Saturday, March 5, 2011

TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA • New Line Theatre

This Tony Award winning musical that debuted in 1971 was based on Shakespeare's comedy of the same name -- presumed by many to be his first play.  Not really the Bard's best work, but when adapted into a musical set in the 1970's, this crazy story of love, friendship, betrayal and the fickle nature of humans is brought new life.

We've got Valentine (a soulful voiced Eeyan Richardson) who is about to embark on a journey from the town of Verona to exciting Milan.  He tries to convince his best buddy Proteus (the always uproarious Zachary Allen Farmer) to come along, but Proteus is too in love with Julia (Jeanitta Perkins) to bring himself to leave.  Julia scorns Proteus.  She's "…Not interested in Love" (I find love alarming/I'm happier farming…) until she's "metamorphosed" by love's influence, and she soon falls for him.  Proteus is ordered by his father to go to Milan as well to broaden his horizons, and after he and Julia exchange rings and have a fond, bittersweet farewell, Proteus leaves, heartbroken.  Julia finds out later that that "fond farewell" has resulted in her being knocked up, (an addition to Shakespeare's original story) so she and her friend Lucetta (Terrie Carolan) decide to travel to Milan to tell Proteus in person, but dress as men (becoming the two gentlemen of Verona) to ensure a safe journey.

Zachary Allen Farmer (Proteus),
and Eeyan Richardson (Valentine)
in New Line Theatre's
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Meanwhile in Milan, Valentine has fallen in love with Silvia (a charming Taylor Pietz), the Duke's daughter, and tries to hatch a plan to break up her engagement to Thurio (a very funny Aaron Allen), the wealthy but less than completely manly groom-to-be.  Upon Proteus' arrival in Milan, he too falls in love with Silvia and becomes determined to secure Silvia for himself, betraying Valentine's friendship and his love back home.  Bastard…  When Julia and Lucetta arrive (disguised as fellas), they become employed by Proteus and learn of his plan, and are disgusted.  When asked where they're from they tell Proteus they're from "The Land of Betrayal", but Proteus doesn't recognize his old flame.  Julia's identity is eventually revealed, and well, suffice it to say all's well that ends well.  I mean, I can't give it all away!  It's quite a romp though, and each new development is more entertaining than the last.

Taylor Pietz (Silvia), Eeyan Richardson
(Valentine), Zachary Allen Farmer (Proteus),
and Jeanitta Perkins (Julia)
in New Line Theatre's
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Zachary Allen Farmer, Eeyan Richardson, Taylor Pietz and Tom Conway all give great performances, along with Joel Hackbarth, Mike Dowdy and Aaron Allen.  Jeanitta Perkins' Julia is particularly spot on and her expressions are hilarious as well as those of her travel partner, Terrie Carolan's Lucetta.  The familiar New Line crew, under Scott Miller's direction, never disappoints, and the ensemble members are always completely engaged and energetic.  The show is dotted with some really entertaining numbers including "What Does a Lover Pack?", "Two Gentlemen of Verona", "Night Letter" and a wacky "Thurio's Samba".  I was struck with how familiar the songs sounded and then I remembered, oh yeah, Galt MacDermot did the music for this.  He also composed the music for HAIR, and the music for TWO GENTS is very reminiscent of that (with a little Spanish spice thrown in) -- engaging, groovy, and the New Line Band was tight and handled it well.  The choreography by Robin Michelle Berger was fun to watch, and the set by Todd Schaefer provided multiple levels for the cast to play around in.  Lighting design by Christopher Waller and costumes by Thom Crain kept it light, funky, and doused with a good-time 70's vibe.  After a while, you forget that it's Shakespeare.  And I mean that in a good way.


The cast of New Line Theatre's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

Book by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, based on the play by William Shakespeare
Lyrics by John Guare
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed by Scott Miller
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through March 26 | tickets: $10 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Cast:
Zachary Allen Farmer (Proteus), Eeyan Richardson (Valentine), Jeanitta Perkins (Julia), Taylor Pietz (Silvia), Joel Hackbarth (Launce), Mike Dowdy (Speed), Terrie Carolan (Lucetta), Tom Conway (The Duke of Milan), Aaron Allen (Thurio/Antonio), Michael Jones (Eglamour), Kimi Short (Milkmaid), Mara Bollini, Rahamses Galvan, Emily Ivy and Michelle Sauer.

Creative:
Choreography by Robin Michelle Berger; scenic design by Todd Schaefer; costume design by Thom Crain; lighting design by Christopher Waller.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Justin Smolik; guitar, D. Mike Bauer; bass, Dave Hall; percussion, Clancy Newell; trumpet, Cliff Phillips; reeds, March Strathman; trumpet/guitar, Patrick Swan.

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