LEAVE IT TO PSMITH
by P.G. Wodehouse & Ian Hay
"Hallo, Dad! Tossing the Caber?” Freddie Bosham queries, strolling into the drawing room of Blandings Castle.
This is how the audience is introduced to the Honorable Frederick Bosham, youngest son of the Earl of Middlewick, and the central figure of Leave It to Psmith. This past summer, Acies was excited to extend their youth group to now include Excelsior Theater Company, a drama club for young adults. Word about the play spread around mid-spring, resulting in auditions on June 12. Beginning with table reads in late June, the cast then worked hard over an intense, compressed rehearsal schedule, which spanned a total of seven weeks and nineteen practices. The process was grueling at times - with three and a half hour-long practices and back-to-back rehearsals during tech week. Yet, fun and laughter were always at the forefront of this production, especially as the entire cast fully embraced their characters, and, soon enough, it was opening night.
As with any production, small mistakes and improvisations were made throughout the performances, but the audience reveled in Wodehouse’s brilliant comedic writing, augmented by the talent of each actor’s delivery. Performances were met with raving reviews as audience members went to social media, declaring
“... it was so well acted and was pretty humorous! I would definitely put it in my top 3 favorite performances in McCabe… It was very entertaining and time flew by.”
The cast themselves stated that they had an amazing time on stage - a quality which was clearly evident in their delivery and enthusiasm. While a few minor details could have used some improvement, it was incredible to see Excelsior Theater Company and the director both pull off their first production with such amazing success. We hope that with such a hit as Leave It To Psmith under our belt, we will continue to see more of Excelsior Theater Company in the future and are looking forward to seeing what they have in store next… Congratulations to the cast and crew of Leave It To Psmith, especially the directors, Dominic Brown and Maria Merz!
If you are interested in becoming a part of Excelsior Theater Company, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Set in 1930s England, the story of Leave It to Psmith follows a weekend at Blandings Castle involving a set of priceless jewels, a half-blind lord who’s continually losing his glasses, imposters masquerading as guests and servants, and crooks out to make the heist of a lifetime - a great recipe for hilarious comedic ruckus.
The company in question is led by Frederick Bosham, a light-minded youth who discovers that he needs L5000 to marry his girlfriend Phyllis Jackson and is willing to get the money by any means necessary - barring all shady disreputable crimes, of course. Though just as eager to get married, Phyllis is skeptical of Freddie's plan to steal his stepmother’s necklace, especially since her future stepmother-in-law has a special dislike for both her and her family. According to Lady Anastasia Middlewick, nothing could ruin Freddie’s future more than this proposed marriage, and she will not allow it. Clearly, her mind is highly preoccupied between her legal victory in procuring the Dulworthy diamonds from her cousin Ethelberta FitzWiggin and the grand party that she is planning for Miss Aileen Peavey and Mr Ralston McTodd.
Amidst the chaos, Lord Eustace Middlewick putters about: first looking for his glasses, and then unsuccessfully attempting to curb the lavish whims of his wife. When both of his parents refuse to lend him money, Freddie determines that, despite Phyllis’ reservations, the only solution to the problem is to steal the necklace.
Enter Ronald Eustace Psmith - once wealthy, now penniless and looking for a job, any job... provided it has nothing to do with fish. He agrees to meet Freddie at the Green Park Tube Station to discuss the terms of the jobs, and so the setting shifts to London.
There, we witness the reunion of two very dear friends: Cynthia McTodd and Eve Halliday. The first is frantically searching for her temperamental husband Ralston, who has abandoned her for the third time in six months; the latter is a journalist hoping to secure a position at Blandings Castle as a librarian. Perceiving Cynthia’s hysteria, Eve convinces her friend to depart, promising to find her husband and send him back a reformed man. Heavy rain, however, prevents Eve from leaving the station, leading instead to an encounter with Psmith. Seeing Eve standing in the rain, Psmith pinches Mr. Walderwick’s umbrella from the Morpheus Club for her. Eve then departs, and Psmith is beset by a swindler Eddie Cootes. However, our hero isn’t easily duped and quickly intimidates Cootes. Freddie finally arrives and, having recognized Psmith, the two conspirators head to the Morpheus Club to hatch a plan.
At the club, we discover that Lord Middlewick has, once again, mislaid his glasses. Psmith returns the umbrella to a distressed Walderwick and reveals his plan to get Freddie’s L5000 by staging a fake robbery. Lord Middlewick infuriates Ralston McTodd with his ceaseless chatter and his obsession with brussel sprouts, causing the American poet to leave the Club in a huff. Lord Middlewick, oblivious without his glasses, assumes that Psmith is McTodd, and Psmith kindly plays along. He is further delighted to find that Miss Eve Halliday is to accompany them to Blandings Castle. Lord Middlewick introduces them to each other, and Eve reveals that she knows his wife.
