Photo Flash: First Look at THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) presents William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines. Embraced by audiences as one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor is an energetic romp with the lovable rogue Sir John Falstaff, performed by Scott Jaeck, as he charms and conspires against the townspeople of Windsor, only to be outsmarted by Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, performed by Kelli Fox and Heidi Kettenring. Chicago Shakespeare's production will transport audiences to post-war England in the late 1940s with a soundtrack of spirited dance music. The Merry Wives of Windsor will run in CST's Courtyard Theater now through January 19, 2014. BroadwayWorld has a first look at the cast in action below!
Considered the first "situation comedy," this high-energy caper marks the return of Shakespeare's memorable, larger-than-life character, Sir John Falstaff, in this lighthearted follow-up to his popular incarnation in Henry IV. Now Sir John is hard up for money and seeks to repair his depleted fortunes by wooing the two most prominent women in town. But Falstaff's plans go awry as the Windsor wives see through his intrigues and dupe him repeatedly.
Setting the production during the holiday season of the period, director Barbara Gaines enthuses, "I love the music and the dancing of the 40s. There is something so undeniably hopeful about the songs of this period as England worked to shake off the impact of the war. The music reflects the heart and soul of our merry Windsor."
Celebrated actor of theater, film and television Scott Jaeck portrays the irascible rascal and seducer Falstaff, a dramatic departure from his last appearance on CST's Courtyard Stage as the ruthless Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII. Chicago audiences will recall his memorable turns as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing and Caliban in The Tempest. Other Chicago Shakespeare credits include Troilus and Cressida, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and The Merchant of Venice. Foiling Falstaff's exploits are the titular merry wives, Kelli Fox as Mistress Page and Heidi Kettenring as Mistress Ford. Fox, hailing from Canada, is no stranger to classical theater after twelve seasons with the Shaw Festival and three seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada. Fox previously appeared on CST's Courtyard Theater Stage as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Kettenring, highly regarded in Chicago for her zesty comedic and musical performances, returns to CST after notable appearances last season as Eliante in The School for Lies and Frieda/Elaine in Sunday in the Park with George.
Joining the wily wives as the put-upon husbands are Jeff Award-winning actors Kevin Gudahl as Master Page and Ross Lehman as Master Ford. Gudahl has appeared in over thirty CST productions spanning the company's entire history, including most recently Henry VIII, The School for Lies, Sunday in the Park with George and Elizabeth Rex as William Shakespeare himself. Lehman returns to CST for his fifteenth production after memorable appearances in Cyrano de Bergerac, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. In his 33rd Chicago Shakespeare performance, Jeff Award-winning actor Greg Vinkler appears as Dr. Caius, Anne Page's blustering French suitor. Vinkler has portrayed some of Shakespeare's most memorable characters at CST, including the title role in King Lear, the hilarious Jaques in As You Like It and Sir John Falstaff in Henry VI, Parts 1 and 2 at CST and at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as Barbara Gaines' 2004 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Vinkler made his Broadway debut in the award-winning 2009 revival of West Side Story playing Doc. For this production, Barbara Gaines has interpreted Dr. Caius as Windsor's veterinarian, so Vinkler will be surrounded onstage by a veritable menagerie.
After recently delighting audiences in two Short Shakespeare! productions that toured schools and Chicago parks (The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew), Tiffany Yvonne Cox returns to portray the young Anne Page, who finds herself pursued by several mismatched suitors. To avoid an ill-suited marriage, Anne hatches a plan of her own to be with her true love, the poor but well-meaning Fenton, played by Matt Mueller (Julius Caesar, Short Shakespeare! The Taming of the Shrew).
Company members also returning to Chicago Shakespeare include veteran CST actor William Dick as the Welsh clergyman Sir Hugh Evans; Angela Ingersoll as the bumbling Mistress Quickly; James Harms as Justice Shallow; Don Forston as the Host of the Garter Inn; Matt DeCaro as Falstaff's man Bardoph; Joe Bianco as Pistol; Tim Gittings as Nym; Amy Montgomery as Dolores; Steven Sutcliffe as Slender and Christopher Chmelik as his servant Simple. Newcomers to CST Pavi Proczko as John Rugby, Michael Semanic as Robin Page and ensemble members Jack Bauer and Jonathon Reichart complete the cast.
Joining Barbara Gaines on the creative team for The Merry Wives of Windsor are Scenic Designer James Noone, (Henry VIII, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Julius Caesar), Costume Designer Susan E. Mickey (Cyrano de Bergerac, The School for Lies, Timon of Athens), Lighting Designer John Culbert (Romeo and Juliet), Sound Designer Lindsay Jones (Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, The School for Lies) and resident Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal (Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, The School for Lies). Properties Master Amy Peter (Cyrano de Bergerac), Choreographer Harrison McEldowney (Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, Sunday in the Park with George), Music Director Doug Peck (Beauty and the Beast) and Dialect Coach Eva Breneman (Elizabeth Rex) also join the creative team.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater's The Merry Wives of Windsor runs December 3, 2013 through January 19, 2014 in CST's Courtyard Theater. Tickets are on sale now for $48-$78 with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets available for patrons under 35. All patrons receive a 40% discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. For more information or to purchase tickets or a season subscription, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater's website at www.chicagoshakes.com.
Photo Credit: Liz Lauren
Mistress Ford (Heidi Kettenring, center) sits assuredly amidst the chaos of her plan to teach her husband a lesson