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BWW Reviews: Seattle Shakes MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Combines Humor and Jazz

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OK, so I've seen it several times. I mean there are the movies plus countless productions about town. It's done a lot as it's one of Shakespeare's more accessible plays with its quick wit and very clear heroes and villains (one hero is even called Hero). But that doesn't mean I don't still love it. I always tend to find something new and appealing in most productions of what has become my favorite of his canon. And the current production of "Much Ado About Nothing" from Seattle Shakespeare Company is no exception as they have tapped into much of the comedy of the piece as well as infused it with some wonderful jazz renditions of the Shakespearean songs from the piece.

The story is a pretty simple one. The soldiers are returning home from war and Leonato (Peter A. Jacobs) has invited the Prince Don Pedro (Jim Gall) and his men to stay and rest at his home. This pleases the young war hero Claudio (Jay Myers) greatly as he has fallen for Leonato's daughter Hero (Brenda Joyner). But the mood is not so happy (or is it) surrounding the Prince's other compatriot Benedick (Matt Shimkus) who constantly finds himself in verbal sparring matches with Leonato's niece Beatrice (Jennifer Lee Taylor). And while all may seem full of mirth and merriment, the Prince's duplicitous brother Don John (Nick Rempel) is determined to ruin the fun by plotting against the lovers and disgracing the virtue of Hero.

The production itself is a fun one and the cast certainly knows how to bring the fun of it out. Director George Mount has reimagined it into 1953 with the sailors coming home from war which does little to accentuate the piece but what it does do is allow for the songs of the show to be written as jazz pieces by Michael Brockman and the Seattle Jazz Repertory Orchestra and gorgeously sung by Justin Huertas as Balthasar. I'm not always a fan of the Shakespeare transplant and while this one doesn't lend much to the story it does work with the music, which only adds to the party atmosphere of it and lends it an air of cool. So in that respect, it works.

The lovers in the piece are just plain lovely. Shimkus and Taylor have a wonderful Tracy and Hepburn thing going on with their quick banter and loving jabs at each other. And when combined with some wonderful slapstick bits as they skulk about "spying" on those who know they are being watched, the characters become an absolute joy to watch. Myers and Joyner are lovely together and have tons of chemistry and the comedy of the show only intensifies the tragedy of it all as Don John's evil plan comes to fruition. And I must say that Myers descent into grief was beautifully palpable. David Quicksall as the inept captain of the guard, Dogberry, manages to bring back in the comedy after the tragedy has been let loose and has some very fun moments however he was a little too affected in his mannerisms for my taste. I prefer that character to be the fool and not play the fool as much. And I have to mention a stunning performance from Jacobs who goes from jovial loving father to shamed and enraged in a quite powerful way.

So not taking the top spots of my favorite productions of the show but definitely a solid one with some great performances and some killer music to back it up. All in all a very fun and funny evening.

"Much Ado About Nothing" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at the Center House Theatre at the Seattle Center. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakespeare Company box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.

Photo credit: John Ulman


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