top of page
'The Desert Song'

Armidale Town Hall

October 1965

Stage Direction by Peg Leask

Musical Direction by Bob Dunn

By Sigmund Romberg. By arrangement with J C Williamson Theatres Ltd.


This story is based on fact and concerns the revolt of the Riffs in 1925-26 against the French protectorate of Morocco in Northern Africa. The Riffs are led by Pierre, a young Frenchman cloaked under the non de plume of the Red Shadow. The French Foreign Legionnaires, under Captain Paul Fontaine (the Red Shadow's rival in love and war), discover the Riff's hideout in the mountains but fail to capture them. They bring the news to General Birabeau, the Moroccan Governor, who makes arrangements for Margot and Paul to marry, hoping to avert complications caused by the native dancer, Azuri's persistent attentions to Paul. Pierre however presents himself to Margot as the Red Shadow and declares his love for her. Arrangements for Margot and Paul's marriage continue and in desperation, the Red Shadow and his band attack the house and bear off Margot and Susan captives to the harem of Ali Ben Ali.

There, the Red Shadow again tries to win Margot's love but is betrayed by Azuri, who treacherously brings General Birabeau to the Palace to rescue Margot. The General, ignorant that the Red Shadow is his own son, challenges him to a duel but Pierre refuses to fight, leaving the way open for Margot's rescue and his own expulsion from the Riff band for cowardice. He is cast into the desert to die but as "Pierre" is rescued by the Legionnaires, who believe he has killed the Red Shadow. Back at the fort, Margot, hearing the strains of "The Desert Song" at last realises Pierre's dual personality.


French Morocco, 1925.


Act I

Scene 1: Retreat of the Red Shadow in the Riff Mountains. Evening. 
Scene 2: Outside General Birabeau's House. The same evening.
Scene 3: Room in General Birabeau's House. A few minutes later.

Act II

Scene 1: Room in General Birabeau's House. The same evening.


Scene 1: The Harem of Ali Ben Ali. Afternoon of the following day.
Scene 2: A corridor. A few minutes later.
Scene 3: The room of the Silken Couch.
Scene 4: The edge of the desert. The following morning, half an hour before dawn.
Scene 5: Courtyard of General Birabeau's house. Two days later.


Act I

Prelude and Feasting Song - Sid and Riff chorus
'The Riff Song' - Red Shadow, Sid and Riffs
Opening Chorus (reprise) - Sid and Riffs
'The Riff Song' (reprise) - Red Shadow and Sid
'Margot' - Paul and Soldier's chorus
'I'll be a buoyant girl' - Susan and Edith
'Why did we marry soldiers' - Soldier's wives
'French Military Marching Song' - Margot and girls
'Romance' - Margot and girls

Act II

'Then you will know' - Pierre, Margot and chorus
'I want a kiss' - Paul, Margot, Pierre and chorus
'It' - Bennie, Susan and dancing girls
'The Desert Song' - Margot and Red Shadow


'My Little Castagnette' - Clementina and Spanish girls
'Song of the Brass Key' - Clementina, Ali Ben Ali and Spanish girls
Spanish Dance - Dancing girls
'Song of the Brass Key' (reprise) - Clementina, Margot and Spanish girls
'One Good Boy Gone Wrong' - Bennie and Clementina
'Let Love Go', 'One Flower', 'One Alone' (Concerted number) - Ali Ben Ali, Sid, Red Shadow and Riffs
'Sabre Song' - Margot and Red Shadow
'Desert Song' (reprise) - Margot and Red Shadow
'Farewell' and 'Hymn to Allah' - Red Shadow, Mindar and Riffs
'All Hail to the General' - Birabeau, Paul, Margot and girls
'It' (reprise) - Susan and Bennie
'Dance of Triumph of Azuri' - Soldier's chorus

CAST (in order of appearance)

