Deception, espionage, foreign policy and... bowling fill this lighthearted skip through English history.
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Full Synopsis

Act One

The Lords Effingham, Neasden and Tooten enter with the Spanish Ambassador, Don Bernadino de Amontillado, and his two servants, Manuel and Casuel. They are all debating about to whom Queen Elizabeth should be married. Amontillado feels that she must marry royalty and, therefore, should marry Philip of Spain. Sir Thomas Drake's name is thrown into the mix but he is not considered to be a suitable match. As this debate goes on, Elizabeth enters, unseen. Although he was warned not to do so, Amontillado tells her his idea, and she dismisses him furiously. The Lords fill in the Queen on the latest news of Drake, and she bids them to invite him to the court.

A crowd is assembled at the harbor, waiting to welcome Sir Drake ("Drake's Back"). Drake and his men enter with their newly gained treasure. Drake regales the crowd with tales of their adventures in Spain and how they captured all this treasure ("The Singeing of the King of Spain's Beard"). As this goes on, Sir John Killigrew, the Mayor of Plymouth and Drake's arch enemy; his mother, Lady Winifred; and his right-hand man, Ebenezer; enter and look on with disdain. Killigrew reads a proclamation from the Queen, commending Drake for the job that he has been doing. Killigrew makes it known that he, himself, does not approve and he hopes that, in the following week, people will vote wisely and reelect him Mayor. Drake responds and announces that he, too, shall be running for mayor. Some of the locals inform Drake of how things have been while he was gone: Sir Walter Raleigh was in charge of the bowling team, which has done well. He brought back four stunning women from his last journey. The women enter and introduce themselves and sing Raleigh's praise ("Sir Walter Raleigh"). Raleigh informs Drake that the Queen wishes to see him in London. They say their goodbyes to everyone and prepare to set off to London ("We're Off to Meet the Queen").

Lord Killigrew and his mother are down in their wine cellar, brewing Spanish sherry. They are quite fond of drinking and do so as they wait for Casuel and Manuel. Lord Killigrew is selling information to them to bring back to Spain. They also discuss Drake's plan to run for mayor. He, in the past, has won people over by buying them cider. So, they will ban the sale of cider and give out their own sherry for free to get the people drunk and win their votes.

Drake and Raleigh enter with the treasure, but there is no one around to greet them. Raleigh takes his sailors off to explore and leaves Drake alone. He hears a voice and hides, and, with that, the Lords and Amontillado all enter. Amontillado informs them that they must find the Queen and give her wonderful news from King Philip: he wishes to end the war. They run off to tell the queen while Amontillado says to himself how foolish the English are, that they will believe anything. As soon as he exits, Drake comes out of his hiding place. He is all worked up. He says that the Spanish are never to be trusted and that the war should continue until they are all killed and it is won properly in the name, and for the glory, of England ("Spain"). As he finishes, the Queen and her lady-in-waiting appear and catch the tail-end of his thoughts. She welcomes and congratulates him on a job well done. He tries to bestow gifts upon her, but she insists that he keep them to give to someone who has won his affections. He plays along and says that she already has. She wishes for him to stay at court for a short while as a reward, to be upon dry land and to be fed and cared for. He declines and says that all he needs or wishes for are more ships. They go back and forth, she insisting that the Spanish want peace, and he insisting that she is wrong. She becomes angry, and he leaves without the treasure. Indeed, she really wanted him to stay, but to no avail. She stands alone and sings to herself of how she loves him ("How Can He Leave Me?"). Raleigh returns and sees how upset the Queen is. She tries to hide and to pretend that she is furious with Drake, but he is not fooled. She gives in and admits her true feelings for him. Raleigh insists that they must come up with a way to get Drake back in London on his own free will. Raleigh comes up with the perfect plan: King Philip and his men are due to arrive in three days to present the terms of the peace treaty. The Queen should have a ball in honor of the Spanish and their newfound peace, and the Guest of Honor will be Sir Francis Drake. He will never miss a party, and hopefully she will convince him to stay forever.

The Widecomb Bowling team is on its way to Plymouth for a tournament. The Lord Killigrew's plan is in effect. They are all drinking his sherry, which is quite a bit stronger than their usual cider. As they reconvene on the road, Lord Killigrew, his mother, Señor Amontillado and his servants come by the other way, trying to look inconspicuous.

