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LogoWhere's Charley?

Music & lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by George Abbot,
based on Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas, an hilarious parody of Victorian social lunacy

St James Theatre, New York 11 October 1948 (792 perfs)
Palace Theatre, London 20 February, 1958 (404 perfs)


The setting is Oxford, 1892 when Oxford undergraduate Charley Wykeham has been down to the railway station to welcome his aunt, Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez, a widowed millionairess recently arrived from Brazil. Charley had hoped that she would act as chaperon at a lunch he and roommate Jack Chesney were planning for their girlfriends, Amy Spettigue and Kitty Verdun, but Donna Lucia was not on the expected train. Back in his rooms Charley explains the situation to Jack. Both are disconsolate as they fear the girls will refuse to join them at lunch without proper supervision. This thought turns out to be correct as both Amy and Kitty beat a hasty retreat as soon as they learn of the situation.

As he is to appear in a University theatrical production, Charley goes into his room to try on his costume. Jack's widowed father, Sir Francis Chesney pays his son a surprise visit and reveals an even greater surprise - they have no money! Jack's practical advice to his father is to marry Charley's soon-to-arrive millionairess Aunt. Charley comes out of his bedroom decked out in a woman's dress, and receives news that Donna Lucia won't be arriving until late that afternoon. But, the girls, expecting the chaperone to be present, are on their way up to the boys' room. What a predicament. The only solution that presents itself is for Charley to pass himself off as his own aunt. Amy and Kitty are taken in by the deception but to cover Charley's apparent (and sudden) disappearance Jack explains that he is remaining in his bedroom because he has been taken ill. Sir Francis enters, ready to woo the heiress and is introduced to the bogus Donna Lucia. 

The group is about to have lunch when Stephen Spettigue, Amy's guardian and Kitty's uncle, arrives to take the girls home. Once he discovers that Donna Lucia is a wealthy widow, however, he decides to join them for lunch. 

In the garden, following lunch, Jack and Kitty have finally found the chance to be alone together. Miserable at being unable to reveal his feelings for Amy, he rids himself of his Donna Lucia disguise and emerges in blazer and white flannels. He apologises to Amy for his absence but gets nowhere when he tries to talk about their future together. To her the future means only an age of miracles such as wireless, telegraphy, electric lights and fountain pens.

Spettigue, furious at the way he is being treated by Donna Lucia comes to take Amy home. But Charley makes them both stay by assuring the old man that his aunt is in love with him. Alone Spettigue is excited at the prospect of winning so wealthy a mate and practices his wooing technique. Once more play the part of his aunt, Charley teases the old man by making him chase "her" round the garden.

An attractive, middle-aged lady (the real Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez) strolls into the garden and asks Sir Francis the way to Charley Wykeham's rooms. He tells her that Charley, and his son, are entertaining Charley's aunt from Brazil - and he points out the "aunt" being chased by Spettigue. Her curiosity aroused by this odd deception, the real Donna Lucia introduces herself as Mrs Beverly-Smythe. As their eyes meet, Donna Lucia and Sir Francis recall that they had known each other twenty years before, when, as Lieutenant Frank Chesney, he was about to be sent to India. 

After Donna Lucia and Sir Francis leave, Amy and Kitty confide to the masquerading Charlie that they are in love with Charley and Jack but that Spettigue will cut off their money should they marry without his consent. Fake Donna Lucia and the real Donna Lucia meet at tea. Charley is asked about life in Brazil!

As the second act opens, walking along the garden path, Charley, in blazer and flannels tries to explain his many disappearances to Amy. Later in the afternoon, all the young ladies invited to the formal university ball are preparing for the dance. Charlie, again impersonating his aunt, finally says "yes" to Spettigue's proposal - but only if he writes a letter giving his consent for Amy and Kitty to marry Charlie and Jack, which he does. 

At the ball, Spettigue announces the engagement of his ward and his niece - and also of himself. Charley is there in his Donna Lucia outfit but when Jack accidentally steps on the hem of his skirt and tears it off, he is revealed as wearing a pair of trousers. Storming off in a rage at the deception, Spettigue leaves but everyone else remains to enjoy the ball.

Musical Numbers

  1. Overture - Orchestra
  2. The Years Before Us - Male Chorus
  3. Better Get Out Of Here - Charley, Jack, Kitty, Amy
  4. The New Ashmolean Marching Society And Students' Conservatory Band - Ensemble
  5. My Darling, My Darling - Jack, Kitty
  6. Make A Miracle - Charley, Amy
  7. Serenade With Asides - Spettigue
  8. Lovelier Than Ever - Donna Lucia, Sir Francis, Ensemble
  9. The Woman In His Room - Amy
  10. Pernambuco - Ensemble
  11. Where's Charley? - Jack, Ensemble
  12. Once In Love With Amy - Charley
  13. The Gossips - Female Chorus
  14. At The Red Rose Cotillion - Jack, Kitty, Ensemble
  15. Finale - Company


8 men, 3 women, chorus

Girls and Boys


Reed I (piccolo/flute/alto flute/percussion [cowbell])
Reed II (oboe/cor anglais/percussion [conga drums])
Reed III (clarinet/percussion [washboard])
Reed IV (clarinet/percussion [washboard])
Reed V - (bassoon/percussion [Cuban drums])
2 horns; 3 trumpets; trombone db percussion [maracas]; percussion, 5 violins, 2 violas, cello, double bass