Sid El Kar, The Red Shadow's Lieutenant: Ken Field, Mindar, Leading member of the Red Shadow's Band: Bill Pearson, Sentinel: Ken Johnson, Hadji, A Riff farmer: Ilford Keena, Hassi: Leading member of the Red Shadow's band: Douglas Hewitt, Neri, Hadji's wife: Betty Brown, Red Shadow, Pierre Birabeau: Ken Dixon,Benjamin Kidd, Society correspondent for French Press: Bruce Leman, Azuri, A native dancer: Rosalie Fairhall, Paul Fontaine, Captain in the French Foreign Legion: Arthur Lockley, La Vergne, Lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion: Peter Hutchinson, De Boussac, Sargeant in the French Foreign Legion: David Robins, Edith, A soldier's wife: Betty Finch, Susan, Bennie's secretary: Jennifer Hutchinson, Margot Bonvalet, Guest of General Birabeau: Lois Goodbody, General Birabeau, Governor of French Morocco: Howard Wheaton, Nogi, Harem guard: Peter Poggioli, Clementina, A Spanish "Lady": Norma Bell, Ali Ben Ali, Caid of a Riff tribe: Arthur Robins

Soldiers' Wives and Spanish Girls: Margaret Annis, Betty Brown, Lyn Cameron, Margaret Coggan, Jan Cole, Els Coventry, May Croaker, Carol Dunkin, Susan Gledhill, Wendy Greet, Joyce Harrision, Ann Haydon, Barbara Johnson, Lorraine Jurd, Diana Madden, Helen Mozeley, Deidre Poulton, Frances O'Brien, Judy Reece, Marie Rowland, Beryl Sattler, Judy Sewell, Jan Simpson

Harem Guards of Ali Ben Ali: Peter Jackson, Roger Patricks, Servant of General Birabeau: Jack Eaton

Dancing Girls: Sue Behrend, Denise Duffy, Elizabeth Gallagher, Phyllis Hunt, Margaret Merrick, Helen Placing, Jan Simpson, Jenny Waters

Members of Red Shadow's Band and Soldiers of the French Foreign Legion: Peter Hutchinson, Bill Jensen, Ken Johnson, Peter Jurd, Ilford Keena, John Moran, Bill Pearson, Barry Pierce, Peter Poggioli, Ray Poulton, David Robins, David Sawkins, Terry Smith, Dick Speer


Violins: Lois Kesteven (Leader), Chris Bettle, Eunice Allingham, Isabel Dupre, Father Kenny, Florence Brereton, Viola: Leonard Bell, Cello: Elizabeth Lewis, Bass: Charles Granfield, Flute: Margaret Hawkins,Oboe: Evan Lewis, Clarinets: Jim Hawkins, Leo Atherton, James Ridsdell-Smith, Trumpets: Lyle Peter, David Shardlow, Tympani: Mainie Atherton, Piano: Betty McEachern


Stage Direction: Peg Leask
Musical Direction: Bob Dunn
Stage Manager: John Wiseman
Assistant Stage Manager: Rex Wirth
Stage Crew: Peter Belson, Maurice Royal, Eric Smith, Hamish Sutherland, Col Graham, Brian Coggan, M Pearson
Lighting: Harry Wadleigh
Lighting Assistants: H Stock, J Overell
Scenery Designer and Painting of Sets: Fred Roberts assisted by Mrs Drummond, Mrs Eberle, Mrs Hawke, Mrs O'Farrell, Brian Coggan, Maurice Royal
Scene Construction: P Belson, J Coventry, A Finch, P Hutchinson, R Grigg, B Leman, E Smith, R Wirth, I Keena, J Wiseman, H Wheaton, R Dunn
Make-up: Pat Eberle, Ilona Eberle
Choreography: Rosalie Fairhall
Costumes: Muriel Jensen
Properties: Clare Dawson assisted by Beryl Richardson
Poster Design: Enid Brennan
Programme Cover: Peter Sourry 
Photography: Frank Anderson 
Business and House Manager: John Greet 
Publicity: Jim Edwards
Refreshments: Doreen Keena


Armidale Technical College for rehearsal venue, Armidale Newspaper Co, Radio Station 2AD

bottom of page