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Original Programme

Les Merveilleuses

Book by Victorien Sardou: Adapted for the English stage as The Lady Dandies by Basil Hood : Lyrics by Adrian Ross: Music by Hugo Felix

Daly's Theatre, London - 27 October, 1906 (196 perfs)


"The Smart Set of 1795". There was a little difficulty in the translation of the title. The Lady Dandies scarcely expresses it so the French title remained. In the programme it states that "The Merveilleuses" were a number of ladies who set the fashion in Paris, under the Directoire, from 1795 - 1799; they were remarkable for their daring eccentricities of dress and manners; they wore what was believed to be classical costume - and not too much of it - and they were prodigal in entertaining lavishly.



The story is set in Revolutionary France in the closing years of the 18th century, during the period when the Directoire, led by Barras, held power. Fashionable Parisian society is led by the Incroyables, or dandies, and their feminine equivalents, the Merveilleuses. The latter have adopted classical robes as their form of dress and the succouring of distressed conspirators as their mission.

The story begins in the Palais Royal, outside a café, when Dorlis, a refugee aristocrat, learns that during his enforced absence with the army in Italy his young wife has been induced to take advantage of the easy divorce laws of the period to unite herself to St. Amour, the secretary to Director Barras. Illyrine, who had been led to believe that Dorlis had deserted her and had divorced him in consequence, has just been married to a second husband, St. Amour, the rich but low-bred secretary to Barras. Dorlis intrudes on the wedding party at the Café du Caveau and demands that Illyrine return to him. She explains what had happened and tells him that she still loves him.

Robert Evett as Dorlis (original production photograph)
Robert Evett as Dorlis in the original production

After a visit to the stock market on the Perron at the Palais Royal, Dorlis, accompanied by his friend Lagorille, one of the Incroyables, goes to the wedding reception at St. Amour's Town House determined to kill St. Amour. However, the latter is warned by police agents, who have learned of the plot. Illyrine hides Dorlis in her private apartment, but St. Amour forces him to reveal his whereabouts by giving a false alarm of "Fire!", whereupon Dorlis and Lagorille are arrested.

St Amour, and all those invited to the wedding, are waiting outside the door to trap Dorlis while Illyrine is singing within. It is here that we witness the young and blushing bride having the unique experience of being married and divorced on the same day, and remarried to her first husband.

The setting moves to the Palace of Luxembourg and the Tricolour Fête.  At the fête given by Barras, Illyrine manages to persuade Barras to pardon Dorlis, with whom, after divorcing St. Amour, she is re-united. Meanwhile, the Merveilleuses, led by Lodoiska, succeed in freeing Lagorille, only to see him carried off by Pervenche.


Musical numbers

  1. How I Took the Redoubt – Dorlis
  2. I'm Sorry – Illyrine
  3. Cuckoo – Illyrine
  4. The Gay Director – Illyrine
  5. It Might Have Been – Dorlis and Illyrine
  6. Gina, Mina, Nina, Fina – Pervenche
  7. Our Picnic – Pervenche
  8. Watch-winding – Liane
  9. Illyrine – Dorlis
  10. The Merveilleuse Brigade – Lagorille
  11. An Authoritative Source – St. Amour
  12. Not So Silly As I Look – St. Amour
  13. Les Merveilleuses – Lodoiska
  14. Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses – Lodoiska

Scenes and Settings