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A CurtainUp Review
Twelfth Night, a Musical Adaptation
Let's trade places for a day/You be me and I'll be you. — Feste, Osi, and Annie
James & Llana
Nikki James and Joseph Llana (Photo: Joan Marcus)
The free Public Works musical adaptation of Twelfth Night breezed into the Delacorte Stage for Labor Day Weekend. it was conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, with music and Lyrics by Taub

This imaginative enterprise put the community on stage with seasoned Broadway veterans Nikki M. James, Andrew Kober, Jose Llana, Jacob Ming-Trent, and Shaina Taub.

In case you don't know the story: The young heroine Viola miraculously survives a shipwreck and washes up on the shores of Illyria. Cross-dressing herself, she finds employment with Duke Orsino who's passionately in love with the Countess Olivia. Orsino sends the disguised Viola as his emissary to woo Olivia. But the Duke's plan goes awry when the Countess is smitten by the charming Viola.

This amalgamated musical version of one of the Bard's favorite plays features cameo group performances by COBU, Jambalaya Brass Band (who shadow the grieving Olivia with New Orleans-styled music). . . The Love Show (who do a terrific can-can dance as Malvolio dreams of being a Count). . . New York Deaf Theatre (who poignantly heighten Viola's silent love for Orsino with their use of American Sign Language in the song "Is This Not Love?"). . . Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center. . . and one United States Postal Carrier.

Itt was sometimes difficult sorting one group from another and the stage sometimes got overly-populated, but no matter, with so much community talent in evidence.

The production's stars were in fine form. played Nikki M. James (Tony Award winner for The Book of Mormon) was and intellignet and daring Viola. Jose LLana (The King and I) portrayed the love-sick Orsino with fitting machismo. Jacob Ming-Trent (Shrek: The Musical) nailed his Sir Toby Belch as did Andrew Kober (She Loves Me) as the uppity Malvolio. Shaina Taub (co-starred with Bill Irwin and David Shiner in Old Hats at the Signature Theater) puts a gutsy spin on Feste.

While the stars were the anchors of this piece, the 200 member ensemble from all five boroughs lent a true New York Flavor and were as much fun to watch as the notables.

A Taub's music and lyrics added contemporary color. For example, there's Feste poke ing fun at Sir Toby Belch with "You're the Worst" ("Your burps are so famous they're part of your name") and the Illyriettes gossiping about Olivia eloping with the supposed Cesario in the song "Word on the Street" ("Does Orsino know ‘bout the new 'it' couple of Illyria!").

A special hand to David Zinn's circus-like set, in collaboration with Amith Chandrashaker's lighting. I don't know whether the the pink umbrellas suspended over the stage or the green-and-pink convertible (that neatly accommodates a keyboard) at stage left is more eye-catching. But Zinn and Chandrashaker together evoke the zany world of Illyria through a kaleidoscope of loud colors and fanciful props.

Under the direction of Kwame Kwei-Armah, this Twelfth Night becomes the fourth production of the Public Works initiative, which explores the genre of historical pageantry (aka community masque).

As I write this, there's just one more evening to have as much fun as I did.

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Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, A Musical Adaptation
Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub
Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah
Music & Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
Cast: With Nikki M. James (Viola); Andrew Kober (Malvolio), Jose Llana (Orsino); Jacob Ming-Trent (Sir Toby Belch); and Shaina Taub (Feste)
Scenic Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Andrea Hood
Lighting Design: Amith Chandrashaker
Sound Design: Mark Menard
Hair and Wig Design: Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas
Orchestrations: Mike Brun & Shaina Taub
Music Contractor:: Shaina Taub
Bandleader: Mike Brun
Production Stage Manager: Evangeline Rose Whitlock
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 09/03/16. Delacorte Theater in the Park
From 9/02/16- 9/06/16
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 09/03/16.

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