Back at Blandings Castle, Lady Middlewick has an exciting evening planned: Miss Peavey and Psmith, in the guise of McTodd, are to recite their poetry for her guests. Meanwhile, she proudly walks about, displaying her newly inherited Dulworthy Diamonds, to second-cousin Ethelberta’s absolute chagrin. Psmith has difficulty remembering that he is McTodd, and Aileen Peavey waltzes on stage, rambling about fairies and angels. Psmith finally gets a moment alone with Eve, who - believing that he is McTodd - tries to amend his relationship with Cynthia. At the same time, ever-suspicious Baxter gives proof to Freddie that McTodd is an imposter, alarming Freddie who believes that all their plans have been ruined. Psmith overhears and reassures Freddie. Cootes makes an appearance, attempting to impersonate McTodd, but Psmith unmasks him and directs him to leave.
Aileen Peavey sneaks back on stage, and Cootes recognizes her as his former accomplice, Smooth Lizzie. The two quickly realize that Psmith isn’t McTodd either and, under the persuasion of Cootes’ gun, convince Psmith to let Cootes stay at Blandings as his valet. Miss Peavey then shares her plan to steal the diamonds with Cootes. Lady Middlewick and party return with the addition of more guests, a riled Eve hints to Psmith that she's aware of his con, and Lord Middlewick gives a speech. Just when the audience is thoroughly confused, the lights go out, the Dulworthy diamonds are stolen from Lady Middlewick, and Peavey faints from the excitement. Or… was it all part of the plan, and did she actually steal the necklace and pass it to Cootes outside during the commotion?
Chaos ensues, resulting in the entire party going offstage to be searched. Believing the plan to be successful, Peavey and Cootes get ready to clear out - only to find that, once again, Cootes has miffed up the job. Suddenly, Psmith appears on the terrace, necklace in hand. Peavey and Cootes attempt to nab him, but he fires his gun, and the dinner party rushes back onstage.
The final act opens with Eve searching Psmith’s bedroom for the stolen necklace while everyone else is at a foundation stone laying. Freddie makes an unexpected appearance, and Eve is compelled to declare that Psmith is a crook. She then reveals that she was the one who swiped the necklace from Cootes, only for it to be picked up by Psmith. Adamant to recover the jewelry, Freddie and Eve wreak havoc in the room, when Psmith himself appears. First, he locks Freddie in the staircase and then confronts Eve. Admitting his con, he willingly returns the diamonds to Eve and reveals his true name. Romance is in the air, when Peavey and Cootes suddenly burst in, guns waving, and snatch the necklace. They disclose their intent to get married and retire on the loot when Psmith pulls a fast one, landing both the guns and the diamonds. The two crooks then leave, dejected but still very much in love.
Just when Psmith believes he has a moment alone with Eve, the Middlewicks and party burst through the door, demanding the truth about Psmith’s identity. Psmith then cleverly reveals all, presenting red-hot-stuff Freddie as the hero who thwarted Miss Peavey and recovered the Dulworthy diamonds. Lady Middlewick is overjoyed to recover her diamonds; Ethelberta leaves in a huff; and Baxter, finding Psmith’s story suspicious, resigns. Lord Middlewick hires Psmith to replace Baxter, and Psmith discloses that he and Eve are getting married. Bellows arrives to announce that Ethelberta has run off with the Middlewick’s money and jewels, and chaos once again erupts. Lady Middlewick berates her husband for his thieving, petty relatives, and Cynthia McTodd demurely announces her pregnancy to Ralston, who faints from shock. Psmith once again pinches Walderwick’s umbrella, and Eve and himself quietly depart as Freddie proposes to Phyllis.
Such is the hilarious, somewhat convoluted ruckus that makes Leave It To Psmith such a classic. The high-paced plot, magnified by the appearance of characters such as Lord Chipstead, Gladys Rumbelow, Agatha Crofton, and a disgruntled Lift Man, kept the audience dying with laughter from the moment Lord Middlewick stepped on stage to the final curtain. Wodehouse enthusiasts were also rewarded with cameos from Madeline Bassett, Lady Agatha Gregson, Honoria Glossop, as well as Lord Clarence and Lady Julia Emsworth. All in all, Leave It To Psmith marks a potential new era of theater at the McCabe, and we are only too excited to be along for the ride. Here's to many more to come!