Book, Music & Lyrics by Steven David Horwich
adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night


Cast Size: Male: 7    Female: 3    Ensemble: 0    Total Cast Size: 10
Orchestra: TBD, probably about 5.
Published Script: Available upon request
Production Rights: Restricted. If interested, please contact us.
Recordings: Demo (below)
Other shows by the authors: And The River Flows, Call To Arms, The Depression Gaeities, 4 Lives In Two Acts, That’s Scrooge, The Kingdom That Was, The Wheel Turns, Tragedy     Collaborative: A Tale Of Two Cities, Eden, Little Tramp, The Third Wish , Beautiful Poison


A small cast modernization of Twelfth Night, on a unit set. Ideal for colleges and universities, Little Theaters, Stock Companies, Dinner Theaters, Regional Houses with limited stage or wing space, Off-Broadway or West End.

Be Warned:
Rights are currently restricted.

The play is about love. Love in many forms, family love, the love of a woman for a man, a man for another man in friendship, the love of a man for booze, a man for self. And sexual love. The show is not for the more prudish audience or cast, though we see nothing of any sex or bodies, ever.


General Notes - Loveplay is a very romantic, very funny, tongue-in-cheek rendition of Twelfth Night. It does not refrain from mentioning Shakespeare on occasion, in comic ways. The writing is tight, the show moves quickly, and the dialogue contemporary (when Shakespeare is not being politely lampooned). Workshopped several times, the show earns nightly standing ovations.

It presents the story as if the characters and the entire production was really unsure which period it belongs to, Shakespeare’s or ours. The anachronisms are part of the comic energy of the show. The show is clearly a “show”, representational, theater and never anything else.

Also, this is a Musical about love in its many forms. The sexes get mixed and matched and remixed, and that is true to the Shakespearean original, of course. Being a modern Musical, this element is very much a part of the show and a part of the fun. Sometimes the character’s own sexual identities become so crossed, even they are hard-pressed to know where they stand. As I said, contemporary.

ACT ONE: Twins, Viola and Sebastian, are shipwrecked. She is washed up in a land called Illyria, unaware that her brother has survived. (“Lovers Lost In A Far-Off Land”) The land is ruled by Duke Orsino, who is madly in love with the Lady Olivia, who spurns his love. (“Play On”) Viola wonders how she will survive in this new land (“In Illyria”). She dresses as a man, as men are safer among strangers than young girls, and takes on employment as Orsino’s servant. In Olivia’s garden, her Uncle Toby Belch, and Olivia’s retainers worship the grape. (“Until My Dying Day”) Orsino sends Viola, now “Cesario”, to woo the lady for him, which she does. (“‘Tis Beauty”) But Olivia falls in love at first sight with Cesario. (“‘Tis Beauty, Olivia’s reprise”) Viola realizes about this time that she is herself in love with Orsino. (“‘Tis Beauty, Viola’s reprise) Orsino asks “Cesario” how to woo the lady, and Cesario offers “his” advice. (“Love Play”) Orsino sends “Cesario” forth to woo Olivia again, but Olivia attempts to woo “Cesario”. (“Stay”) Back at the beach, we see Sebastian has been rescued from the sea by a rough sailor, Antonio. (“Never Abandon A Friend”) Olivia’s retainer, Malvolio, misled into believing the Lady is attracted to him, woos her. (“Sweet Lady, Ho Ho!) As the first act ends, it appears that everyone has fallen in love with the wrong person. (“You Were Never There”)

ACT TWO: Sir Toby and his buddies confront “Cesario”, now Sebastian, who is in utter mystery as to why they despise him. (“Cesari Who?”) Orsino despairs. (“When A Dream Won’t Come True”), but Viola/”Cesario” encourages him to try again, (“You Will Love Again”) though she loves Orsino and would keep him for herself. (“You Will Love Again” reprise) Malvolio, imprisoned for insanity, despairs, if ludicrously. (“Prisoner Of Love”) Olivia marries Sebastian/”Cesario”. (“I Am Ready”) Viola and Orsino arrive to woo Olivia, and gradually, the truth is revealed, that Sebastian lives, that her has married Olivia, and that “Cesario” is not as “he” appears. (“You Were Never There”) Orsino finally comes to realize that the boy he loves is a woman he can love as a wife, and there is a happy ending for all. (“Here Is My Hand”)


“Lovers Lost In A Far-Off Land”, “Play On”, “In Illyria”, “Until My Dying Day”, “’Tis Beauty”, “Loveplay”, “Stay!”, “Never Abandon A Friend”, “Sweet Lady, Ho Ho!”, “You Were Never There”, “Cesari Who?”, “When A Dream Won’t Come True”, “You Will Love Again”, “Prisoner Of Love”, “I Am Ready”, “Here Is My Hand”

Musical Numbers:
(Note - this is a loose demo.  It provides a solid idea of the score, though.  All songs are copyrighted for all media by the author, and may not be reproduced in any manner without his express, written permission.)

