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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 19, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 29
Shakespeare light - Taproot's musical Illyria is a perfect summer concoction
Arts & Entertainment
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Shakespeare light - Taproot's musical Illyria is a perfect summer concoction

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

ILLYRIA
TAPROOT THEATRE
Through August 10


Taproot Theatre has a tradition of doing a summertime musical. This summer they have a heartwarming, fun, tuneful way to see a Shakespeare play! Illyria, by Peter Mills, tracks the Bard's Twelfe Night almost exactly, as it turns out, but it's much more accessible and probably easier to sit through.

Part of Taproot's success is often attributable to music director par excellence Edd Key, who leads a small cadre of adept musicians high above the stage. This production boasts some handy-dandy choreography by Rebecca Katz Harwood. There's not a lot of dance, per se, but there are some very fun moments.

The musical is narrated by Feste, the fool, essentially as a memory play. Don Darryl Rivera is delightful as the main clown who is fleet of foot and of mouth, and he even does a few magic tricks along the way. He is positioned as a sort of managing force whose magic pushes the plot along. (We segue for a moment to mention that Rivera may well be leaving us for a while to make his Broadway debut in Disney's Aladdin, after debuting here in the role of Iago. It continues to excite that we can develop talent here that finds a home in New York, but we hate that we can't see those exports on our own stages anymore.)

Director Karen Lund is very experienced with this kind of fun and keeps the atmosphere light, while still maintaining the clarity of the Shakespearean story. Lund has chosen a wonderful cast, providing strong performances and lots of great singing voices. Once in a while, an actor might not be as great at singing as he or she is at acting, and while that's a bit sad, it's forgivable, as the acting is stellar.

GENDER CONFUSION
The plot has twins Viola (Helen Harvester) and Sebastian (Randy Scholz) separated in a storm. Viola thinks Sebastian may be dead and is scared and takes on his persona to survive on her own. She works for Duke Orsino (Mark Tyler Miller) and falls in love with him while he pines for Countess Olivia (April Wolfe), who instead falls for Viola as a boy.

A subplot has a prig servant of Olivia's, Malvolio (Daniel Stoltenberg), get a comeuppance from Olivia's uncle Toby (David Anthony Lewis), her maid Maria (Jenny Cross), and friend Sir Andrew (Simon Pringle). Everyone acquits his/her character well, including William Hamer as a man who saves both real and fake Sebastians, though it puts him in danger to do so.

Miller has been in a number of productions recently, and he is demonstrating his versatility nicely. As Orsino confesses his love to Sebastian, while trying to cope with the idea that he might actually love a man, Miller is able to bring the full range of emotions into the scene, to great comic effect. Wolfe shows a lovely voice and some solid comic chops as well. Lewis is always fun as the 'bad' character (though Sir Toby is more of a drunk than a true villain), and Stoltenberg walks the tightrope of the difficult role of Malvolio, bringing out the humor and allowing us to enjoy his downfall.

Scholz doesn't have much to do until the end, but he definitely enlivens the last portion of the evening. Still, Rivera is so adorable in his antics that he pretty much steals every scene he's in. Once they get a look at him in NYC, he may become in such demand that we don't ever see him back here except for short family visits.

This is a feel-good evening you can bring any family members or friends to. Highest recommendation. For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call (206) 781-9707.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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