Sing For Your Shakespeare
By Susan Granger
To celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, this vibrant new musical revue takes, quite literally, what Cole Porter so aptly wrote in “Kiss Me Kate”: “Brush up your Shakespeare. Start quoting him now...”
In its world premiere, the stylish cabaret show explores through song, dance and verse how the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon’s works have shaped the popular American songbook. The 27 segments include familiar show tunes like “Falling in Love with Love” from “The Boys From Syracuse” by Richard Rodgers (music) and Lorenz Hart (lyrics), along with “Maria,” “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). Others are delightfully different, like Frank Loesser’s novelty number, “Hamlet,” originally sung by Betty Hutton in John Farrow’s 1949 movie “Red, Hot and Blue,” and “Ariel,” written by Julie Flanders (lyrics) and Emil Adler (music) as the second track on their first October Project album released by Epic Records in 1993.
The diverse six-member cast includes Karen Akers, Britney Coleman, Darius de Haas, Stephen DeRosa, Constantine Germanacos and Laurie Wells. They not only sing superbly but enunciate every word clearly, no matter how complex the sonnet or verse...a remarkable tribute unto itself!
Co-conceived by Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos, music director Wayne Barker and playwright Deborah Grace Winer, the idea originated at the 92nd Street Y, where Winer is artistic director of the Lyrics & Lyricists concert series. Backed by seven versatile musicians, the creative, if loosely structured revue is set on an elegantly raked stage, designed by Riccardo Hernandez, complete with Elizabethan verses scribbled on the archway, curtain and backdrop. There are glittering lighting effects by Robert Wierzel, playful choreography by Dan Knechtges and graceful costuming by Candice Donnelly.
Running 90 minutes with no intermission, “Sing For Your Shakespeare” is terrific. Rejoice in this unique, festive frolic at the Westport Country Playhouse through June 28. For more information, call (203) 227-4177 or toll-free 1-888-927-7529 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.