Lovers Lost In A Far-Off Land

Play On

In Illyria

Until My Dying Day

‘Tis Beauty

‘Tis Beauty (Olivia’s version)

‘Tis Beauty (Viola’s reprise)



Never Abandon A Friend

Sweet Lady, Ho Ho!

You Were Never There

Cesari Who?

When A Dream Wont Come True

You Will Love Again

Viola’s Love Reprise

Prisoner Of Love

I Am Ready

In Illyria (reprise)

You Were Never There (Viola’s version)

Here Is My Hand


We don’t provide opinions or ratings for original Musicals.



The music ranges through many styles. The Musical Director will need to be comfortable with various pop and theatrical styles. You’ll need strong contemporary theatrical singers for your leads. It’s a small cast, just about everyone needs to sing well. A fair amount of harmonies, the score takes a bit of time to learn. Requires an experienced Musical Director who plays with energy.

Viola – Mezzo with a strong belt, clean high notes, and a great deal of emotion and warmth when she sings.

Orsino – Lyric baritone with strong high notes and a clear, emotional mid-range.

Olivia – Mezzo with a warm mid-range and a good belt.

Sebastian – Tenor, clear mid-range, warm and accessible voice.

Malvolio – Tenor with very strong high notes, powerful character-driven voice.

Sir Toby – Bass/baritone with a character-driven voice.

Sir Andrew – Tenor with a character-driven (ancient) voice.

Feste – Male or female, tenor or mezzo, character-driven voice, good comic ability while singing.

Maria – Alto, warm mid-range, sexy while singing.

Antonio – Lyric baritone, big belt, good at harmonizing.


There is a fair amount of movement in the show, if not outright dance. A Choreographer will need to be comfortable with many theatrical forms, including tango, 50s, and others. And you;’ll be working with singing actors first, no real dancers, most likely, which fits the needs of the show.

Numbers a Choreographer may be involved in staging include “Lovers Lost In A Far-Off Land”, “Play On”, “Until My Dying Day”, “Loveplay”, “Stay!”, “Never Abandon A Friend”, “Sweet Lady, Ho Ho!”, “Cesari Who?”, “Prisoner Of Love”, “I Am Ready”, and “Here Is My Hand”.

“Lovers Lost…” is a full company opening in which we “see” Viola and Sebastian go down in rough seas. Have fun with this. We used banners of long, wide diaphanous material as “the sea”, handled by the rest of the company, that rose and consumed our heroes. We also had a shark in the water (plastic), a rubber duck, other silliness for Viola and Sebastian to respond to, carried by cast members with attitude. Very theatrical, establishes the energy, and the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the show.

“Play On” is a 40′s Big Band jazz-blues piece, in which Orsino expresses his dire depression in comic terms. He is really, really depressed, head hanging low, a miserable sight. Think a bit of a lampoon of Fosse choreography here, for Orsino and his retainers (perhaps he and three others). They sing tight harmony and counterpoint toward the end, which may be fun for movement, but know that they need to do this.

“Until My Dying Day” is a love song to alcohol sung at first by two old alcoholics, and then joined by Feste and Maria, to make a quartet of souses. It is all done in mock “tribute” to Olivia, the Lady of the house. It is fun-loving, pleasure-loving. The two knights become increasingly drunk through the act until they’re seen under a bench, and crawling. Driven by the characters, may not need much movement, and what there is should get laughs.

“Loveplay” is a duet for Viola and Orsino, who she is now in love with. He thinks she’s a boy, and he is in love with Olivia. Viola, as “Cesario”, demonstrates to Orsino how to woo a lady. But Viola is supposedly a “boy”, and cannot go too far, or it will be misunderstood. A comic ballad built from the characters and situation, which must develop both. They can dance in a near Fred-and-Ginger manner, Viola leading, of course, as she’s demonstrating manly wooing techniques to him. But she is thrilled to be close to him, touching him, and that must also play out.

“Stay!” is a duet, a comic tango between Viola, as “Cesario”, and Olivia, who has decided that she’s in love with “the boy.” It is a violent, sexual tango in the Kurt Weill tradition, entirely comic. Here, Olivia “leads.” She is the woo-er, the seducer. Olivia dips Viola, Viola gets her balance and dips Olivia (for Orsino’s sake, wooing the Lady for her Master). A serious seduction that unnerves Viola and sends her running.

“Never Abandon A Friend” is a love song between two men of opposite stripes who have become friends. Sebastian is high-born, sophisticated, clever. Antonio is rugged, a pirate, a man of war. But they have rescued each other from the seas, and find their fates entwined to their mutual satisfaction. It is nothing but friendship, but it is real, and sincere. Keep the staging simple, avoid any connotations of more than friendship.

