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Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing is Pretty Much Everything.

Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing is Pretty Much Everything.

Thank you to Joseph Papp and the Public Theater for the vision of doing this year after year. It is a truly amazing gift to the city of New York from the Public (and its generous sponsors); free-to-all Shakespeare in Central Park at the gorgeous Delacorte Theater with an ever and constantly astounding array of talent and celebrity.  This year’s Much Ado About Nothing, as directed with skill and sass by the phenomenally gifted Kenny Leon (Broadway’s American Son) and glorious choreography by the talented Camille A. Brown (Broadway’s Choir Boy), finds a playing field of originality and festivity within Shakespeare’s sacred text. Fortunately, I was able to slip in, thanks to the Public’s press department, just in the nick of time, and blessed with the chance to see the second to last performance of this magnificently fun recreation, one that, happily, was being filmed the same night for broadcast on PBS (Thank the Gods for that divine bit of love and theatricality).

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGWritten by William Shakespeare Directed by Kenny Leon
Danielle Brooks and Grantham Coleman. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

For the night’s theatrical gift, I will forever be truly thankful for, as this production plays and flies through the text with ease and joy, lead by the strong and gifted Danielle Brooks (Broadway’s The Color Purple) as feisty Beatrice falling for and fighting with the handsome and ridiculously charming Grantham Coleman (Public’s Buzzer) as her wise-ass equal in love and sting, Benedick.  Every word and phrase flowing from their lips read authentically and clear, finding honest humor and charge in every moment. It’s smart and strong, especially when smacked upside with the unfairness of a women’s value and worth being seen as so fragile and easily broken solely based on the dastardly words of a scoundrel and trickster.

The two fighting lovebirds are equally but perpendicularly matched with a stunningly lovely and well defined Hero, played beautifully by Margaret Odette (Off-Broadway’s The Convent), a handsome and spirited Jeremie Harris (2ST’s King Liz) as the complicated Claudio, a galant Billy Eugene Jones (Broadway’s The Big Knife) as cupid’s captain, Don Pedro, and a dynamic Chuck Cooper (Broadway’s The Life) as Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle, Leonato.  It’s a gloriously performed piece, even the dastardly Don John, played well and deviously by Hubert Point-Du Jour (Public’s Tiny Beautiful Things) and his side kicks in mischief, the henchmen Barachio (Jaime Lincoln Smith) and Conrade (Khiry Walker).

On a lovely summer’s night in New York City, with a cool breeze and a starry sky, there is pretty much no better way to spend an eve then at the Delacorte. I’m sorry to say the chance to see this wonderfully crafted reinvention of one of Shakespeare’s finest has passed (it closed last night), but the next is coming soon. So pay attention, you New Yorkers, get yourself to the park and see the upcoming Coriolanus revving up it’s bloody engines next month. The tickets are free and they are pretty easy to get (the noon lottery at the Public is my recommendation), so make sure take advantage of this gift, and get thee to some Shakespeare in the Park.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGWritten by William Shakespeare Directed by Kenny Leon
Margaret Odette, Jeremie Harris, Billy Eugene Jones, and Chuck Cooper. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kenny Leon

FEATURING
Jamar Brathwaite (Ensemble), Danielle Brooks (Beatrice),Grantham Coleman (Benedick), Chuck Cooper (Leonato),Javen K. Crosby (Ensemble), Denzel DeAngelo Fields (Ensemble), Jeremie Harris (Claudio), Tayler Harris (Ensemble), Erik Laray Harvey (Antonio/Verges), Kai Heath (Messenger), Daniel Croix Henderson (Balthasar), Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Friar Francis/Sexton), Tiffany Denise Hobbs (Ursula), Lateefah Holder (Dogberry), LaWanda Hopkins (Dancer), Billy Eugene Jones (Don Pedro),Margaret Odette (Hero), Hubert Point-Du Jour (Don John), William Roberson (Ensemble), Jaime Lincoln Smith (Borachio), Jazmine Stewart (Ensemble), Khiry Walker (Conrade/Ensemble), Olivia Washington (Margaret), and Latra A. Wilson (Dancer)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGWritten by William Shakespeare Directed by Kenny Leon
The company of the Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenny Leon, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through June 23. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

CREATIVE TEAM
Choreography Camille A. Brown (NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live!)
Scenic Design Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s Come From Away)
Costume Design Emilio Sosa (Public’s Miss You Like Hell)
Lighting Design Peter Kaczorowski (Public’s Sweat)
Sound Design Jessica Paz (Broadway’s Hadestown)
Hair, Wig, and Make-Up Design Mia Neal (CSC’s Carmen Jones)
Composer Jason Michael Webb (MTC’s Choir Boy)
Fight Director Thomas Schall (Broadway’s The Ferryman)
Voice and Text Kate Wilson (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGWritten by William Shakespeare Directed by Kenny Leon
Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Margaret Odette, Olivia Washington, and Danielle Brooks in the Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenny Leon, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through June 23. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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