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Petruchio and Katherine backstage, Romeo and Juliet on a fire escape, shipwrecked identical twins "falling in love with love."

William Shakespeare’s influence on American song has been long-running and far-reaching: The Boys from Syracuse, Kiss Me, Kate, West Side Story, ‘60s rock musicals and more. Follow the ties between Stratford-on-Avon and Shubert Alley.

Mark Lamos, artistic director & host
Wayne Barker, music director & piano
Deborah Grace Winer, co-writer
Bryan Hunt, assistant stage director

Christine Andreas, vocals
Daniel Breaker, vocals
Britney Coleman, vocals
Max von Essen, vocals
Heather Jane Rolff, vocals

Chad Smith, reeds / Art Bailey, accordion / Fred Rose, cello / Joseph Wallace, bass / Lynette Wardle, harp / Billy Miller, percussion

For bios and a select list of songs from the show, click Program Notes tab. 

 

This series is underwritten by Gilda and Henry Block, and Kenneth Kolker.

Explore The Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

A Note from the Artistic Director

“If music be the food of love, play on. / Give me excess of it,” cries Orsino in the famous opening lines from Twelfth Night. We’ll do just that!

The American Songbook has feasted on the Bard’s works and words for decades. The encounter between the playwright who wrote for groundlings as well as princes, and the commercial theater's composers and lyricists—not to mention the popular recording industry—has provided the world with riches that have entered the culture and continue to thrive there, right alongside their inspiration.

The best of the Shakespeare-inspired musicals succeed because they strive to honor and celebrate the tone of the originals, even as they manage new “takes” on them. The goofy, knockabout antics of the Plautus-inspired Comedy of Errors find a natural place in Rodgers and Hart’s ‘30s screwball musical comedy The Boys From Syracuse. The boundless energy in the battle of the sexes from The Taming of the Shrew gives a natural life to Cole Porter’s elegant, sexy, smart Kiss Me, Kate—a musical that wittily uses the same contrivance of a play-within- a-play that Shakespeare provided for his own treatment of an old story.

And his original, daring Romeo and Juliet finds its soul locked firmly into the beating heart of the original, daring West Side Story. Shakespeare's play—a tragedy written with the headlong brio of a comedy—dramatizes the story of two great souls, teenage humanists, destroyed by a corrupt world of divisive savagery. "Two households both alike in dignity" become, in the hands of the creators of the musical, two rival New York street gangs, Sharks and Jets. Modern though it is, the musical parallels Shakespeare's dramaturgy and dramatis personae with startlingly effective precision.

Shakespeare’s influence on a multitude of aspects in life, history, thought and culture is so all-encompassing, it’s no surprise that his works have proved inspirations for so many other artists, from opera composers (Gounod, Bellini, Verdi, Britten, John Harbison and most recently Thomas Adès) to pop, rock and Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists. Even the ‘60s brought us a musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona and a hip take (for its time) on Twelfth Night called Your Own Thing. You’ll hear some of those in this show too.

Music director Wayne Barker and I decided to explore further afield—beyond Broadway—for this program, which has led us to a variety of Shakespeare-inspired music: for instance, a series of jazz riffs composed to Shakespeare song lyrics by John Dankworth for his wife, the spectacular, singer Cleo Laine.

There is a treasure trove to explore— Rufus Wainright’s songs to the lyrics of sonnets, Hollywood musicals and film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, including the specialty songs by Frank Loesser and lush scores by Nino Rota.

Shakespeare’s characters are all uniquely aware of music’s power. “Music! Awake her! Strike!” Paulina commands in the final scene of A Winter's Tale in order to bring a statue to life. “Give me music, moody food of those of us that trade in love,” demands Cleopatra, one of Shakespeare’s most unusual women.

We’ll give you music and lyrics for all moods, composed by some of the theater’s most inspired master craftsmen.

