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A CurtainUp Review
Under the Greenwood Tree
The show went through its early gestation period in a Brooklyn Warehouse before it leapfrogged across the East River and nestled into its present Soho venue (at the Flea). It's still more of a more of a theatrical experiment than a full production. However, the sweet hopeful songs and lifelike vignettes borrow much from the Bard's text and the broadly-etched narrative outlines most of the key events of the original. theatri.and lifelike vignettes borrow much from the Bard's text, and its broadly-etched narrative outlines most of the key events of the original. Yes, you might miss some of your favorite scenes: Rosalind's teasing of Orlando for defacing Arden's trees with his bad love poems gets downplayed here. And the Epilogue, that exquisite speech on theater magic, traditionally delivered by Rosalind at the stage's lip, is omitted. But you do get the tender meat of the play.
While the performers don't always convey the tough-mindedness essential for their characters, and the actors inhabiting the young lovers don't seem to confront all the emotional hardships that go hand-in-hand with love, the troupe managse to pull you into its lyrical orbit. No doubt its forte is in its score and lyrics, with songs like "Sermon of the Stones," "Oh, Winter Wind!" and "Forest Born" being its stronger melodic efforts.
Kudos to the multi-talented Carly Howard who plays Rosalind/ Ganymede with down-to-earth canniness and emotional candor. She looks like she'd be quite at home on an Ivy League campus (costumes by Christine Samar); her Ganymede, outfitted in overalls and hunting cap, is the model of a dislocated "survivor" and calls to mind Grant Wood's "American Gothic" portrait. No doubt Howard is a triple-threat here as thespian, musician (yes, she plays the ukulele and perc) and singer. Brett Benowitz as Orlando,becomes not only lover but roaming minstrel. Another performer to watch is Kendra Jo Brook as Celia, her pitch-perfect singing voice hits the mark every time.
There are a few miscast performers: The boyishly handsome Dan Wilson is hot-and-cold in the vital role of Jacques. He has Jacques' sour cynicism down pat but lacks the weathered look and jaded attitude of this world-weary philosopher and quintessential loner. That said, his Jacques manages to add a new twist to the seven-ages-of-man speech.
The other actor who looks too fresh-faced is Sean Griffin, playing Duke Frederick. Griffin needs to add a couple of decades to his age before he can be convincing as Rosalind's power-grabbing uncle. Griffin's unlined face and youthful physique make him look and sound too green in his villainous role.
The Arden Ensemble (Elle Tieszen, K. C. Leiber, Jennifer Oman, Kim Vogels)are top-notch in their musical wizardry and choreography (by Jennifer Oman). The best moments by far are when the troupe are kickin Though many theatergoers are enjoying the Bard in parks or parking lots this summer, you can catch this new Shakespearean musical without insect repellent or rain poncho in tow.