Two Gentlemen of Verona: Shakespeare remixed
Take the literary material of the world’s most illustrious bard, William Shakespeare, infuse it with show tunes reminiscent of 1970s Broadway, and you get Two Gentlemen of Verona: The Musical (TGV:TM) — a musical romp currently being performed by members of the NAU Theater Department.
Director Darby Winterhalter Löfstrand, an NAU theater professor who lectures on acting and voice, said the NAU Theater Department aspired to perform a show that would be a true crowd-pleaser.
“We wanted to do something that we knew would be a draw to both the public and the student body in our first slot,” Löfstrand said. “We looked at several pieces and just decided that this was different; it hadn’t been done on the West coast in quite a long time, it provided a little bit of Shakespeare for our students as well as the musical and we had some seniors that really kind of needed that kind of challenge.”
Max Zemezonak, a junior finance major and theater minor, who plays both the characters of Antonio and Cupid, said he has enjoyed being a part of such a quirky musical production.
“It has been a lot of fun and a great experience,” Zemezonak said. “At first, when you read the script, it’s a little bizarre, but we really did a great job of adapting to it and having a lot of fun; it has been a really fun rehearsing process.”
TGV: TM was originally penned by writers John Guare and Mel Shapiro and contained music by Grammy winning composer Galt McDermot. The show opened on Broadway in 1971 at the St. James Theater, garnering two Tony Awards wins and cementing itself as an industry mainstay with 614 performances. This rock musical is based off of Shakespeare’s debut play of the same name.
Nathan Spector, a senior performance major, who plays Proteus, one of the two gentlemen of Verona, said the show possesses a truly distinctive nature due to its combination of theatrical genres.
“It has been a really unique experience compared to the other shows I’ve been a part of because I’ve done Shakespeare and I’ve done musicals, [but] I’ve never done a Shakespearian musical,” Spector said. “It is a really weird collaboration, but it has been a lot of fun to bring all these different elements of classic theater with modern music and modern lyrics together.”
TGV: TM’s plot involves lifelong friends Valentine and Proteus leaving their rural countryside hometown and traveling to the bustling urban setting of Milan. Hilarity ensues as the pair quickly becomes embroiled in a world of passion, deceit and outright joviality.
Löfstrand said she enjoyed the experience of directing the show with such a daring and innovative troupe of actors.
“What I loved about it was having a great cast; I really just threw it out to them and said ‘Okay you guys, play, have a good time and play and let’s see what we can come up with,’” Löfstrand said. “And we came up with some great stuff. I have a very creative, very open, very bold and brave cast, and they have been able to make me look very good.”
Löfstrand said she drew from people both inside and outside the Theater Department for the singing roles.
“We have two people from the music department who are in choral who came over,” Löfstrand said. “We also just got lucky that some of our freshmen happened to have some fabulous voices and were able to use them.”
Carly Jonovich, a senior nursing major and theater minor, who plays a peppy cheerleader, said from a musical standpoint, the songs are very demanding on the vocal chords.
“The songs are pretty out there; they are a lot of fun and high energy songs,” Jonovich said. “There are definitely some difficult harmonies. There are like harmonies in every single number, so we’ve really had to stay on top of our music.”
TGV: TM’s numerous song and dance numbers add an extra dimension to the typical theater rehearsal process.
“The dance and the music took an enormous amount of time for everybody to learn; it’s very complicated and there’s a lot of it,” Löfstrand. “The music is extremely difficult. Even my music director said ‘Wow.’ For her band, this has been a lot of practice getting this music down. The music has been really a challenge.”
Blair Oberlander, a senior electronic media and film major, attended the show this past weekend and said the cast did an excellent and convincing job in their various roles.
“I thought the entire piece was good, better than I thought it would be going in,” Oberlander said. “Even though it was Shakespeare, the cast did an excellent job of bringing it across in a natural way. Most of the songs were entertaining and well choreographed.”
Rachel Solice, a senior theater major and stage manager of TGV: TM, said running a musical of this scale was a new challenge for her.
“It’s different from anything else I stage-managed,” Solice said. “There is a lot of dancing involved in the production and we have 22 actors, so trying to schedule with them was difficult.”
Löfstrand said she believes students and members of the community should attend a performance of TGV: TM because the sole purpose of the play is to elicit laughter.
“This is really about having fun,” Löfstrand said. “This is a romp. This is about having fun. There isn’t any edification or didacticism to this at all. This is fun, truly, and I think sometimes that theater and movies can be just about having fun.”
TGV: TM will continue to run for the next few days. It is being performed Thurs. – Sat. at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Clifford E. White Theater. For ticket inquiries, visit nau.ticketforce.com or stop by the central ticket office in the University Union.