Adventures in Shakespeareland; or How Willy Ruined My Life
Adventures in Shakespeareland is a new musical revue based on characters and scenes by you-know-who. There’s a piano onstage, ably played by Sam Schieber, and each new scene is an opportunity for another song. When we see Juliet (Madeline Quandt) on the balcony, with Romeo (Jon Shaffer) gazing upward, they launch into a duet. Actress Christine Nicholson (who just directed Much Ado About Nothing at the Delta King Theatre) camps it up through Cleopatra’s suicide scene with the snake—a hissing Kevin Little wearing a wicker basket—singing all the while.Hamlet provides material for several numbers. There’s the gravedigger, Laertes, the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet himself and something called “To Be or Not To Be Blues.” The latter is sung by a middle-aged actress-lecturer (played by the delightful Martha Omiyo Kight), who also provides the scraps of narration that sort of tie the scenes together. There are also more “serious” settings of sonnets and songs from the plays.
The object of this good-natured fun isn’t simply Shakespeare. It’s the dusty, fusty, “academic” Shakespeare in pumpkin breeches, which has vanished from stages but lives on in memory, fading celluloid and parody. It might have been a fertile idea for a shorter piece or an interlude in a revue hitting on several topics. But at two hours, Adventures is long on froth and short on variety. (To be fair, others enjoyed it more than I did.)
Curiously, this show by Synergy Stage shares numerous traits with the new show at the B Street Theatre. They’re both revues with onstage piano, numerous costume changes, spoofs of famous personalities and corny jokes. Several more shows in this vein are on their way. It’s summer, folks.