The elections are about to take place in Plymouth, and Drake is surrounded by his supporters ("Francis, Vote for Francis"). Killigrew's supporters and the Widecomb team arrive, and the sides all rally for support. Drake gets up and gives his speech, as does Killigrew. Drake will bring back cider and wants war with Spain, Killigrew claims. Just then, Raleigh runs in and tells the people of the peace treaty. There is a great deal of discussion and reaction, but Drake does not believe it. Raleigh insists that it is true and tells Drake of the Honor being bestowed upon him. Then, Killigrew reveals Amontillado, who accuses Drake of being a traitor and having sold secrets to the Spanish for gold. His supporters do not believe this and grab Amontillado, throwing him over the sea wall. Just then, a sailor rushes in and informs Drake that they have news from their posts: the Spanish Armada has set sail and there will be a war.

Act Two

The celebration ball is in progress, but neither Drake, Amontillado nor any of the peace representatives from Spain are present. The Queen is quite worried. Raleigh is there and, as a distraction, he and his women put on a performance ("It's Raining Again in Greenwich"). The Queen is amused but still aware of everyone's absence. She asks Raleigh of their whereabouts. Having been backed into a corner, Raleigh informs the Queen of the situation. She is furious that she has been betrayed. Much to his surprise, and, despite his pleas, she orders that ships be sent to arrest Drake for having disobeyed her ("How Dare He Make a Fool of Me").

The Killigrews are trying to find cannonballs to send out to the Spanish to help defeat Drake. Outside of the bowling tournament, they spot a wheelbarrow full of cannonballs and learn that they are Drake's. The winds changed, and he sailed back to win the tournament before going to defeat the Spanish, as he has time to do both. Killigrew and his men steal the cannonballs just as the tournament finishes. Widecombe has beaten Plymouth, and Drake is perplexed at how they have done it again. He says he would give anything to know how they get their cannonballs to follow such a curve. The Widecombers are tired of working for Killigrew so they strike a deal with Drake. If he takes them out to sea with him, they will teach him their secret. He agrees. The Widecombers explain that they make their balls with a bias so that they curve instead of going straight. At first, Drake does not understand or believe it, but they explain it in more depth ("Widecomb Bowl"). Audrey, the barmaid, has an idea: she has seen the men steal the cannonballs, and both cannonballs and bowling balls are round. They should swap the stolen cannonballs with the biased bowling balls. Then, when the Spanish load the balls into their cannons, they will curve and be useless. Just then, the Lords arrive from London and arrest Drake.

Drake is locked in the Tower of London, with only a guard there. He wonders why the Queen has done this and what his crime is ("Why Am I Here?"). The guard responds that he will tell him why he is there and proceeds to take off his hat to reveal that it is really Elizabeth, disguised as the guard. She explains why she has locked him up and that it was the only way that she could get to speak with him. She claims that he had disobeyed her, and they argue back and forth. He insists that he must be set free to go fight the war and defend England. She feels that it cannot be done; they need more ships, which they cannot afford and do not have. Besides, the Golden Shred, King Philip's main ship, is said to be unsinkable. She tells him that he thinks too little of her and that she has the heart and stomach of a King of England. He calls her gutless, which angers her. He speaks of Audrey's plan, and, when he mentions her, the Queen realizes that he is in love with another woman. She speaks of how she is lonely and must fight for her entire country alone ("You, Rushing in Like a Stranger"). She gives Drake a ring and tells him to go out and fight his war. He should wear the ring with pride until he finds someone who deserves it more than he does.

The Killegrews, the two Spanish servants and a boat full of Widecombe Wobblers (in place of cannonballs) are out to sea. They approach the Golden Shred to deliver their stolen bounty. As soon as the Wobblers are unloaded, the plan springs into action perfectly. The Wobblers zip past them, curve around and fly right back to where they came from, sinking the Golden Shred. They are victorious thanks to Audrey and the Widecombe team ("Victory Song"). Then the Royal Barge suddenly arrives, and the Queen steps off. She knights a few worthy people and congratulates all. She meets Audrey but says that she has nothing to give her since she cannot knight her. Drake steps in and gives Audrey the ring that he received from the Queen. He asks her to marry him, and she accepts. The Queen gives her Royal blessing – although she is clearly upset to have lost Drake to another woman – and tells them that the Royal Barge will take them back to Plymouth. The crowd goes down below to celebrate their victory, and the Queen stays behind for a moment to herself. She thinks again about how it is such a burden to rule her country alone. Drake and Audrey come out and board the barge.

