Phoebe Legere, the renowned singer, author, composer and multi-format artist, has written a full-length musical comedy, "Shakespeare and Elizabeth I: The Reality Show." The musical is about love, war, espionage and creative genius, and includes music written by Legere, who heads the cast of ten as Queen Elizabeth I. Director David Zen Mansley plays the Bard and trumpeter Rhys Tivey plays Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, the Queen's noble heartthrob. Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., will present this world premiere November 29 to December 15.
After analyzing the life, letters, translations, poetry and iconography of Queen Elizabeth I, Legere concluded that "Shakespeare" was, in fact, Elizabeth Tudor and her inner circle. Her new musical is a heady brew of "eye of newt, toe of frog," gigantic neck ruffs, amazing scenery and special effects. It features numerous quotes from the complete works of both Shakespeare and Elizabeth presented with Legere's signature social commentary and comic flair. This "Reality Show" is a feel-good feminist reading of the Shakespeare Brand enlivened by the music of Phoebe Legere.
The play, set in the late 16th Century, is filled with artists, scientists, intellectuals, elegant courtiers, poets and ladies of Elizabeth I's court. It frolics around the salient events of Elizabeth's reign with brainy discourses on Shakespeare's genius poking through the dancing, singing, love-making, fencing, gender disruption, opulent costumes, gorgeous melodies and hilarious Legere humor. Essayist William Niederkorn, who is known for books and articles on Shakespeare for the New York Times and Brooklyn Rail, wrote, " I love it! It's a big, wild, fabulous show. it's a big sex romp in the great Mae West tradition. Elizabeth/Phoebe is in control all the way, and her wannabe lovers are all fools or knaves."
Phoebe Legere is a Juilliard trained composer who won a Buddy Baker film scoring scholarship to pursue post-graduate work in film scoring at NYU. She has studied composition with Mort Subotnick, Wayne Oquin and Ira Newborn and has composed for and conducted the New York Philharmonic Film Orchestra. She has been a featured soloist at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall and concert halls all over the world, in addition to appearing with her riotgrrrl punk band, the 4 Nurses of the Apocalypse, at CBGB's and her string quintet at the Algonquin Hotel. Legere's music, in her body of work, is a total synthesis of world, French, funk, avant-garde, jazz, folk, Native American and Elizabethan music. She plays many instruments, including several she invented herself. In this performance, Legere and Rhys Tivey will perform on period instruments: Virginals, Lute and Sackbutt (an ancestor of the modern trombone).
The cast includes Phoebe Legere, David Zen Mansley, Rhys Tivey, Haley Sullivan, Janette Johnston, Ben Reno and Michael Laporta. Costume design is by Jennifer Anderson. Fencing Coach and Stage Combat Choreographer is William Giraldo. Shakespeare consultant is Lisa Rowe-Beddoe. Period dances are choreographed by Catherine Turocy of The New York Baroque Dance Company. Set, props and special effects are by Phoebe Legere and David Zen Mansley. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff.
ABOUT Phoebe Legere (AUTHOR, COMPOSER, ELIZABETH): Phoebe Legere is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, painter, filmmaker and bard. She was signed to Epic/Sony Records as a teenager and graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Performance Art. Her original music and performance art was featured in the movie Mondo New York (Island Pictures). Her song "Marilyn" was a hit on college radio. Legere opened for David Bowie on his national tour, appeared in "Toxic Avenger" parts 2 and 3 and wrote, scored and starred in the hit series "Marquis De Slime" on French television. In 2000, she sang her epic poem "The Waterclown," nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in music, with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.
In 2003, Legere invented a musical instrument called The Sneakers of Samothrace, a wearable computer for disabled children. She developed the interface during her artist residency at STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam.
