Book by Charlotte Jones. Based on The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Music by Andrew Llyod Webber. Lyrics by David Zippel. The original London production opened on 16 September 2004 and was directed by Trevor Nunn, with musical staging by Wayne McGregor. The production closed on 25 February 2006, after 500 performances. The original Broadway production opened on 17 November 2005, closing on 19 February 2006, after 109 performances.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
When Walter Hartright arrives at a railway cutting near Limmeridge, Cumberland in June 1870, he has no idea that his life will be changed forever. When he gets off the train, Walter is greeted by a portentous railway guard, who has had a vision showing that in one year’s time Walter’s presence will have resulted in tragedy and death. On his way to Limmeridge, Walter has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman, dressed in white, desperate to reveal her chilling secret. Revealing that a rich man had some part in her downfall, she disappears into the night (PROLOGUE).
Walter arrives at Limmeridge, where he takes up a position as drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, Marion Halcombe. He is welcomed to the house in two very different ways – by Marion and and their guardian, Mr Fairlie (I HOPE YOU LIKE IT HERE). When he meets Laura, he immediately sees in her face an eerie reflection of the forlorn creature he met the previous night, and the story of his encounter with the woman in white causes some excitement in the household. The painting lessons begin with a lesson on PERSPECTIVE, during which both girls fall in love with their new art master. Walter, however, only has eyes for Laura (TRYING NOT TO NOTICE). When Marion sees a painting Walter has done of Laura, she realises that her beautiful half-sister has captured his heart. Motivated by hurt and confusion, Marion tells Walter that Laura is engaged to someone else – Sir Percival Glyde. Walter thinks that she is just being jealous and affirms his love with Laura (I BELIEVE MY HEART).
The robust celebrations of LAMMASTIDE are spoiled somewhat for a scullery maid when she is put outside by the housekeeper for telling ungodly stories about a ghostly woman that lurks in the graveyard. Walter speaks to the maid and realises that she is talking about the same woman in white he met on the tracks. He searches for the woman and finds her: this time she tells him her name – Anne Catharick – and the name of the wealthy man who persecuted her and locked her in an asylum – Percival Glyde (YOU SEE I AM NO GHOST). In the main house, the Mr Fairlie, Laura and Marion are entertaining some visitors for their somewhat more refined Lammastime celebration: the aformentioned Sir Percival Glyde and his Italian friend, the refined Count Fosco. Fosco puts forward his life philiosphy (A GIFT FOR LIVING WELL). Walter confronts Sir Percival about Anne’s accusations and Sir Percival explains that the poor girl was someone for whom he tried to provide care. However, because she showed signs of madness he claims that he sent her to a reputable institution where he pays for her to be well looked after. Later, Laura asks Marion whether she should marry Sir Percival or her true love, Walter. Marion convinces her that a union with Sir Percival would be most beneficial. Feeling betrayed, Walter packs his bags and leaves Limmeridge to go to London.
Christmas comes and goes (THE HOLLY AND THE IVY), as does the marriage of Laura and Sir Percival. They move into Sir Percival’s home in Hampshire: Blackwater House. Sir Percival graciously agrees to allow Marion to come and live with them. Mr Fairlie now has Limemridge to himself and is rather happy with things as they stand. At Blackwater House, Sir Percival reveals his true colours. He is a gambler, has no wealth to speak of and has married Laura for her inheritance. He also beats Laura and tries to convince her to sign a DOCUMENT documents that would give him free access to her money. A hopeless Laura blames Marion because she convinced her to marry the scoundrel. Marion feels rather guilty, admitting that her own feelings for walter might have influenced her judgement (ALL FOR LAURA). She vows to help Laura escape from this dire situation (ACT ONE FINALE).
Anne, who has known the truth about Sir Percival all along, follows the Fairlies to Blackwater, hoping to help Laura. She makes contact with Marion, who has been trying to find a way out while Laura despairs over losing Walter, wishing to be safe in his arms (IF I COULD ONLY DREAM THIS WORLD AWAY). Marion organises a meeting between Laura and Anne in a deserted boathouse, where they marvel at their apparent similarities. Sir Percival organises Anne’s cature and return to the asylum. Anne believes that Laura and Marion have betrayed her. Later, Marion tries to find out exactly what Sir Percival is planning and spies on him and Count Fosco as they strategise in the study. She is almost found out and flees. Count Fosco follows her and gives her a sleeping draught, which induces a terrifying NIGHTMARE. And things take a turn for the worse when, the next morning, Count FOSCO TELLS OF LAURA’S DEATH. Marion is heartbroken and everyone attends a FUNERAL, during which Sir Percival organises the transfer of Laura’s funds to his own account. The transaction will be finalised with Mr Fairlie at Limmeridge in June.
In London, Walter can’t stop thinking about Laura (EVERMORE WITHOUT YOU). Marion arrives and is greeted by the masses of LOST SOULS, who roam the streets of London. She passes a pawn shop and sees Walter’s painting of Laura. After consulting with the broker, finds Waletr in a seedy pub. Marion tells him that Laura is dead and asks him to help her rescue Anne. At first, Walter refuses but she eventually wins him over (IF NOT FOR MER FOR HER). In his rooms, Count Fosco broadens his philosophy of living (YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING) and resolves not to help Sir Percival any longer. Marion arrives, dressed up provocatively (THE SEDUCTION). When Count Fosco goes to shave, she finds the address of the asylum and leaves. Marion’s courage impresses Walter and he begins to fall in love with her. But when they arrive at the ASYLUM, they discover that the person in the cell is not Anne but Laura, who is alive. Anne was killed in her place.
Walter, Laura and Marion go BACK TO LIMMERIDGE, where Mr Fairlie and he reveals that Anne was indeed Laura’s sister. They decide that they must discover the truth about Anne’s secret so that her soul can rest in peace. Laura dresses up as Anne and appears to Sir Percival as a ghost. He reveals that he had a torrid affair with Anne. When she had his baby, he threw the child in a lake and had its mother locked up so people would think she was mad and would not ask any leading questions. His plan to marry Laura would tie up all the loose ends: he could kill Anne – so no one would discover their secret – and put Laura into the asylum – so that he could use her money to pay his debts. Walter fights Sir Percival and during their altercation, they end up in the train tunnel. Only Walter survives and the railway guard reminds him of his prophecy – it has been exactly a year since his first visit to Limmeridge. Edward and Laura are married and, this time, Marion gives them her blessing (EPILOGUE).
Purchases from Amazon.com
From left to right above: 1. The Woman in White Original London Cast Recording CD. 2. Phantasia CD including The Woman in White suite. 3. The Woman in White Audio Book. 4. The Woman in White Original Novel by Wilkie Collins. 5. The Woman in White Vocal Selections.