Mark Lamos

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Selected Song List

As a special preview, here is a selection of songs from:
Brush Up Your Shakespeare: The Bard and the Broadway Musical

ALWAYS TRUE TO YOU IN MY FASHION
Lyrics & music by Cole Porter
From Kiss Me, Kate / Musical (1948)

BALCONY SCENE (TONIGHT)
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; music by Leonard Bernstein
From West Side Story / Musical (1957)

BRUSH UP YOUR SHAKESPEARE
Lyrics & music by Cole Porter
From Kiss Me, Kate / Musical (1948)

COOL
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; music by Leonard Bernstein
From West Side Story / Musical (1957)

FALLING IN LOVE WITH LOVE
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart; music by Richard Rodgers
From The Boys from Syracuse / Musical (1938)

MARIA
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; music by Leonard Bernstein
From West Side Story / Musical (1957)

TAKE ALL MY LOVES

Lyrics by William Shakespeare; from Sonnet 40 (1609)
Original music by Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn; from Such Sweet Thunder / Album (1957)
Adaptation by Sir John Dankworth; from Shakespeare: And All That Jazz / Album (1964)


TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
Lyrics by John Guare; music by Galt MacDermot
From Two Gentlemen of Verona / Musical (1971)

WHAT IS A YOUTH? (Theme song from Romeo & Juliet)
Lyrics by Eugene Walter; music by Nino Rota
From Romeo & Juliet / Film (1968)

Musical numbers subject to change.

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Artist Bios

Mark Lamos, artistic director, stage director, co-writer & host

Making his Lyrics & Lyricists debut, Mark Lamos has been artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse since 2009. This season he directed Into the Woods and the world premiere of Harbor by Chad Beguelin, which opens this July at New York’s Primary Stages. Other high points of Mark’s tenure at Westport include That Championship Season; The Breath of Life; She Loves Me; Happy Days; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; and Twelfth Night.

Mark previously spent 17 seasons as artistic director of the Hartford Stage, which won the 1989 Tony Award for outstanding regional theatre. While there he staged 14 Shakespeare plays, an Ibsen cycle and new works by Tony Kushner, Simon Gray, Tom Stoppard, Anne Bogart and others. He brought many new plays and musicals from Hartford to New York and beyond. Mark’s Broadway directorial debut came from the Hartford transfer of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, for which he received a Tony nomination as best director.

Among Mark’s other Broadway credits as director are Cymbeline; Seascape, which earned a Tony nomination for best revival; The Rivals; The Deep Blue Sea; the premiere of A.R. Gurney’s The Grand Manner and The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm. He most recently directed the premiere of Gurney’s Black Tie at Primary Stages, and he directed Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure which both won Lucille Lortel Awards for outstanding revival.

Mark was the first American director to stage a play with a Russian company: O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms at Moscow’s Pushkin Theater. He has been a guest director at such theaters as Canada’s Stratford Festival, the Guthrie Theater and Lab, La Jolla Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, Ford’s Theatre and the Kennedy Center, and he has directed nearly 30 productions of Shakespeare around the country and in Canada.

In the realm of opera, Mark directed Adriana Lecouvreur, Wozzeck and the premiere of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby for the Metropolitan Opera and numerous productions for New York City Opera. He has also directed for the opera companies of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, St. Louis, Glimmerglass, Toronto, Gothenburg and Munich, among others.

Born and raised in Chicago, Mark began his career as an actor. His Broadway credits include the musical Cyrano and a revival of Man and Superman. He spent more than three seasons at the Guthrie Theater, and he played the title role in Hamlet at the Old Globe Theatre. Mark made his film acting debut in Longtime Companion.

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Wayne Barker, music director & piano

Wayne Barker was music director for Mark Lamos' stagings of Into the Woods and She Loves Me at the Westport Country Playhouse and A Little Night Music at Baltimore’s Center Stage. While at Center Stage, Wayne also conducted Caroline, or Change and The Boys from Syracuse.

