, water beds and my Great Aunt's thick, thick quilt can do that to her, imagine what would happen if I so much as touched her!"

"Then you will wed the first girl, sire?"

(The ‘Prince’ holds up his hands for all to stop. He tries to finish the food in his mouth which he is still chewing.)

The Prince wiped the grease off his fingers with a lovely cloth that his cook had

(Finally, With the help of the ‘Cook’ who gives him a spray of cologne he picks out of his coat pocket a calculator.)

given him, pulled out his pocket calculator, made a few quick calculations, then replied, "She slept on a pile of 67 mattresses, 30 down comforters, and my Great Aunt's thick, thick quilt. That pile must have been at least eighty feet high."

"Eighty-four feet, seven and a quarter inches, sire."

( "Anyone who can sleep on top of a swaying heap eighty-four feet, seven and a quarter inches high must have something seriously wrong with her! Besides, isn't making girls (and women) go through such tests before we marry them, well, like, you know, sexist?"

So, his cook married him and they lived happily ever after.

(‘Prince’ runs to the ‘Cook’ and takes a flying leap into her arms. She carries him off like a bride over the thresh-hold)

Arthur L. Thomas is the older brother of the composer
His version of the written story “The Princess and the Pea” is dedicated:
“for Ruby Thomas, Christmas 1988, from Granddad”

Howard L. Kessler's stage directions were written for the premier performance.

Premiered: 1989 The Juilliard School, Rebecca Scott choral mistress