A FUN ROMP AND MUSICAL WHERE THE BOYS AND GIRLS BRING SHAKESPEARE TO A PARTY
The Douglas Morrisson Theatre continues their 2015-2016 Season: REVELATIONS, with the first Northern California production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” on their Hayward stage through November 29th. This 2013 adaptation by “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” fame Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers sets the classic play to pop songs and the love storyline at a college reunion. Timbers, who wrote the book says, “We had this idea that we wanted to set the show at a five-year college reunion, because I was thinking who are kings and princesses today and they're sort of privileged kids that go to Brown University or Wesleyan, or other schools like that, and to set the show at that moment in your mid-20s when you feel that urge to grow up but sort of feel that sense of you have no idea how to do that, that was something that I wanted to capture.” Skillfully directed by the founder of LIvermore Shakespeare festival, Lisa Tromovitch she has assembled a top notch talented cast. Tromovitch says “ What a joy (to do) a musical version of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays LLL, it is a privilege to direct the first production in northern California.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is not one of Shakes popular works and it Is not performed much,
but this comedy takes on a musical format that works and is very fun. Updated to a college setting it is sort of a buddy comedy musical about four friends who get that a guy is no real man until he grows up. Michael Friedman has written a humorous re take inspired songs for this bromance but mainly for the guys, who barely make eye contact with the girls. The story is still charming and classic Shakes sit com style, as a King and his three pals make a promise not to date women for three years. They lock up the props of their youth, beer cans, bongs, and condoms. Of course the classic storyline tale, as soon as they agree on the oath a princess and her crew arrive and love and shenanigans takes over. The dialogue is contemporary lyrics and a mix of Shakespeare's words. Rio Martinez is one of the kings bro’s Berowne, who opens with “Young Men” who sings about being 30. Martinez has a capable voice and all the guys headed by the young King played by local favorite Nick Sears fill the Douglas Morrison with the pop tunes. “Academia” is a highlight of the first act featuring the four pals Martinez, Sears, Chris Cruz as the goofy Longaville, and snarky Dumaine is Nick Louie, in a fun impressive tune choreographed by Laura E. Ellis. The gents fighting the fact that they are now men but “boy band” is a better subtext for their fun.
Danny Martin is perfect as the personal assistant for the girls, Boyet. He is sassy funny and his costume by Daisy Neske-Dickerson has just the right glam. The very talented Lizzie Moss is the Princess, along with her entourage of party girls, they open with “Hey Boys” and it is full of heels and pop that keep the first act so fun to watch. Moss has one of the strongest voices in the company and is charismatic on stage alongside Regina Morones as the satirical Rosaline. Kaylyn Dowd's as Katherine is a bit of a lush but amusing, Jordan Kersten's as the smiling Maria keeps the guys guessing and when the girls join in to sing “It’s Not a Good Idea” catchy anthem. Tromovitch keeps her large cast moving, as the ensemble moves on and off stage as fast as the many songs come and go.
There are many notable performances to mention as this story has a cast of more than 16 including Daniel the cat. Amber Sommerfeld is delightful as Moth a jester servant who has an excellent song with Daniel “I Love Cats” - as always a live animal on stage can upstage and Dan’s meows are perfect timing. The talented Jepoy Ramos plays the second servant Costard and proves to have one of the strongest male voices in the cast, his solo in “Rich People” is excellent. The very funny Shauna Shoptaw and Bruce Kaplan play Holofernes and Nathaniel two college professors in the mix who keep the boys guessing. Martie Muldoon is on a Segway riding throughout the two hour musical who is a security guard named Dull. The Segway gives the set that in touch look as designed by Martin Flynn who uses the open space well for the outdoor deck look.
The band is on stage, in party mode dressed in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops headed by conductor Christopher David Hewitt and his five member patio band, that features a marching Tuba in the second act. Music Director Daniel Feyer works with a talented cast and mostly a pop score, and at least at opening night, the female cast is booming. The boys were a bit off, but I am sure that will improve. The lighting designed by Allen Willner, is open and bright since the show takes place on an outdoor setting. Some of the “Townies” in the cast need a mention, Armando, a harlequin older Spanish gent played with clowning class by DMT favorite Ronnie Tanon, and his crush Jaquenetta, played with skillful comic timing by Pamela Ballin. She is a powerhouse as Jaquenetta and sings “Love’s A Gun” and continues to prove the boys need to grow up. Morones final song as Rosaline is outstanding “Stop Your Heart” is a show stopper. Heren Patel has a small but elegant entrance as Mercade, and performs in some of the clever dance numbers by the talented Ellis.
As the four guys finally get the guts to call themselves men in the song “Are You a Man’ we get to hear one of the classic Shakespearean lines “Women are the books, the arts, the academy's”. It is one clever song after another and continues to the very brassy “The Tuba Song” lead by Christian Palacios. The fun boy band and girl fan chorus are a delight and it is a welcome to see DMT do one of their first Shakes productions with such a wonderful new take on a classic. Start your Holiday season with this charming fun party, you will fall for the bromance and any labors of love for the girls.
Douglas Morrisson Theatre presents
Susan E. Evans, Artistic Director
'LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST'
A New Musical By
Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers,
based on play by William Shakespeare,
Directed by Lisa Tromovitch, Music Direction Daniel Feyer and Christopher David Hewitt
Through Nov. 29
Douglas Morrisson Theatre, 22311 North Third St., Hayward
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission
Tickets: $29-$32; 510-881-6777, www.dmtonline.org
photos by Terry Sullivan