Legere's body of work as a playwright includes 25 plays, musicals and operas. She has had two prior plays presented by Theater for the New City, "A Few Words from My Intestine" (2007) and the musical, "Hello Mrs. President," about the first African-American woman president (1987, 1992 and 2004). Ms. Legere emceed TNC's last "Love and Courage" benefit and has been a stalwart supporter of the Theater.
In 2006, she won a NYSCA award for her opera, "Queen of New England," about her royal ancestor Queen Weetamoo, King Philip's War and the Massachusetts Native American holocaust. From 2004 to 2008, she was Artist-in-Residence at School of Visual Arts and Scholar in Residence at University of Victoria, where she wrote four epic poems for orchestra (available on Einstein Records.) In 2009, her poem "Ultra-Romantic Parallel Universe" was published by Mercury Records with music by Legere, Eno and Abrahams.
Legere starred in the popular children's TV show "The Naked Brothers Band" (Nickelodeon.) She is the Host and Head Writer of "Roulette TV," a show about the extreme frontier edge of art and music. In April 2011, she wowed audiences at Avery Fisher Hall when she sang the blues, in Latin, as the featured soprano in Will Todd's "Mass in Blue" for 80 musicians. Her Algonquin Quintet garnered rave reviews this year in a six month sold-out run on Broadway at the Iridium Jazz Club and in June she appeared at Resorts International in Atlantic City.
Ms. Legere recently returned from Europe, where she starred in TV shows and played festivals for thousands. She stars in and wrote the music for Rosa Von Praunheim's newest film, "New York Sisters."(2013) She has released eleven CD's of original music and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows around the world including NPR, CBS Sunday Morning, A & E, PBS City Arts, WNYC's Soundcheck and Charlie Rose. She has recently completed her first symphony, "The Mother" Symphony No.1 in F# minor for Sneakers and Orchestra.
She is the National Director and Founder of the New York Underground Museum, an institution dedicated to presenting, preserving and curating the works of the New York Underground. She is also a painter and visual artist. Her most recent art work is an 18 person monster Eagle sound bicycle that runs on alternative energy, called the Shamancycle. She performed from the stage of the Shamancycle at Burning Man 2013. Lena Dunham just produced a music video for HBO of Legere's compostition, "The Frog Song," which will be seen in an HBO Special about Hilary "Eloise" Knight in Spring 2014.
The New York Post declared, "Her beautiful voice, with its dazzling range and rich tones.... can take your breath away... she runs the gamut of music like a Marx brother crossing to stage left...She's solidly based in her art and is a superb musician." National Public Radio called her "Fun, funny and smart!" The New York Times deemed her "a charismatic showman who works the audience with the razor edged skill of a veteran comic poking, teasing, and caressing it with clever turns of phrase both musical and verbal. She plays the piano with enormous authority in a style that encompasses Chopin, blues, ragtime, bebop and beyond, and she brings to her vocal delivery a four and a half octave range, and an extraordinary palette of tonal color and meticulous phrasing." For more information, visit www.phoebelegere.com.
ABOUT DAVID "ZEN" MANSLEY (DIRECTOR, SHAKESPEARE): "Zen" Mansley is a dynamic and versatile actor, director and designer. His production of "Macbeth," which he starred in at the Celtic Arts Center in Los Angeles, received a rave review from the LA Times, was extended twice and ran for two and a half months to packed houses. He is known internationally for his character voice work on such cartoon series as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Chaotic," "One Piece" and "Speed Racer: The Next Generation." An avid Shakespearean, he has played Macbeth on both coasts as well as Richard III and Claudius (the King) in "Hamlet." He is also an accomplished puppet maker, scenic designer and resident artist of TNC, where he has appeared in dozens of plays and musicals and where his environments are an integral part of the Village Halloween Costume Ball. His adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," in which he directs a cast of six and stars as Scrooge, has been presented by TNC three times as a holiday season special event.
Pictured: David Zen Mansley as King Philip II of Spain, Phoebe Legere as Elizabeth I, Rhys Tivey as Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, the Queen's noble heartthrob. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
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