Wayne is composer of the Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher, which earned him a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award nomination. He performed with Dame Edna Everage for five years, writing the music and appearing as Master of the Dame’s Musik for Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance, and contributing to All About Me, starring Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein. Wayne is also artistic associate for new musicals and composer-in-residence at New York Theatre Workshop. Wayne has written music for The Three Musketeers and Twelfth Night at Seattle Repertory Theatre and The Great Gatsby and The Primrose Path at the Guthrie Theater, and he was orchestrator of Mark Bennett’s score for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Jolla Playhouse. He has written dozens of arrangements for symphonic pops concerts, including the New York Pops, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and the Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and St. Louis symphonies.

Wayne is pianist for The Raymond Scott Orchestrette (RSO), a seven-piece ensemble that plays Scott’s music with all its swinging idiosyncrasies. It has performed in New York and at the Montreal and North Sea jazz festivals and the Festival of Animated Music in Brussels. Later this summer the RSO will accompany Dance Heginbotham at Lincoln Center.

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Christine Andreas, vocals

Christine Andreas’ recent show, “be- Mused,” at 54 Below earned unanimous critical praise and is being recorded by PS Classics for release in early June. One of Lyrics & Lyricists most popular artists, this award-winning singer, Broadway star and Tony nominee recently completed a year in La Cage aux Folles with Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge, as well as a much acclaimed national tour as Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza.

On Broadway, Christine first captured New York theatregoers’ hearts as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th anniversary production of My Fair Lady, earning a Theatre World Award. This was followed by the revival of Oklahoma!, in which she starred as Laurey, worked with Billy Hammerstein & Agnes DeMille and received a Tony nomination; and On Your Toes as Frankie Frayne, directed by the legendary George Abbott, for which she also garnered a Tony nomination. She created the role of Marguerite St. Just in The Scarlet Pimpernel and received a Barrymore Award for her portrayal of Vera Simpson in Rodgers & Hart’s Pal Joey.

In concert Christine has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Kennedy Center, the Café Carlyle and the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and with many major symphonies around the country. Teamed with her husband, Grammy–nominated arranger and composer Martin Silvestri, Christine starred in Silvestri’s musical The Fields of Ambrosia, which opened on London’s West End followed by concerts in London, Paris, Rome, Australia and at the White House. These concerts were the basis for her award-winning CDs: Love is Good; Here’s to the Ladies and The Carlyle Set. Christine’s website is christineandreas.com.

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Daniel Breaker, vocals

Daniel Breaker appeared on Broadway earlier this season in the comedy The Performers, but audiences may know him best as the Donkey in Shrek the Musical, which garnered him a Drama Desk Award nomination, or as the Youth in Passing Strange, which earned him a Tony Award nomination, Theater World and Audelco awards, and another Drama Desk nomination; he also appeared in Passing Strange at the Public Theater and in Spike Lee’s filmed version. Daniel’s other Broadway credits include the Hartford Stage’s production of Cymbeline and Well.

Daniel’s other Off-Broadway plays include By The Way, Meet Vera Stark at Second Stage, Fabulation at Playwrights Horizons and Pericles with the Red Bull Theater at Culture Project. He received Helen Hayes Award nominations for his work in The Comedy of Errors and The Tempest at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, where he also appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Rivals and The Silent Woman. Daniel was in Life is a Dream and The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California; A Doctor in Spite of Himself at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle; Blacksheep at the Barrington Stage in the Berkshires and H.M.S. Pinafore at the Berkshire Theater Festival. He made his London debut in How to Act Around Cops at the Soho Theatre.

A graduate of The Juilliard School, Daniel has appeared in Spike Lee’s Redhook Summer, Limitless and He’s Way More Famous Than You. His television credits include “Unforgettable” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

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Britney Coleman, vocals

Britney Coleman just finished a run starring as Deena in Dreamgirls, directed by Marc Robin at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster. The production moves to the Maine State Music Theatre, where it opens this coming Wednesday. Last fall she played Deena at the Marriott Theatre outside Chicago.

