The Winterís Tale
May 1999, St. Petersburg, FL
Review from Variety, May 1999:
An American Stage Shakespeare in the Park presentations of
the play in two acts by William Shakespeare, with songs by Lee Ahlin. Directed
by Kenneth Noel Mitchell. Musical direction, Lee Ahlin. Choreography, Ruth
Rosen. Set, Jimmy Humphries; costumes, Polly Byers; lighting, Traci Klainer;
stage manager, Robert Herrle. Artistic director, Mitchell.
Audiences who have been stymied by the quickly shifting
moods and emotions in William Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" can
find some solace in the engaging musical version being presented by American
Stage's annual Shakespeare in the Park.
What has been known as one of Shakespeare's "problem
plays" seems effortless and nearly logical in the adaptation by director
Kenneth Noel Mitchell and composer-lyricist Lee Ahlin for the company's 14th
annual outdoor Shakespeare production.
A fine vehicle for theaters who stage outdoor Shakespeare,
this "Winter's Tale" gives some sense and purpose where it once was
lacking. King Leontes' sudden bout of jealousy over his wife's friendship with
his best friend King Polixenes no longer comes out of the blue: The lyrical
"Anyone Can See" gives insight into Leontes' rapidly declining mental
state, as he watches from the side and suddenly sees something adulterous in the
gentle conversations between his wife Hermione and Polixenes.
Ahlin's score, his eighth for the company's annual
Shakespeare show, has a classical air with a contemporary undertone, fitting the
somewhat generic but slightly Elizabethan-era style of Polly Byer's costumes and
Jimmy Humphries minimalist set.
The company usually sticks to comedies (with the rare
exception of a rock version of "Macbeth" two years ago), but this
part-dramatic, part-fantasy play works just fine for audiences picnicking on
blankets under the stars.
The shift from the dark and brooding tone of the first
act's Sicilia to the brightly colored land of gypsies depicted in the second
act's Bohemia can still be jarring, but it seems less so in Mitchell and Ahlin's
fairy-tale production. (Ahlin's song "What's the News?" -- a progress
report of what's happened offstage -- saves time by summarizing more scenes.)
Though the singing isn't always strong and the cast
sometimes tries too hard to be "Shakespearean," the cast members
perform with style and strength, particularly the commanding Michael Don Evans
as Leontes. Angela Bond is a gracefully elegant Hermione, whose act two
resurrection becomes a moving moment with the guidance of Stephanie
Pendergraft's Paulina leading the cast through the inspirational "Awake
Christopher Swann is powerful as Polixenes, even when he's
perplexed at his friend's misguided attitude; Trent Dawson as Florizel
seems most comfortable with the Shakespearean dialogue; and Kathy Tyrell is
angelic as Perdita, the "long lost" daughter of Leontes and Hermione.
While the story takes some strange turns over the course of
16 years, this musical "The winter's Tale" proves as refreshing as a
COPYRIGHT 1999 Cahners Publishing Company
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group