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Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of THE KING'S SPEECH at Chicago Shakespeare Theater?

Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of THE KING'S SPEECH at Chicago Shakespeare Theater?

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's North American Premiere production of David Seidler's The King's Speech opened last week in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare and runs through October 20, 2019. Directed by Michael Wilson, the production stars Harry Hadden-Paton as Bertie and James Frain as Lionel Logue.

Read the reviews below!

In this remarkable true story from Oscar Award-winning writer David Seidler, Great Britain's reluctant monarch finds a surprising ally in an unexpected place. A generation before the royal family we know today, Queen Elizabeth's father George VI would ascend the throne, a most unlikely king thrust into the spotlight after his brother David gives up the crown to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Struggling with a chronic stammer, Bertie (as his family knew him) must speak to his nation as it stands on the brink of World War II.

Enter an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue, whose methods are anything but common. With Logue's help Bertie finds his voice, and forever changes the course of history. Portraying these two extraordinary men are Harry Hadden-Paton (Broadway's My Fair Lady, Downton Abbey, The Crown) and James Frain (The Tudors, True Blood, The White Queen), who lead a stellar cast that brings Seidler's drama to life on stage-as he first imagined it-in this not-to-be missed North American Premiere.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The stage version mostly makes its points in broad if carefully researched strokes, featuring the new king's struggles with his profligate brother (Jeff Parker) alongside some machinations by the politicians surrounding the royal crisis, a group that includes Stanley Baldwin (David Lively), a snarky Winston Churchill (Kevin Gudahl) and a diabolic take on the Archbishop of Canterbury from the actor Alan Mandell. Lionel's wife, Myrtle (Elizabeth Ledo) provides a some balancing conflict from the Australian side, even if her indifference at the appearance of the rich royals in her impecunious life strains credulity, especially when a new dress ultimately changes her mind.

Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: Directed by Michael Wilson, THE KING'S SPEECH succeeds largely because the dynamic between Harry Hadden-Paton's Bertie and James Frain's Lionel Logue is utterly charming. Hadden-Paton (who may be known to audiences for his turn as Henry Higgins in the recent Broadway revival of MY FAIR LADY) is magnificently winsome as Bertie. He makes Bertie's personality a delightful blend of irresistible charm with a dash of slight awkwardness, befitting a man reluctant to be in the spotlight. It's impossible not to root for Hadden-Paton's Bertie, and that level of empathy is necessary to make the play work. Frain's Lionel is daffy and likable; he can spar with Bertie like no one else. Yet Frain also enables us to see a more vulnerable side of the character, as with his various auditions for Shakespearean productions across London. Though Lionel may not have found success as an actor, Frain allows us to see that his work with Bertie may allow him to fulfill another unexpected dream.

Kris Vire, Chicago Sun Times: The play is a plodding, sodding bore as compared to the film, which at least had the off-kilter chemistry between Firth's Bertie and Geoffrey Rush's Lionel to recommend it, along with Hooper's surfeit of odd camera angles. Michael Wilson, who directs here, can't rely on cinematographic framing. His staging is instead set against a skewed-perspective set of walls by designer Kevin Depinet, which serve as backdrops for Hana Kim's oddly cartoonish projections.

Lauren Katz, Picture this Post: Full of heart and honesty, The King's Speech is a moving adaptation that carries this historical tale immediately into today. Whether you are a fanatic for British history or one who simply enjoys a touching story, Seidler's play has a little something for everyone.

Photo Credit: Liz Lauren

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