A Greek Slave was a musical comedy in two acts, first performed on June 8, 1898 at Daley’s Theatre in London, produced by George Edwardes and ran for 349 performances. The score was composed by Sidney Jones with lyrics by Harry Greenbank and Adrian Ross. The libretto was written by Owen Hall. Additional numbers were composed by Lionel Monckton. It starred Marie Tempest and Rutland Barrington among other popular London stars.
The simple plot of the production was based around the tangled love lives and misunderstandings of a Roman household. The same themes and characterisations would resurface some 70 years later in the Broadway show A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim.
A Greek Slave was in the unfortunate position of following The Geisha, also by Sidney Jones. This was the biggest stage hit of its era. Therefore, A Greek Slave is often remembered as being the show that was not as successful as The Geisha, rather than being appreciated on its own merits. This show is Jones' best score, with additional hit songs by Monckton. The tunes are catchy, and while the lyrics are witty they also show an appreciation of the classical mythology of the set period.
Heliodorus, a Persian soothsayer, looks into the future love lives of his wealthy matrons of Imperial Rome. His daughter Maia pretends to have the gifts of an oracle, and utters incomprehensible prophecies at a suitable price. Among their servants is one Archias, a talented sculptor, whose most recent achievement is a statue of Eros, God of Love, for which his fellow slave Diomed has acted as model. Maia has fallen in love with Diomed. The princess Antonia comes to the soothsayer in disguise and Mafia, egged on by the Prefect Pomponius, who has been spurned by the princess, plans a humiliating trick. She announces to the princess that the God of Love has fallen in love with her. The statue is brought forth, and Heliodorus prepares to 'bring it to life'. Diomed is substituted and serenades the princess. But Heliodorus is planning a double-cross. He disapproves of his daughter's fancy for a slave, and when the seance is over and Maia has intended that Antonia should walk off with the statue, Heliodorus arranges that the real Diomed falls to the princess. But it does her little good. The slave, in his luxurious new surroundings, pines for Maia, and Antonia's love-making goes for nothing. Pomponius, who was anxious to see his marble lady wasting her affection on a marble statue, is furious at the social slight involved, and Heliodorus finds himself in hot water. Eventually, in the middle of the Roman Saturnalia, all is cleared up, and the correct pairs of lovers are united.