The Kissing Dance

The Kissing-Dance

Music Howard Goodall

Book & Lyrics Charles Hart

Freely based on Oliver Goldsmith’s

She Stoops to Conquer


“..there is a freshness about the piece, which treats Goldsmith’s original with grace and wit, that is enormously appealing. Charles Hart’s lyrics are a constant pleasure because they are always thoroughly grown-up and yet full of mischief. For all the comic absurdities of the plot, this is that rare beast: a genuinely intelligent musical, a reminder that Goodall remains one of the most distinctive and undervalued composers in British musical theatre of the last 25 years.”

(Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, 28.03.11)

“A sparkling little classic”

(Sheridan Morley, New York Times Jan 5th 2000)

“I guarantee you’ll leave the theatre with a smile on your face, a spring in your step and a catchy tune on your lips.”

(Kathryn Pintus, Broadway World April 2011)


Commissioned & premièred by the National Youth Music Theatre at the Brighton Festival in 1998, followed by the Edinburgh International Festival and its London début at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in December 1999, The Kissing-Dance was the first musical to open the Royal Opera House Covent Garden’s Linbury Theatre. It returned to London in March 2011 in Lotte Wakeham’s effervescent revival at the Jermyn Street Theatre.


“The greatest British musical of recent years, Elton John’s heart-rending Billy Elliot, authentically captures the anthems and choral texture of a working class community’s song, just as The Beggar’s Opera, too, drew on the music of a class of people who, lacking time and money, made their own entertainment through popular chorus. So it’s a treat to hear Howard Goodall and Charles Hart return to the roots of popular English song to create another great British musical in The Kissing Dance, a reworking of She Stoops To Conquer… The Kissing-Dance feels like a paean to a lost England: two weary travellers, stopping at a country tavern, are made to listen to the local legends attached to every hill and dale, until they eventually learn the route to the local squire’s country hall, an establishment turned completely upside down by the Puckish tricks of the locals on All Fools’ Eve. Much comedic chaos ensues, but eventually all is restored, with some beautiful folk song and madrigal arrangements along the way. There’s even a nod to As You Like It in the finale, the muddled lovers are all smoothed into orderly couples, the romantic gentlemen and the country bumpkins with their like mates. But unlike As You Like It, there’s no resilient queerness underscoring the ritual, no Rosalind in her breeches to return on stage with that sexually questioning epilogue. That final, ambiguous note. Instead, there’s a finale which is quite uncomplicated in its joy, a triumphant celebration that sends the audience out singing and dancing for days to come.”

(Kate Maltby, The Spectator, April 2011)


The sage shall play the knave tonight, The maid shall misbehave tonight And all the world, it’s said, Will turn upon its head …..


It is All Fools’ Eve, a night when in the realms of love, the world can be turned upside-down and the lord of Misrule can take control. In the great hall at Nonesuch, home to the Hardcastle family (old campaigner Mr Dick Hardcastle, his formidable wife, Dorothy, their pretty and sharp-witted daughter Kate, her equally clever cousin, Constance Neville and the mischievous Tony Lumpkin, Dorothy’s idiot son by her first marriage), the servants are preparing to receive two important guests: an old friend of Mr Hardcastle’s from his military days, Sir James Marlow, and travelling separately, his eligible son Charles. Both fathers are hoping that Charles will offer his hand in marriage to Kate and unite the two families forever. But unbeknown to them, Charles suffers from the mysterious affliction of “the Englishman’s Malady”. While gallivanting amongst working-class girls “who wait at tables”, he is a notorious womaniser, but when confronted with girls “of his own station”, he is plagued by an unaccountable reserve and modesty which turn him into a tongue-tied booby. Charles has a problem: he is on his way to meet his intended, Miss Kate Hardcastle, but knows that the presence of polite female company will render him painfully shy and speechless. He is nonetheless riding to Nonesuch with his great friend George Hastings (who also happens to be courting Kate’s cousin Constance) and all goes well until they lose their way and stop at the “Fur and Feathers” to ask for directions…..


“Then there’s Goodall’s music, its Englishness inbred in a way that has nothing to do with pastiche and can be defined only by its own very sweet, quirky, very distinctive character. The title number is a case in point – a shadowy little idyll of a tune, insidiously memorable. Goodall’s love of polyphony (the English choral tradition) makes for some smashing ensembles, while his instrumentation cleverly hints at period and local colour, a piano accordion pointing up the inheritance of street music, a solo trumpet lending both melancholy and a blast of the tally-ho’s to his racy Act One Finale, the “hunt” for Lady Hardcastle’s jewels.”

(Edward Seckerson, The Independent, February 1999)


Selected Songs

All Fools’ Eve sung by the company

Miss Hardcastle’s Wedding & Two Gentlemen of London

Sung by Gina Beck & Akiya Henry

The Catch Club sung by the company

Nonesuch sung by Ian Virgo & the company

Courting the Lady sung by Michael Jibson, Simon Thomas, Gina Beck & Akiya Henry

Act One Finale sung by Sheridan Smith, Neil Clench, Simon Thomas, Michael Jibson, Jaye Jacobs, Ian Virgo, Akiya Henry, Gina Beck & the company

Moonraking sung by Akiya Henry, Michael Jibson & the company

The Decent Thing sung by Gina Beck & Simon Thomas

The Kissing-Dance sung by Emma Trow, Gary Tushaw, Sophie Smith, Spencer Noll & the company

All in a Garden Green sung by Michael Jibson & the company

Beating the Knave sung by Simon Thomas, Akiya Henry, Michael Jibson & the company

Miss Hardcastle’s Wedding (reprise) sung by Gina Beck

Act Two Finale sung by the company


Performance licence from Faber Music here.








The Kissing Dance poster 2Mrs Hardcastle, The Kissing Dance

Key information:

Text: Charles Hart (lyricist)

Première: 1998, Brighton Festival: National Youth Music Theatre

Availability: Performance materials on hire from Faber Music (, rights licensed by Faber Music Copyright Dept (