Music by Denis King - Book and lyrics by Dick Vosburgh

Produced by Arnold House School, St. John’s Wood, London

UPSIDEDOWNIA has its roots in a wacky Christmas poem about a world on a decidedly oddball planet. Originally written by Dick for his grandson and called “Sam Conquers the Backwards Planet”, which itself was inspired by a one act play by W.S. Gilbert called “Topsyturvydom”.

Kings Comment


Premiere: Cockpit Theatre, Lisson Grove, London, 23 March 1998

Directed by: Astrid King and Kate Peters
Design: David Jenkins
Choreography: Jane Stewart
Costumes Supplied by: Paul Elliot
Photographer: Tim Brown
Poster Design: Brian Byfield

[American stage designer David Jenkins, inspired by Matisse and his paper cutting period, conceived the design. Brian Byfield, graphics designer, created the poster. Lesley Ralphs coordinated the year 7 boys to study Matisse and create the artwork which a parent, Timothy Brown, photographer, turned into slides, to be projected on a giant screen constructed by master stage carpenter Dave Quilley. Paul Elliot, producer, offered his warehouse of theatrical costumes. Set and costume design students from RADA and Central School of Drama assisted. Lighting and Sound were designed and run by students from City of Westminster College. Anne Keefe, Broadway stage manager and artistic director, stage managed.]

CAST: 50 boys aged between eight and eleven, 2 adults - 1M, 1W

Ben Scheuringer, Alexander King, Matthew Webber, Anthony Ellis, Ben Diner, Bruno Gil, Andrew Freedman, Callum Little, Richard Mabey, Thomas Cahn, Nicholas Allen, Harry Gooding, Joshua Grabiner, Jilli Gray, Joshua Gray, George Warshaw, George Hicks, Robert Licalzi, Albie Barratt, David Stewart, Justin Bronk, Freddie Fox, Gregory Lass, Timeyin Akerele, Ralph Allen, Daniel Slowe, Alexander Stockler, Bruce Yates, Freddie Warshaw, Justin Gartry, Daniel Grabiner, Alexander Lass, Tom Badenoch, William Castle, Edmund Fokschaner, Sam Melgaard, Matthew Parritt, Jack Pegram, John Coccolatos, Ben Deanfield, Nicholas Edstrom, Dominic Gartry, Simon Hendry, Christian Higham, James Kightley, Peter Robinson, James Simison, Nicholas Tickell


Click on any track name in blue to listen to the track, use the controls on the right hand side to play, pause and stop the audio.


Original cast live video recording - not for public sale


The school production to end all school productions and a lesson, for me at least, in the British Private School Way of Doing Things--or not doing things. The following letter is one I wrote to the then headmaster, an amateur dramatics enthusiast who was incidentally playing one of the two adult roles, “Prince Sebastian the Improbable”.

12 January, 1998

Dear Nicholas,

Re: our phone conversation of last night

Your insistence that “things will sort themselves out” has me worried. It has been my experience in thirty years backstage and onstage that things do not sort themselves out unless somebody does the sorting. The set is not going to magically appear by itself, nor the costumes, nor the props. We need help. Surely the school must have a wealth of parents and teachers with talents or connections. It is essential we put out an SOS for ready, willing, and able volunteers ASAP, otherwise UPSIDEDOWNIA is simply not going to happen. The idea to use the Cockpit Theatre instead of the school gym was a terrific one (yours) and could be such a wonderful opportunity and experience for the boys. We should give them all we’ve got, and all we’ve got at the moment is me, and I can’t do it all.

By the way, Albie Barratt’s mother stopped me in the playground today going demented because we’d fired Albie. I said he hadn’t come to one rehearsal all month, it wasn’t fair on the others. She said she hadn’t known about the rehearsals, meaning Albie either never told her or--anyhow I hired him again. Just so you know.

Also, I need to know soon if you want a beard because we have to order it.

Kind regards,


P.S. Please apologize to the bursar on my behalf for saying “Thank you, darling!” to him when he unlocked the door to the junior school for me. Habit. Sorry. He informed me that he was not anybody’s “darling” and certainly not mine.

Whereupon the following notice went into the Arnold House Newsletter:

"UPSIDEDOWNIA, a new musical by Dick Vosburgh and Denis King, written especially for Arnold House, will debut at the Cockpit Theatre in Lisson Grove, March 23 and 24, with Kate Peters and Astrid King co-directing. We are still looking for: a) anyone with any theatrical experience, professional or amateur, to assist in all areas of production; and/or b) anyone who wants to help, period. Funny script, nice tunes, big cast, nice voices. A good time will be had by all. In theory. If interested, please ring Astrid King."

Ring they did. The following notice went out to all the eager backstage helpers as opening night drew near:

from Astrid King - March 9, 1998

1) I had nothing to do with casting.

2) I have nothing to do with tickets.

3) Saturday 21, March, is the Get-In. The entire cast of 50 will be required for a full “technical run”, meaning lights, sound, scene changes, costume changes etc. YOUR SON HAS TO BE THERE.

4) Please confiscate any Game Boys or hand held electronic games. Entrance cues are being missed.

5) Need someone to organize lobby display of the Year 7 collages not being used for slides (i.e. the rejects but don’t call them that).

6) Need team to organize dressing rooms. 2 for principals, 1 for chorus. Jilli Gray will be dressing in the electrics cupboard. BBS (beg borrow steal) clothes rails, mirrors, folding tables, chairs. Don’t seat Robert Licalzi next to Matthew Webber or you’ll be sorry.

7) Need team to help as dressers, with make-up, and maintaining order in the dressing rooms. See above. Suggest two alsations and tranquilizer darts.

8) All backstage volunteers must be available Saturday through Tuesday. NO EXCEPTIONS so think hard before you raise your hand. Please wear trainers or non-noisy shoes. NO HEELS.

9) Please do not go to the Cockpit Theatre to look at the stage before we’re officially there. They’re getting annoyed.

10) I am having a wonderful time working with the boys. They are keen, excited, and as the big move to the real theatre approaches, beginning to give it all they’ve got. All we need now is to get them to give it in the right order and so that we can hear them.


NOTE: The gym won’t bet free on Wed due to Judo trials so ACT 2 run-thru with full cast will be in the porto cabin (if we can fit Denis’ keyboard in).
Many thanks!"

UPSIDEDOWNIA was an unmitigated success. But then, what school production isn’t?   Astrid King

Fact of the Day
The first song Denis ever wrote, music and lyrics, he called himself Andy Prince--for reasons he is now unable to recall--but it was recorded by Doris Day.
Listening Post
'Ow's Abaht