“Sweet Lady, Ho Ho!” is a mad solo sung by Malvolio. He is a man utterly enamored of himself. He has dressed himself foolishly, as recommended to him in a letter he thinks Olivia penned, but which was actually written by Maria to do him in…and so it does. The man is so arrogant, so egotistical, he’s sure he has won the Lady, and pays absolutely no attention to her as he prances and dashes about the stage showing off his plumes, even as she becomes increasingly nauseated and finally, horrified. His display grows in volume and ferocity until he’s bumping and grinding away like a cheap stripper at the end. But by then, he’s alone in the room. Entirely comic, built on the character’s excesses and the situation.

“Cesari Who?’ opens Act II with action. Sebastian, Viola’s twin, has arrived in Illyria. And though he is much taller than she, he is her “twin”, and everyone mistakes him for her (as “Cesario”, the boy’s name she’s taken on). There is a sword fight that Sebastian accepts though he has no idea why, between he and the two old knights, in which they are instantly comically winded. He defeats them without effort, bored, dismissive. Then, Olivia sees him fighting and, in love with “Cesario”, begs him to join her in her bedroom. He readily accepts, being a manly man and all that. Comic opera silliness, really fun to stage. Keep the movement lively, gymnastic, energized.

“Prisoner Of Love” is a tight 50s quartet ballad, ala the Ink Spots. It is comic, Malvolio in jail and grieving over his fate, as the rustics serve as his somewhat mocking back-up singers. Pure Musical Comedy that reveals the arrogant fool’s fate. Needs the shuffling, tightly choreographed look of that period.

“I Am Ready” is the marriage of Sebastian and Olivia. Both are confirmed bachelors, and both very reticent to say the final words that doom them to married life. They take the entire number, smiling at each other in terror, looking for the door, but irresistibly attracted to each other, before whispering hoarsely “I Do.” All the while, a Priest waits impatiently. Romantic and funny. Each time they get to the Chorus and sing “I am ready…”, it must be clear they are nothing of the sort.

“Here Is My Hand” is your finale. The characters gather on stage and unite in a hymn to eternal fidelity, to love. The audience should somehow be included in this, perhaps to the extent of taking hands with cast members and being encouraged to pay it forward. Swe are all invited to celebrate love at the end of Loveplay.


Note – The show is intended to be cast inter-racially. Every role can be played by anyone who can play it, and should be. Viola and Sebastian are “twins”, and identified as such solely by red circles drawn on their cheeks, or some such device. Other than that, it’s much funnier is Sebastian is quite a bit taller than Viola.

Viola – A young woman, age 20s-mid 30s. Beautiful, but must be able to be believably disguised as a boy, and quickly so. Sharp, clever, aware of her environment. A survivor up to most challenges. Raised in an aristocratic setting, but not naive. Instantly likeable, and even loveable. As smart as she is, she cannot set aside feelings she realizes are not useful. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement, in that order, but must be good at everything. A star.

Orsino – Approaching his mid-years, 30s-40s, perhaps even his 50s. A man of power who can’t seem to have the only thing he cares about, Olivia. Frustrated, peevish. He is bright enough, but no match for Viola. Must be a handsome man, and desirable enough that Viola falls for him at first sight. A bit of a gentle buffoon, indecisive, and how could he miss that Viola is a beautiful woman? (He does finally catch on late in Act II, but perhaps suspects it earlier?) Very self-involved, lost in his grief. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement, but again, must be strong at everything.

Olivia – 30s-40s, just a bit younger than Orsino. A voluptuous woman, powerful and somewhat arrogant. Must be drop-dead gorgeous in a mature, adult way. Once she makes up her mind on a thing, she is inflexible. Again, self-involved. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement, but must be strong at everything.

Sebastian – Early 20s, a young stud. Viola’s “twin”, handsome, boyish, charming. He is a good brother, and truly grieves when he believes his sister is dead. This does not stop him from almost instantly accepting Olivia’s invitation for a dalliance. Cast for voice, type, acting, movement, must be strong at everything.

Malvolio – 20s-50s. Utterly arrogant, foppishly prudish, far too well-spoken, too careful with his costuming and voice, hungry for power. Olivia’s major domo, he has just enough power to make others despise him. Innately cold and annoying, the actor must truly be funny. Perhaps the hardest singing role in the show. Cast for voice, acting, type, some movement.

