LA Theater Review: AS YOU LIKE IT – THE MUSICAL (Classical Theatre Lab)

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by Tony Frankel on July 16, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

YOU WILL LIKE IT VERY MUCH INDEED

Credit adapter and director Tony Tanner for As You Like It – The Musical; he freely adapted Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden comedy into a text that contains the meat of the play with the Bard’s best lines while tossing in some modern references. By doing so, Tanner makes the piece astoundingly accessible to the untrained ear even as he maintains a reverence for the work. He contributed the original songs and lyrics, which not only further character development and heighten emotion, but speed the plot along as well. The tunes are bouncy, fun and remind us of a good, old-fashioned Broadway musical (plus, he employs perfect rhymes). On top of that, Tanner makes a splendid use of the courtyard space in Plummer Park, craftily guiding his thirteen actors, who fill the set-free area with ease. Throw in some giddy choreography and Mr. Tanner proves that he is something of a miracle. No kidding. Here is a FREE show (thanks to the City of West Hollywood and the Classical Theatre Lab) that manages to be a gloriously pleasurable, amusing and joyous treat while engaging contemporary audiences to fall in love with Shakespeare. Anyone got a problem with that?

OK, OK, it ain’t the Royal Shakespeare Company: there is some curious editing and the delightful costumes by Daniel Mahler range from 1906 knickerbockers to 1940’s dresses, all of which are out of sync with the modern dialogue. But who cares? Paul D. Masterson slathers us with boyish charm as Orlando, Mathew Hennerson is magnetic and commanding as the fool Touchstone (surely he has Burlesque in his patched pants), Jessica Pennington is in fine voice as Rosalind, and Henry Selvitelle is awfully silly as Adam, but man, can that cat sing! The entire company dazzles with soaring harmonies, professionally backed up by music director and arranger David E. Kole.

As You Like It – The Musical - Presented by the City of West Hollywood and Classical Theatre Lab - At Plummer Park and Kings Road Park

Mr. Tanner, who was nominated twice for a Tony, states in his notes, “Shakespeare’s plays themselves don’t need music – they sing and dance as few other plays do, so maybe this is just an attempt on my part to grab his coattails and dance along with him.” Holy Bull’s Pizzle! I would say that this brand of humbleness should be bottled for posterity so that any director who is down-in-the-dumps will remember that it’s perfectly reasonable if your vision is simply to “share the joy.”

photos by Chad Restum

As You Like It – The Musical
Classical Theatre Lab, in association with the City of West Hollywood
Great Hall Courtyard in Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood
through July 31, 2011
Kings Road Park, 1000 N. Kings Rd. in West Hollywood
ends on August 14, 2011
for tickets, call 323.960.5691 or visit Classical Theatre Lab

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