By Holli Harms
Luminous moments, electrical sparks of action, movement with precision and beauty, Broadway musical numbers that contain acrobatic acts and defy gravity, defy anything earthly and have you gasping for more, screaming with pleasure at the sights and sounds you’ve just experienced. This is the new musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with music and lyrics by Benjamin Velez, choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher, and directed by Laurie Woolery that is closing out The Delacorte Theater in Central Park for 2023.
I know that were he alive, Shakespeare would not only approve of this production but agree that this was the consummate adaptation of it. You are truly among the spirits, the fairies, the demons, and the heavens sitting outside watching this production.
The Tempest is set on an uninhabited island but for the monster/man Caliban ( Theo Stockman) who, as a child, was left there by his mother, Sycorax, the savage witch. He was abandoned and left with his only companion Aerial, (Jo Lampert) a fairy enslaved by Caliban’s mother. Both are taken in by Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, who was set to sea to die with his daughter Miranda (Naomi Pierre) by his power-hungry brother, Antonio (Anthony Chatmon II), and the King of Naples, Alonso (Joel Frost). Prospero, originally written as the father of Miranda is in this production the mother, played with indescribable brilliance by Renée Elise Goldsberry.
With her magic book and staff, Prospero shipwrecks the vessel carrying her brother and the King leaving them to die as revenge, but they survive and end up on the very island that their friend and sister Prospero was shipwrecked twelve years ago when they sent her away so that Antonio could become the Duke of Milan. Prospero’s daughter, Miranda is now 15 and she and Ferdinand the shipwrecked son of the King fall in love. With their love as a guide, Prospero’s ability to forgive breaks free, and the play ends on a happy note. It ends with dance and music and a special appearance of drummers and dancers by the Oyu Oro Afro Cuban Experimental Dance Ensemble.
The evening opened with a member of The Public Theater’s Public Works welcoming us to the final show on the stage of The Delacorte as it will close right after this production’s run for a much-needed facelift that will last 18 to 24 months. The Public Theater’s Public Works is an artistic program whose goal is to bring together professional actors and Public Works community members from partner organizations across all five boroughs to create the magic of theater. He sang out to us, “The Delacorte Stage is our stage, New York’s stage! It is here for all of us and tonight we will see New York on stage with all its diversity!” And so we did from the remarkably breathtaking opening number that set the evening of magic, mystery, and surprises all the way through to the end with an uproarious standing ovation. The stage was full of what makes New York, New York.
I also have to give a shout-out to David Weiner’s lighting, it was as if he had harnessed the stars lighting up the evening with color and gusts of shine.
Not holding anything back, this production of The Tempest is perfect. The actors, chorus, choreography, songs, and direction are all, perfect. Please, Public Theater move this! This needs to be shared with as many as possible. This stunning production with the story of family strife and vengeance and anger and deep love and forgiveness, in the world we live in today with its warped sense of fame, power, and greed, is extraordinary to witness and have this presentation of the power of forgiveness.
I left the Delacorte, on that beautiful New York evening knowing I had just experienced one of those performances that transcended theatrical expectations and human limitations. Something I will always remember.
By William Shakespeare Music and Lyrics by Benjamin Velez Choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher Directed by Laurie Woolery
The Equity cast Tristan André (Sebastian), Brianna Cabrera (Spirit Ancestor Lead Singer), Sabrina Cedeño (Trinculo), Anthony Chatmon II (Antonio), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Prospero), Jo Lampert (Ariel), Patrick O’Hare (Spirit Ancestor Lead Singer), Joel Perez (Stephano), Edwin Rivera (Spirit Ancestor Lead Singer), and Theo Stockman (Caliban).
Cast Includes Public Works Community Members From Partner Organizations Across All Five Boroughs and featuring special Cameo Group Performance by Oyu Oro Afro Cuban Experimental Dance Ensemble
Creative Team: Scenic Design Alexis Distler, Costume Design Wilberth Gonzalez, Lighting Design David Weiner, Sound Design Jessica Paz, Orchestration Mike Brun, Music Coordinator Kristy Norter