Sir Toby – 40s-60s. A drunk, loud, rowdy, brawling coward. Related to Olivia. Comic actor with a big body and a big voice. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Sir Andrew – 50s-70s. A very old, drunken, woozy, unstable, largely deaf knight with resources. A comic actor, probably thin and spindly and tall, to contrast with Sir Toby. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Feste – 20s-50s. Male or female, the “clown”, or “court jester”, or “fool.” A strong comic actor capable of physical acrobatics (mild). Must be genuinely funny, with excellent comic timing. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Maria – 20s-30s, Olivia’s handmaid. Of lower birth than her Mistress, curvacious, sexy and sexual. A plotter and schemer. Hates Malvolio.

Antonio – 20s-30s, a notable pirate, masculine, manly, with a big singing voice and a surprisingly friendly and meek manner. A good comic actor who can sing. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement.


A unit set is recommended. At first, it should be covered with the image of a large boat going down in the ocean. This is pulled up to reveal “Illyria”. First, it’s a patch of light in darkness, perhaps indicative of a beach, a wharf. A barrel set all the way to one side of the apron or stage, sound effects. Leave the barrel where it is, as you’ll need the beach again mid Act I.

Lights rise on Orsino’s estate, one side of the stage. An elevated throne for the man of the house, his family crest (comic, cowardly) suspended behind it. A “tiled” floor, probably painted.

The other half of the stage is Olivia’s manse. A small garden with trees and a bench. Her main room, her own family crest (again comic, aggressive), her own throne, perhaps equally elevated as Orsino’s. Different floor decor.

Make it colorful and fun, and a theatrical mix of modern and Shakespeare, that should earn some laughs. Once the boat goes down, it would not be a bad idea to have the word “Loveplay” emblazoned on a drape suspended above the front of the stage, which can be lowered at the end of Act I. (Unnecessary to have a curtain, though, or to perform this on a proscenium stage.) Perhaps when the drape is lowered, it reveals above the title of the play an image of Shakespeare, holding his head with a headache, or something along those lines.

It would be great if Orsino’s house had its unique color scheme, and the costuming of Orsino and his retainers matched it. The same for Olivia’s, though a very different color scheme. The title on the drape above might be a combination of those colors, finally united.

The actors should have open access to the house if possible. Breaking the fourth wall is a regular occurrence.

That’s it. A relatively simple job for a Set Designer. Almost anyone with some experience could put it together.


A cross between Shakespeare and modern, basically one costume per character. (Viola will need her “boy’s” outfit, one that effectively hides her feminine assets while allowing her to breathe, move and sing.) The crossover should itself be amusing, as if these people just aren’t sure to which period of time they belong.

Olivia and Maria must look beautiful and even seductive in different ways. You must be certain that Viola is beautiful, even as a boy. Orsino, Sebastian and Antonio are manly men in different ways.

Malvolio’s costume is dark, rigid, and precise…until he heeds “Olivia’s” written advice and goes mad with yellow stockings and cross garters. He should truly look ridiculous in this number, hair slicked back, a poster-boy for bad taste in seduction.

The rustics (Toby, Andrew, Maria) can be dressed more inexpensively than their royal friends and relatives. The men are former knights, and some semblance of that should be visible. They have “swords”.

Much of this costuming can be found in closets, and thrift stores. It’s unlikely you’ll need to rent anything. I would not place Olivia in a gown – better to dress her like a young Kate Hepburn, frankly, sophisticated, big city. In general, I’d avoid dresses.

As I mentioned in the comments on sets, the households could be color coordinated to the set. Work closely with your Director and Set Designer on this. All in all, an easy assignment for an experienced Designer, and fun.


Feste needs clown props, like a scepter, a hat. Letters from Orsino to Olivia. Booze for Toby and Andrew. Swords for each man. (Available from a prop or costume shop for rent, generally. Or use sticks, and don’t hide the fact. Make a joke of it. It works.) The letter Maria pens for Malvolio. There will be more, but a light assignment, generally.


Rich, complex. If the set is color coordinated into two houses, the lighting will need to help emphasize this. Action must be isolated to parts of the stage, and there are will be many cues meant to move the action or help generate emotion within the numbers. You’ll want a flexible board and plot. Not a job for a novice.

By rhe way, anything done to emphasize the live, “theater” quality of the production is good. Think about lowering the grid so that a few of your instruments are visible to the audience. Make sure they understand it is intentional – have enough lamps visible to make it clear.


Simple, but expressive. The women need to look good under the light for each house, as described above. Viola and Sebastian need some sort of simple mark, on their faces, small but noticeable, that defines them as “twins”. (We used red dots, it’s a “show”) A simple job.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Lighting Designer, Viola, Orsino, Olivia, Malvolio.

As contemporary in its way as a show can get, certainly so far as the story is concerned. Shakespeare is always going to be timely, and this rendition isolates and expands upon the timely elements of Twelfth Night. An inexpensive show to produce, which should be enormous fun to do, and I believe, will prove successful with audiences. Invite me to direct it! (If you want to.)