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Billee Taylor

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Billee Taylor

by R. Stephens

Genre: Comedy, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


The story of “Billee Taylor” is based upon an old English marine ballad of the same name. The first act opens at the inn of the Royal George in Southampton, where the villagers have gathered to celebrate the wedding of Billee Taylor and Phoebe Farleigh, a charity girl. The heiress, Arabella Lane, is also in love with Billee, and has offered him her hand, which he has rejected. Her father, Sir Mincing Lane, is going to give the villagers a feast upon the occasion of Billee’s wedding, and invites his friend, Captain Flapper, to attend. The captain accepts, falls in love with Phoebe at sight, and vows Billee shall not marry her. Crab, the tutor, is also in love with Phoebe. In Captain Flapper’s crew is Bill Barnacle, who went to sea “on account of Eliza,” who had been unfaithful to him, and he is ordered by the press gang to carry Billee away, which he does during the wedding festivities.


Lots of pairs of star-crossed lovers and an opportunity for an entire troupe of women to pass themselves off as men (would you cast men or women in these roles?; interesting casting consequences either way).  There’s also some heavier action, such as a shooting and a near execution, which could be treated either comically or darkly.  Unsatisfying denouement.  But there’s some potential in this obscure piece.  You might succeed wildly with a vigorous resurrection of it.


A word of caution:  This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation.  You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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