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Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at SF Playhouse

a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at SF Playhouse

Twelfth Night

A Musical Adaptation of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub

Music and Lyrics by Shaina Taub

Directed by Susi Damilano

SF Playhouse

This Bay Area premiere of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub's musical adaptation of Twelfth Night is both the first Shakespeare play in nineteen seasons at SF Playhouse and director Susi Damilano's first attempt at the bard. Given those possibly daunting circumstances, this production is an exhilarating triumph and Damilano's best work since her brilliant Cabaret in 2019.

There have been other musical adaptations based on Shakespeare's works: West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew), and The Boys from Syracuse (The Comedy of Errors) to name a few. In fact, 2005's All Shook Up used Twelfth Night as a jukebox vehicle for the music of Elvis Presley. Writer/performer Shaina Taub's score aligns closely to the original story, using pop, funk, and ballads to punctuate the original text. The score is wondrous, with hummable tunes and cute recurring themes ("Word on the Street," "Viola's Soliloquy," and "Tell Her").

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at SF Playhouse
l to r: Loreigna Sinclair (Olivia), Sophia Intona (Viola) and Sean Fenton (Orsino)

Damilano supplies a casting coup here with her choice of Sophia Introna as Viola/Cesario who skillfully walks the gender blending line. Twelfth Night includes plenty of misguided love endeavors, ripe material for comedy and Damilano mines this for all its worth with some brilliant supporting performances by Caleb Haven Draper as the foppish Andrew, Atticus Shaindlin as the closeted Malvolio, Loreigna Sinclair as the sexy Olivia, Sam Paley as Feste the Fool and Michael Gene Sullivan as the inebriated Toby.

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at SF Playhouse
Sam Paley (Feste) and company

Shaindlin practically steals the show with his show-stopping number "Count Malvolio", where he dreams of his eventual rise to greatness based on the Shakespeare text "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." "You're The Worst" is a raucous comic gem of character deprecation while "Is This Not Love" is a tender ballad.

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at SF Playhouse
Atticus Shaindlin as Malvolio

It would take a complicated flowchart to describe Twelfth Night's crisscrossing romantic angles and mistaken identities, but all works out in the end. Damilano works magic with the cast and ensemble, the singing is top notch and her production crew of Nicole Helfer (Choreography), Music Direction (Dave Dobrusky) and Abra Berman (Costumes) elevate this production to a must-see.

Twelfth Night runs through January 15th, 2022. Tickets can be purchased at 415-677-9596 or online at

Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli

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