← Back to Drake
Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Children
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Queen Elizabeth I
The powerful monarch of England. Has a hot head, commanding attitude, and "the heart and stomach of a King". In love with Sir Drake, but is infuriated by his bravado and impetuousness.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Elizabeth's Lady-in Waiting. Becomes unresponsive and shaky-kneed when around Sir Drake.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 30
A singer and musician at the court. Their songs often lead Queen Elizabeth and Sir Drake into various inner monologues.
Gender: any
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Don Bernadino De Amontillado
The Spanish Ambassador to the court of Queen Elizabeth. Harbors a hate for Sir Francis Drake and allies with Sir Killigrew. Talks in an exaggerated accent and lisp.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 60
Lord Cedric Neasden
The Lord Chancellor and an ally of Don Amontillado who yearns to end war between Spain and England. An energetic, flowery speaker who has a tough time organizing events and being on the water.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 60
A servant of Don Bernadino and spy for Sir Killigrew. A suck-up to both his master and Lady Killigrew. Quite disgusted by Lady Killigrew's attraction in him.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: B3
A servant of Don Bernadino and spy for Sir Killigrew. A suck-up to both his master and Lady Killigrew.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 60
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: B3
The clever barmaid at the Mermaid Tavern and niece and ward to Sir Killigrew. The apple of many young men's eyes, she has a deep romantic interest in Sir Drake. Faces constant heartbreak when her love takes to the sea.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 50
Vocal range top: Gb5
Vocal range bottom: Bb3
Sir Francis Drake
A common seaman and recent national hero, he runs for Mayor of Plymouth against his archenemy Sir Killigrew. A brave and outspoken man who loves to make speeches. In love with Audrey, yet constantly leaves her for his true love of the sea.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 50
Vocal range top: F#5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Sir John Killigrew
Mayor of Plymouth and Sir Drake's archenemy. Schemes to sell information to the Spanish. Uptight and disrespected in his community, he is eventually voted out of office and run out of town.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 60
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Lady Winifred Killigrew
Sir John's mother and a bit of a lush. Has a love for politics and is often the one behind her son's questionable schemes.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 60
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Sir Killigrew's right-hand man. Carries a mace which often silences any dissenting opinions. Pompous and egotistical.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 60
Tom Cobbley
A blacksmith and captain of the Widecombe Bowling Team. An outspoken fatherly figure who makes every decision for the rest of his team.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 50
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Simon Cobbley
Tom's nephew and a member of the Widecombe Bowling Team. A hard worker who is just as obsessed with bowling as his uncle.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 50
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: Bb3
Sir Walter Raleigh
A member of the Widecombe Bowling Team and Interim Captain in lieu of Sir Drake's trip. Flamboyantly dressed, he walks with a swagger along with several ladies on his arm. Becomes an ally with Queen Elizabeth to help get Sir Drake's romantic attention.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: A#3
Courtiers; Devonians; Crew Of The Golden Hind; Widecombe Bowling Team; Sailors
Full Song List
Drake: Faire, Sweet Cruell
Drake: Drake's Back
Drake: The Singeing Of The King Of Spain's Beard
Drake: Sir Walter Raleigh
Drake: We're Off To Meet The Queen
Drake: John And Lady Killigrew
Drake: Spanish!
Drake: How Can He Leave Me?
Drake: Lady, You Have Prayed
Drake: Finale Act I
Drake: Courtly Dance - La Volta
Drake: It's Raining Again In Greenwich
Drake: How Dare He Make A Fool Of Me?
Drake: You, Rushing In Like A Stranger
Drake: Victory Song
Drake: How Can He Leave Me - Reprise
Drake: Fair Oriana - Bows

Show History


Drake, a musical comedy with book and lyrics by Jeremy James Taylor (founding artistic director of the National Youth Music Theatre) and music by David Nield, utilizes characters from Europe in the late sixteenth century.  The action primarily brings together real-life explorer, Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh.  Several characters, like the antagonists of Don Bernardo and Sir John Killigrew, along with the entire comic plot line of the Widecombe bowling team, were created for dramatic effect.


Drake premiered with The Children's Music Theatre at Whitgift School Croydon on May 25, 1983, featuring performances from about 40 children ages 11-14.  It subsequently moved to the George Square Theatre in Edinburgh that August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The CMT also mounted productions of the musical in 1984 and 1988.


  • Nicky Searle (made famous for, among other things, performing in Matilda The Musical) performed in the original 1983 production of Drake.
  • Although the show was originally written for, and performed with, younger actors, according to the Production Notes in the script, "there is absolutely no reason, however, why the piece should not be done with older children, adults or a combination of all three."

Critical Reaction

"A musical that abounds with zest and enthusiasm."
– East Cornwell Times



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A Musical In Two Acts
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