Seeing a show like the Public Works Production of The Winter’s Tale at the Delacorte Stage makes you wonder why Shakespeare is not in musical form more often. The combination of Lear de Bessonet’s direction and Todd Almond’s book and music is an astonishing combination. For the second year in a row (lst year’s productioin of The Tempest being the first) they have succeeded in creating a piece of theatre that is superlative on all levels.
And it only runs for three days.
This is a little like those sand sculptures that the monks create, and once it is finished they sweep is up or it is blown asunder by the wind. This is all about love and joy and people getting together for the sheer pleasure of giving.
Featuring Public Works’ signature blend of professional actors, community members, and special guests (Chuck Schumer, the Muppets and Big Bird), this edited version of The Winter’s Tale condenses this story down to a fine feast. Todd Almond’s music (given a particularly glorious turn by Lindsay Mendez as Hermione) is at once engaging and catchy. Every tune has a musical theme that we can latch onto and does some serious work explaining the occasionally baffling series of events. In addition he is a superior Master of Ceremonies – complete with a mourning coat.
Like King Lear this story starts off with a bang. King Leontes (Isaiah Johnson) becomes enraged with jealousy toward his Queen Hermione and their mutual best friend, Prince Polixenes (Michael Roberts). Against the beseeching of the entire world, including a fairly serious pronouncement from the Oracle – the king proceeds with banishing Hermione – who happens to be pregnant. After that it is a Bad Day at Black Rock for the King. His entire family dies – or so he thinks. Fast forward 16 years, but whose counting, and everyone wends their way back to one another via big doings in happy Bohemia that are brought directly to the King’s door.
de Bessonet creates order out of joyful chaos. The members of no less than Sesame Street, New York Theatre Ballet, Capoeira Luanda, Rosie’s Theater Kids, Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, Staten Island Lions, Megha Kalia’s NYC Bhangra Dance Company and the Urban Park Rangers, NYC Parks come together in a glorious meshing that makes you want to leave the stage and join them.
I cannot praise this show highly enough. This is why theatre is magic, and if you should be so lucky as to have time on your hands tonight – get over to the Delacorte.
This is spectacular theatre.
The Winter’s Tale – Conceived and Directed by Lear de Bessonet, Music and Lyrics by Todd Almond.
THE WINTER’S TALE cast of over 200 featured equity actors Todd Almond (Antigonus), Christopher Fitzgerald (Autolycus), Isaiah Johnson (Leontes), Lindsay Mendez (Hermione), and David Turner (Clown), along with Danny Williams as The Bear. The show will feature cameo group performances by Sesame Street, New York Theatre Ballet, Capoeira Luanda, Rosie’s Theater Kids, Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, Staten Island Lions, Megha Kalia’s NYC Bhangra Dance Company and the Urban Park Rangers, NYC Parks. The five Public Works community partner organizations are Children’s Aid Society (Manhattan); DreamYard Project (Bronx); Fortune Society (Queens); Brownsville Recreation Center (Brooklyn); and Domestic Workers United (all boroughs, including Staten Island).
The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) will begin free performances for the community-based Public Works production of Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE, conceived and directed by Obie Award winner Lear deBessonet, with music and lyrics by Todd Almond, and choreography by Chase Brock on Friday, September 5. This original musical adaption will run for three nights only through Sunday, September 7 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Free tickets will be distributed, two per person, at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the show at the Delacorte Theater and via the Virtual Ticketing lottery at www.publictheater.org.