Audience members walking into Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater for As You Like It are immediately met with a completely immersive experience. The stage has transformed into a wrestling ring, and Charles the Champion Wrestler (Austin Eckert) knows how to win over the crowd. Colorful lights flash, and music from the 60s booms through the theater. Touchstone (Kayvon Khoshkam) is the MC, and if the audience is not excited enough, he will be sure to rectify that situation. Wrestlers approach to challenge Charles in the ring, but it’s easy to see that no one stands a chance. He even takes moments in between opponents to flirt with the crowd, ensuring they know whose side they are on. You may even find yourself shouting words of encouragement from your seats as the spectacle unfolds.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Presents As You Like It
William Shakespeare’s comedy follows Rosalind (Lakeisha Renee), a woman who runs to take refuge in the forest with her cousin, Celia (Melanie Brezill). Her love Orlando (Liam Quealy) also escapes to the forest , But there is a twist. Rosalind is now disguised as a man, and takes it upon herself to teach Orlando how to woo the woman of his dreams – who happens to be her. Those familiar with Shakespearean comedies will recognize the many twists and turns that come about through misunderstandings, deception, and young lovers who simply want to find their happy ending.
There is even more of a twist with this production. This adaptation is a musical, featuring famous hit songs from the Beatles including She Loves You, Let it Be, All You Need is Love, and so much more. The romantic comedy is thrust into the 60s, and if you are a Beatles fan, you may even find yourself bopping along in your seat and wanting to sing along.
Clever Musical Adaptation
You may be wondering how the Beatles integrates into Shakespeare’s text. It’s absolutely seamless in this reviewer’s opinon. Imagine this…
When Orlando makes his way into the forest, he takes it upon himself to express his love through bad poetry that he posts on the trees. He is overcome with emotion, and suddenly bursts into the Beatle’s hit Do You Want to Know a Secret? Quealy’s is no stranger to rock scores, and as he sings he dances around the stage, jumping on trees, and finding moments of the score to share with specific audience members throughout the space. Suddenly everyone is in on the secret, which adds to the experience of seeing how characters interact with the poetry in the scenes that follow. The music helps create a new access point, perhaps especially helpful to those who struggle with Shakespearean language otherwise, is this writer’s thought.
It should be no surprise that a Shakespeare comedy ends with a flurry of weddings in which the lovers tie up their loose ends. Director Daryl Cloran’s adaptation highlights this joyful moment with the Beatles classic, All You Need is Love. At first, only the performers are singing, and we rejoice in feelings of closure and love as we finally watch these couples find their way to each other after so many mishaps throughout the story. Soon, when the song picks up, the performers invite the audience to clap and sing along, which we were so primed to do.
After a year and a half of virtual theater, this writer found herself tearing up at the community forming to celebrate this live performance. Judging by the audience response, it’s easy to see that this writer was not the only one swept up in the story and experience.
Stellar performances and a standout score make As You Like It a performance you do not want to miss.
Running through December 5, 2021
Wednesdays at 1:00pm and 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Musical numbers from The Beatles songbook featured in the production include (in show order):
- “Money (That’s What I Want)”
- “We Can Work It Out”
- “She Loves You”
- “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
- “I Saw Her Standing There”
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
- “I Am the Walrus”
- “The Fool on the Hill”
- “Let It Be”
- “Do You Want to Know a Secret”
- “Eight Days a Week”
- "And I Love Her"
- “When I’m Sixty-Four”
- “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
- “Love Me Do”
- “Can’t Buy Me Love”
- “Got to Get You into My Life”
- “Helter Skelter”
- “Good Day Sunshine”
- “Here Comes the Sun”
- “Across the Universe”
- “All You Need Is Love”
About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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