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Free As Air

Programme Cover

Book and Lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade: Music by Julian Slade

Grand Theatre, Leeds 8 April, 1957 and toured. Produced at the Savoy Theatre, London, 6 June, 1957 (417 perfs)


In the general direction of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, and just off the edge of the map, lies the island of Terhou, so small that even the tourist trade has not yet invaded it. The entire population numbers no more people than are to be found in the average operatic society, and they sing all day, for they are happy folk. Or they would be, if only they could find a May Queen for their annual festival.

The Islanders are up early to prepare for their annual Independence Day ("I'm Up Early") but they discover that there is no young lady to be the queen in their Coronation Ceremony because everyone has played the part before. Parliament meets in the persons of Lord Paul, Mr. Match and Mr. Potter: they propose a new law but are glad of an excuse to knock off work ("Let the Grass Grow").

The Terhou boat returns from its monthly visit to the Mainland bringing the usual imports - and a stranger called Geraldine. ("Nothing But Sea and Sky"). The Islanders meet her and unload the boat. ("The Boat's In".)

She is welcomed as a possible solution to the Coronation Problem. but her presence disturbs Molly, an island girl, who gazes past the horizon and yearns for a man as beautiful as Geraldine. ("A Man from the Mainland")

Albert, Lord Paul's nephew, shows Geraldine round the island. She tells him that she is very rich and has run away from a man called Jack Amersham, who wants to marry her, and from the importunate Press which has made her unwillingly famous. The Islanders adopt her legally and teach her the Coronation song. ("Free As Air'")

Geraldine feels safe now but on Jersey her absence has been discovered by Jack Amersham and by Ivy Crush, the press reporter, who has been detailed to shadow her. Jack lightly mourns the escape of Geraldine and of all the other girls in his life. ("Her Mummy Doesn't Like Me Any More"). Meanwhile Lord Paul has run away in a frenzy to Jersey: he has tried to propose to Miss Catamole and been laughed at and put to shame. An easy prey, he is persuaded to take Jack and Ivy back to Terhou and once again Geraldine's privacy - and the peace of the Island - is seriously threatened, ("The Girl from London").

The Island Girls, led by Molly, fall in love with Jack on sight. ("A Man from the Mainland"). Geraldine tells Jack she can never marry him and there is a gently growing sympathy between her and Albert. ("I'd Like to be Like You"').

Lord Paul, captivated by Ivy's admiration of him, shows her round the Island. The Islanders sing for her a folk song which tells the story of the Roman Occupation. ("Testudo").

Jack half responds to Molly's uninhibited advances and consents to take her to London. ("I've Got My Feet on the Ground").

Ivy almost persuades the Islanders to turn Terhou into a lucrative pleasure resort: Geraldine, Jack and Albert point out what their life would be like ("Holiday Island'") and the Islanders realise that Ivy is a menace and imprison her. But it is too late: she reveals that she has already reported to her newspaper and Geraldine. broken-hearted, leaves the Island to save it from publicity.

She meets the reporters on Jersey. ("Geraldine"). The Islanders appear one by one, posing as Geraldine's relations among whom she has divided her money. The reporters believe her to be penniless and retire in confusion: Geraldine is safe to return to Terhou.

Mr. Potter coached by Geraldine has proposed to Miss Catamole after fifteen years' procrastination. ("We're Holding Hands"). Ivy is forgiven and consents to marry Lord Paul. The Coronation Ceremony takes place with Geraldine as Queen. ("Terhou").

Molly, after one glimpse of the Mainland, decides to stay where she is and Jack leaves the Island alone.

For the Chorus

The score bursts with melody and all the major numbers call for general company, including harmonized work which sounds all the more effective for being straightforward and bold. There are a few opportunities for dancing. The chorus appear as islanders during most of the story, but there are two brief visits to Jersey, when they become motor-racing enthusiasts, mechanics, bar customers and newspaper reporters. 

Musical Numbers


  1. I'm Up Early - Molly and Islanders
  2. Reprise - Molly and Islanders
  3. Let the Grass Grow - Mutch, Potter and Lord Paul
  4. Nothing but Sea and Sky - Geraldine and Chorus
  5. The Boat's In - Islanders
  6. Free as Air - Albert and Geraldine
  7. A Man from the Mainland - Molly
  8. Free as Air (Reprise) - Islanders
  9. Daily Echo - Ivy
  10. Her Mummy Doesn't Like Me Any More - Jack and Chorus
  11. The Girl from London - The Company.


  1. A Man from the Mainland (Reprise) - Molly, Jack and Island Girls
  2. I'd Like to be Like You - Albert and Geraldine
  3. Testudo - Mutch, Molly, Bindweed and Islanders
  4. Feet on the Ground - Molly and Jack
  5. Holiday Island - Ivy, Geraldine, Jack, Albert and Islanders
  6. Geraldine - The Reporters
  7. Free to Sing (Reprise) - Chorus
  8. We're Holding Hands - Potter and Miss Catermole
  9. Terhou - Molly and the Company
  10. Finale and Reprises - The Company

Singing Principals

Ivy Crush. Molly and Miss Catamole, islanders.
Jack Amersham.
Lord Posthumous, Lord of the island's Manor.
Albert, his son.
Mr. Mutch, Mr. Potter and Mr. Binweed, islanders.

Smaller Roles

Gregory, an assistant gardener.
Tom, a boatman.
François, of the "Octopus" bar Jersey.

The Scenes

Between each full-stage set, an island front cloth is used for linking music and dialogue, and to facilitate the scene change. All the island exteriors are basically similar, different locations being suggested by the addition of simple cut-outs (a housepiece, or The Well). In addition to the island front cloth, the scenes are:

Scenes and Settings

Act I

The Well on Terhou.
The seashore.
Outside Miss Catamole's house (all full stage).
The Octopus bar (inset)

Act II

The terrace of the Big House (full stage).
And a return to three of the Act 1 sets


1st and 2nd Violins, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, 2 Clarinets doubling Alto Sax, plus 1 Clarinet doubling Tenor Sax, 1st and 2nd Trumpets, Trombone, Drums, Harp