“ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE” SHAINA TAUB’S MUSICAL VERSION OF ‘AS YOU LIKE IT’ ARRIVES FOR THE HOLIDAY
DIRECT FROM THE PUBLIC THEATRE THIS NEW MUSICAL FEATURES SOME ROCKING NEW FOLK POP MUSIC FEATURING A TALENTED CAST OF GENDER FLUID ACTORS
Review by Vince Mediaa
“How do you make the magic real?” and “All the world's a stage” Jaques tells us at the opening of AS YOU LIKE IT. The San Francisco Playhouse continues their 20th season with a Shakespeare classic. A delightful and warm sharp musical adaptation by Shaina Taub, who wrote the music and lyrics, and book by Laurie Woolery. They both bring a huge cast of Shakes classic characters finally focusing on the sexual diversity of this classic. The new musical is now on stage at the SFPH through Jan 14 2023.
The 100 minute adaptation moves fast and is a stage of sexual discovery and redemption. It proves love comes in all colors and gender. This Shakespeare classic follows exiles making a new life in a strange new place, complicated by lovers-in-disguise. Directed by SFPH Artistic Director Bill English he says “Updating this classic romantic comedy/ Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery have made gender confusion of Rosalind/ Orlando story even more complex. I have become convinced that (Shakespeare) would have thoroughly enjoyed this musical version of his play.”
The story opens with Jaques the melancholy philosopher played the convincing Deanalis Arocho Resto who sings the iconic line “All The World's A Stage” with the entire cast. The story features over 22 new songs, more than any other Shakes play. The gender fluidity is a clear female/male and is emphasized with very diverse casting. Jaques ads “Everybody’s in the show, and nobody’s a pro.”
Taub wrote a score that is all over the spectrum from Country Western to pop folk. The songs are witty and important on themes so needed in new musicals. Orlando played by the gifted Nikita Burshteyn has a number of show stopping numbers and they are charming and moving including “The Man I am Supposed To Be”, “Imagine I am Your Lover”, and the showstopper “For Real.” Burshteyn has that broadway charm and a superb voice. The iconic Rosalind is played by the awesome River Navaile who sings with passion “Rosalind, Be Merry”, “When I Am Your Wife”. Both Burshteyn and Navalile are wonderful in their clever duet “After The Match.”
Bill English's direction is fast paced and fluid, especially with this large cast and the perfect traffic jams of characters that make this musical sparkle. The story follows Rosalind, Celia, Touchstone and Orlando as they escape Duke Frederick played by local favorite Will Springhorn Jr. The story moves to a forested sanctuary city where they learn to become more understanding, loving and better people.
The show’s talented cast sings the uplifting “Under the Greenwood Tree,” with Duke Senior. Many of the featured players get their spotlight in “You Phoebe Me,” a sassy pop number that also features Silva played by the super Sophia Alawi and Phoebe played by the thrilling Emily Dwyer.
The performances are full throttle, especially Ryan Torres as Oliver, his journey in search of identity is fully realized with humor and ache. The charming Wayne Wang finds a lighter side of Adam without losing his pride as Oliver sings “The Lion and the Snake.”
Nicholas Yenson knows how to own a stage and makes for a funny smitten Touchstone, while the accomplished Michael Gene Sullivan makes the perfect Duke Senior the wise father of the story. Sullivan is always elegant on stage searching for his daughter or son as he sings “Under the Greenwood Tree” with the company. Ezra Reaves brings real heart as Andy and Resto is the perfect voice as Jaques. He/she understands that all the world’s a stage with gentleness and a touch of fantasy, as Jaques breaks the fourth wall reminds the characters and audience of their role in this story.
The score is busy under the music direction of award winning Dave Dobrusky and his five member musicians who bring the show a non-stop score. The choreography by Nicole Helfer, was a highlight in the show stopping “For Real”. The costumes by Kathleen Qiu are classic shakes with a black and white tone for the Dukes klan. A gleaming white look was set with one number and the wedding was colorful and a mix of joy. The projections that provided the sets and drops that told the story were designed by Sarah Pihykitt. Stage manager Sarah Marie Selig and her assistant Ada May handled a cast of 28 that flew across the stage moment by moment in different customs.
AS YOU LIKE IT is perfect for the busy Holiday season. The songs don’t always stick with you but the show is fun and presents much needed themes that Shakespeare always had in the undertone of his mixed sex story lines. It was such a joy to see trans actors, POC and gender fluid themes clearly presented by writers Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery. As always this story ends with smiles with the quadruple wedding ceremony. Make sure to bring the couples flowers and cheers. This is a must see.
SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE PRESENTS
AS YOU LIKE IT
A musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
Adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery
Music and lyrics by Shaina Taub
Directed by Bill English
Music Direction by Dave Dobrusky, Choreography by Nicole Helfer
Must Close – January 14, 2023
100 Minutes no intermission
SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE 450 Post St., S.F.
Production Photography by Jessica Palopoli
As You Like It features music direction by Dave Dobrusky, choreography by Nicole Helfer, fight choreography by Will Springhorn Jr., scenic design by Heather Kenyon, costume design by Kathleen Qui, lighting design by Dave Robertson, sound design by James Goode, projections design by Sarah Phykitt, props design by Jos Harrington. Assistant direction is by Marie-Claire Erdynast, and Sarah Selig serves as stage manager, with Ada May as equity assistant stage manager.
FEATURING River Navaille, Nikita Burshteyn, Sophia Alawi, Emily Dwyer, Sophia Alawi Emily Dwyer, Deanalís Arocho Resto, Nicholas Yenson, Ezra Reaves, Abigail Esfira Campbell, Will Springhorn Jr., Ryan Torres, Wayne Wong, Johann Santiago Santos, Jillian A. Smith, Renee Rogoff, Göran Norquist Annie Dick, Johann Santiago Santos, Jillian A. Smith’s, and Bekah Lynn Broas