There’s family dysfunction, fighting siblings and a tyrannical, vain father who insists on having his way or else bloodshed will result. No, not outtakes from Tiffany Trump’s nuptials, but plotlines from a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
Unless you are a Shakespeare purist, you probably will like it … a lot. From the first notes to the last ones sung by Lucia Padilla Katz as Jacques, it’s delightful. The last scene with the ensemble delivers a welcome and needed boost of happiness – and not just on stage. You may leave the theater singing, humming or smiling.
The subplots include topics that many families will be able to relate to: siblings that don’t get along, the toll wrought by holding on to old grudges, children pushing back against parental restrictions, and the most universal theme of all, love. Young love, unrequited love, mature love, passionate love – it’s all here.
Overall, the cast is wonderful. In particular Abraham Deitz-Green as Orlando, Sofi Pascua as Rosalind, Sophie Liu David as Celia, Claire Guthrie as Silvia, Wilke Macariola as Duke Senior and Sunnie Eraso as Phoebe nail their songs and then some.
“You Phoebe Me” is fun, funny, catchy and very singable. Guthrie, one of its main singers, captures all of the emotion, pain, frustration and love of her character.
“Imagine I’m Your Lover” sung by Deitz-Green and Pascua are believably romantic in this and several other songs they sing together and those they sing alone.
Another essential character is the Forest of Arden, a “mythical sanctuary” for healing, according to the program notes. The characters who inhabit Arden add a hippie dippy, Woodstock-y vibe that counters the seething negativity oozing from Duke Frederick, here played convincingly by Ryder Dean McDaniel. Duke Frederick doesn’t say much, but a little Duke goes a long way.
The dancing, choreographed fight scenes, music, lyrics and dialogue are modern and fresh. The sets are spare and imaginative. The dialogue paints a picture of a lush forest, an enormous and protective greenwood tree and a palace filled with luxury, blind obedience and an absence of free will.
The show opened Friday, Nov. 11 on the stage of the Ethel M. Barber Theater within the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. It is directed by Jessica Fisch, a director and educator based in Chicago.
This adaptation of As You Like It was first produced in 2017 at The Public Theater in New York, and was adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery, with music and lyrics by Taub.
The production runs through Sunday, Nov. 20. Tickets ($6-$10 for Northwestern students, $12 for other students, $25 for Northwestern faculty and staff, $27 for seniors and $30 general public), are available online.