Sinatra Bids Farewell, Shakespeare Waits on the Horizon

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on February 28, 2014

The actors sat around a long table, scripts in hand, well-prepared to read Much Ado About Nothing with cuts already provided, thankfully, by Jim Ryan (Colin’s father).

Back in the day, one would stop and start as actors marked out in their individual paperback copies of the Signet Classics what text was not being used. Sometimes it took awhile to explain the cuts, reread sections for sense and patch together scenes.

I’ve always eliminated all esoteric Elizabethan “in” jokes, as they are now foreign to today’s audiences. Take for example all of the smart quips the four lovers throw out during the Pyramus and Thisbe scene in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Foreign and unfunny, they slow the action down to a crawl.

This season’s Shakespeare offering, our 29th in as many years, is Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado is not one of those “beaten to death” five which make up only a fifth of the Shakespearean canon — Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream — like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which seems to be the only play of poor Oscar’s ever produced. Wilde has four others which are rarely, if ever, performed and are equally as clever and witty.

Much Ado, like Shakespeare’s Dream, is easy to follow, and the story has many characters which appear in other plays. Claudio and Hero are near relations to Romeo and Juliet, while Beatrice and Benedict are not-so-distant cousins of Kate and Petruchio of Taming of the Shrew fame. Hero is a younger Hermione from The Winter’s Tale, and Don John is near to Othello‘s Iago.

It is as if all plots thicken with a different spice, but jealously, love, envy and compassion are so mixed as to rise to all occasions. As someone once wrote, Shakespeare said nothing new — but, ah, how he did say it.

To read and study one of Shakespeare’s plays is to understand them all. To see and witness one live onstage can change the stubbornest of hearts while brushing away the cobwebs of difficulty in understanding.

On the odd Saturday after our School of the Arts class, a devoted coterie of young people — Grace Davis, Cheyenne Deibert, Darci Gautam, Julio Iguina-Pascual, Riley Jenkins, Truman Jepson, Emma Justice, Ashley Knowles, Tommy Lester, Sidney McCarty, Lauren Mund, Madeline O’Connor and Georgia Smith — have been workshopping The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for next season’s mainstage presentation and this summer’s Parks and Rec program. Their love of the work involved is simply awe-inspiring.

We couldn’t find places for all the good people who came to offer their talents for Les Miserables. It did strike me funny, though, that many of the little girls who wanted to play Little Cosette wore high heels to add almost a foot to their height, making them more Carmen Miranda-ready than barefoot Little Cosette.

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra plays its final performances tonight and Saturday at 8pm.

See you at the theatre!

[John McDonald]

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