Richard Rodgers’ sole collaboration with lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Rex is a musical retelling of the life of Henry VIII and the ascent of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. With a book by Sherman Yellen, the musical was billed as a “musical play,” though the score contains 14 original songs. The show premiered on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 25, 1976, in a production directed by Edwin Sherin. British actor Nicol Williamson starred as Henry, opposite Penny Fuller in the dual roles of Anne Boleyn and Princess Elizabeth. The supporting cast included Tom Aldredge, Barbara Andres, Ed Avanko, Craig Lucas, Valerie Mahaffey, Stephen D. Newman and – in her first Broadway musical – Glenn Close. The critics were not kind: Clive Barnes of The New York Times said Rex “has almost everything not going for it,” and Douglas Watt of the Daily News called it “a rather solemn affair.” The Broadway production closed on June 5, 1976, after just 49 performances.
In his determination to have a male heir, King Henry VIII weds and beds – and, in two cases, beheads – a succession of wives. But it is his daughter by Anne Boleyn who proves as willful as he, succeeding to the throne as Queen Elizabeth I.
Lady Jane Seymour
Queen Katherine Parr
Nurses, Heralds, Guards, and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court