High Spirits


Based on the play Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward, HIGH SPIRITS is “An Improbable Musical Comedy” about the woes of a widowed gentleman who, upon remarrying, finds himself haunted by the spirit of his strong-willed first wife.

The delightful score from Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray includes “Home Sweet Heaven,” “Faster Than Sound,” and “Go Into Your Trance.”

  • Synopsis
  • Credits
  • Orchestration
  • Materials
  • Cast
  • History
  • Musical Numbers
  • Upcoming
  • Hampstead Heath, in the north of London, claims as two of its more distinguished residents, the best-selling author of mystery novels, Charles Condomine and his second wife, Ruth. They are preparing to entertain at dinner, and Madame Arcati is expected later to conduct one of her famous séances. After dinner Madame Arcati breezes in on her bicycle, explains the details of the forthcoming séance, and begins the session to communicate with a spirit in the unknown. The spirit is Charles’ late wife, Elvira, whose voice is audible only to Charles. Unexpectedly Elvira, clad in a greenish cloud-like garment, flies across the room, unseen by the guests. Charles sees Elvira and has a lengthy conversation with her. He even tries to introduce her to Ruth, who is upset, thinking her husband has gone slightly daffy. Ruth storms out of the room leaving Charles with Elvira.

    The next morning at breakfast, Ruth feels that Charles’ unusual behavior was due to the effects of alcohol, but when Elvira shoves a bowl of flowers in her face, Ruth believes. Ruth goes to Madame Arcati’s coffee shop, where she is surrounded by her student spiritualists, to plead with her to get rid of Elvira. Madame Arcati has bungled the job; she doesn’t know how to do it. While Ruth and Madame Arcati are having their difficulties, Charles and Elvira reminisce about their marriage. Charles agrees to take Elvira to the Penthouse Club for old times’ sake. She tries to convince Charles to forget everything and follow her, as she describes her astral activities. Excited about the wonderful things that Elvira describes, and encouraged by her, he mounts the parapet, extends his arms in an attempt to fly, and plunges out of sight.

    Ruth points out to Charles, who as a result of his plunge has a bandaged head, that Elvira is attempting to kill him off. Elvira tampers with Charles’ car, hoping to kill him when he drives it. Instead Ruth drives it first and is killed. Elvira declares her spiritual return a flop because she hasn’t been successful in bringing Charles to her world. She confesses homesickness and sings about the extraordinary environment of her “Home Sweet Heaven”. Charles and Elvira arrive at Madame Arcati’s coffee shop to try to send Elvira back home. To Madame Arcati’s delight, Charles’ consternation and Elvira’s disgust, Ruth suddenly appears, fully materialized. Ruth bemoans the fact that she will have to spend eternity alone with Elvira. By mystical machinations, Elvira places an “extremely long distance call” to Merlin the Magician, somewhere in the great beyond. Merlin immediately dispenses the deadly poison “instant” hemlock which is poured into the brandy decanter. Charles and his two ectoplasmic wives try to make the best of an impossible situation. Madame Arcati attempts to untangle the mess. She discovers that Edith, the maid, unknown even to herself, is a natural medium. She dematerializes the two ghostly wives. As the dematerialized spirits romp around the house, playing havoc with the furnishings, Charles and Madame Arcati drink a toast to their success. The poisoned brandy acts quickly with Charles and Madame Arcati joining Elvira and Ruth in the celestial world of the unknown where they will all fly faster than sound forever.

    Music, Lyrics and Book by
    Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray
    Based upon Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward

    Such credits to the authors for all purposes shall be in type size equal to or greater than that of any other credits except for that of the star(s) above the title. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.

    The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:

    is presented by arrangement with
    Tams-Witmark, A Concord Theatricals Company

    Additionally, you agree to include the above language hyperlinked to https://tamswitmark.com/ on all websites on which you promote the play.

  • Full Orchestration:

    2 Violin AB
    1 Violin C
    1 Viola
    1 Cello
    1 Bass

    1 Reed I: Flute, Piccolo, Alto Flute (or Cl.), Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed II: Flute (or Cl.), Piccolo (or Cl.), Alto Flute (or Cl.), Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed III: Oboe (or Cl.), English Horn (or Cl.), Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
    1 Reed IV: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
    1 Reed V: Flute (or Cl.), Clarinet, Bass Clarinet & Baritone Saxophone

    2 Trumpet I & II
    1 Trumpet III
    1 Trombone I
    1 Trombone II
    1 Trombone III

    2 Percussion:

    Timpani (2 Drums)
    Snare Drum
    Bass Drum
    Suspended Cymbal
    Tom-toms (small & large)
    Bell Tree
    Finger Cymbals
    Hi-Hat Cymbals
    Tam Tam
    Bongo Drums
    Wood Block
    Slide Whistle

    1 Harp
    1 Guitar, Bass Guitar, Banjo & Mandolin

    Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.

  • Rehearsal Materials

    2       Piano/Conductor Scores
    20     Libretto/Vocal Books

  • (In Order of Appearance)

    Charles Condomine
    Ruth Condomine
    Mrs. Bradman
    Dr. Bradman
    Madame Arcati

    Singers & Dancers

  • HIGH SPIRITS opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on April 7, 1964, starring Beatrice Lillie, Tammy Grimes and Edward Woodward. The production was directed by Noël Coward, author of Blithe Spirit. The West End production opening in November of  1964 at the Savoy Theatre, starring Cicely Courtneidge, Marti Stevens and Dennis Quilley.

    Awards (1964)

    Nominated for 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Composer/Lyricist

  • Act I

    1. Overture – Orchestra
    2. Opening Curtain – Orchestra
    3. “Was She Prettier Than I?” – Ruth
    4. “The Bicycle Song” – Madame Arcati & Chorus
    5. Bicycle Playoff – Orchestra
    6. Elvira Flies – Orchestra
    7. No Smoking – Orchestra
    8. “You’d Better Love Me” – Elvira
    9. You’d Better Love Me Coda – Orchestra
    10. “Where Is The Man I Married?” – Charles & Ruth
    11. “Coffee Shop” – Beatnik Boy
    12. “Go Into Your Trance” – Madame Arcati & Chorus
    13. Trance Dance – Orchestra
    14. “Trance Tag” – Madame Arcati & Chorus
    15. Reprise: “Where Is The Man I Married?” – Ruth
    16. “Forever And A Day” – Charles & Elvira (recorded)
    17. “Something Tells Me” – Elvira
    18. Something Tells Me Dance – Orchestra
    19. I Know Your Heart Lead-In – Orchestra
    20. “I Know Your Heart” – Charles & Elvira
    21. “Faster Than Sound” – Elvira & Chorus

    Act II

    22. Entr’acte – Orchestra
    23. “Voices” – Chorus
    24. “If I Gave You” – Charles & Ruth
    25. “Talking To You” – Madame Arcati
    26. Talking To Sleep – Orchestra
    27. “Home Sweet Heaven” – Elvira
    28. Heaven Playoff – Orchestra
    29. “Something Is Coming To Tea” – Madame Arcati & Boys
    30. “Exorcism Revisited” – Chorus & Dancers
    31. Exorcism Playoff – Orchestra
    32. Who Called? – Orchestra
    33. “What In The World Did You Want?” – Charles, Ruth & Elvira
    34. Finale: “Faster Than Sound” – Full Company
    35. Exit Music – Orchestra

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