I had the good fortune to see Lyle Lovett from the second row of Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. During the show he mentioned a connection to Shakespeare, that I hadn’t previously heard about.
As you know Shakespeare often added music to his plays because, as Lovett put it, “it’s good show business.”
What I learned at the concert is that in 2010 Lovett composed and performed original music for the production of Much Ado About Nothing at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. The play, sans Lovett, is on the playbill at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the internationally recognized festival located about 90 minutes from Toronto.
Onstage in Toronto Lovett told the story of how director Ben Donenberg approached him to write and perform music in Donenberg’s production of Much Ado About Nothing.
As well as casting Lovett in the play, Donnenberg cast Helen Hunt, of TV’s “Mad About You,” in the lead. In casting these celebrities Donnenberg received the expected criticism about attempting to “goose the visibility of [the company’s] plays”, but I was delighted to see that Lovett got good reviews:
“Lovett’s musical style, three parts life affirmation to two parts melancholy, is ideally suited to Shakespeare’s rondelay of romantic misunderstanding”
“[Lovett’s] sober, seen-it-all demeanor dovetails perfectly with a tale in which willful lovers are systematically deceived, even to the point of a maiden’s feigned death, until a kiss finally purges all pain to the strains of a mandolin. “
[Lovett and his band] perform a combination of standards such as Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me a Grape” and songs composed by Lovett that comment slyly on the action. Always a strangely magnetic and engaging performer, Lovett brings welcome moments of contemplation, humor and sometimes gravitas. He’s one of the production’s best features.
Lovett, more than Hunt, makes this show worth seeing.
The Stratford 2013 playbill features a few musicals, including Tommy.
Will the company members returning from Broadway get the top spots? This blog post pontificates on some of the potential casting.