Last spring Britney appeared as Rapunzel in Into the Woods, directed by Mark Lamos with music direction by Wayne Barker in a co-production between Westport Country Playhouse and Baltimore Center Stage. She starred as Kala in the Midwestern premiere of Tarzan: The Musical at the Wagon Wheel Theatre, near Fort Wayne; she also appeared there in Hairspray, State Fair and Big River. In October 2011 Britney made her New York debut in Karen O’s musical performance work Stop the Virgens, directed by Adam Rapp at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. This August she returns to Chicago to appear in and direct the music for a revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Britney received a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theatre from the University of Michigan. While there she starred in productions of Ragtime, See Rock City & Other Destinations, Into the Woods and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She was also part of the student-created musical parodies A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel, appearing as Bellatrix Lestrange/Dean Thomas, and serving as choreographer/dance captain. Both videos went viral, receiving millions of views, and A Very Potter Musical was named one of “The 10 Best Viral Videos of 2009” by Entertainment Weekly.

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Max von Essen, vocals

Max von Essen recently completed a successful run on Broadway in the revival of Evita, appearing as Agustin Magaldi and periodically stepping in for Ricky Martin as Che. His other Broadway credits include the recent revival of Les Misérables; the 2000 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, in which he understudied and frequently played the title role; Dance of the Vampires and the closing company of the original Les Misérables. Max recently appeared in the world premiere of Maury Yeston’s Death Takes a Holiday at the Roundabout Theatre Company and the Transport Group’s revival of Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again. He was also in Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall, Finian’s Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theatre and The Fantasticks at the Sullivan Street Playhouse.

Nationally, Max spent more than a year in roller skates as the star of the Broadway tour of Xanadu; he was also in the national tour of Chicago as Mary Sunshine. Max starred in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of The Baker’s Wife and the Kennedy Center’s staging of Mame. Other regional credits include leads in My Fair Lady, The Pirates of Penzance and West Side Story at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera; Hair at the Bay Street Theatre; and Sweeney Todd and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Sacramento Music Circus.

Max’s media appearances include Sex and the City 2, “Royal Pains,” “Gossip Girl,” numerous commercials and a recurring role on the hit webseries “Submissions Only.” Among his recordings are several cast albums, The Love Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Broadway Unplugged. His website is maxvonessen.com.

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Heather Jane Rolff, vocals

Heather Jane Rolff recently finished performing in the ensemble and standing by for Madame Thenardier in the record-breaking 25th anniversary North American tour of Les Misérables, which began at the Paper Mill Playhouse in October 2010. She made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Shrek the Musical, and she will return to the swamp this summer at The Muny in St. Louis. Off-Broadway audiences have seen her held captive in a well in Silence! The Musical at Theatre 80, as well as in Wanda’s World at the 45th Street Theatre, Sophie, Totie & Belle at Theatre Four and Pirates of Penzance aboard the four-masted Peking ship at the South Street Seaport, where she was both a chorister and the dance captain.

Heather Jane has appeared in productions in leading regional theaters across the country. She received Carbonell Award nominations for her performances in Footloose at the Actors’ Playhouse; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; and As Thousands Cheer at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, all in southern Florida. She was Jan in Grease at the Paper Mill Playhouse, the Actors’ Playhouse and the Sacramento Music Circus, where she also played Ado Annie in Oklahoma! Other shows include The Full Monty at Stages St. Louis, where she will return this summer to play Paulette in Legally Blonde.

Heather Jane has lent her voice talents to two cartoon series, “Peppa Pig” and “Gordon the Garden Gnome,” both airing on the Cartoon Network. She is making her Lyrics & Lyricists debut, and her website is heatherjanerolff.com.

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Chad Smith, reeds

Woodwind player, Chad Smith has been a member of the Broadway orchestras of Wicked, Legally Blonde, Follies and A Christmas Story: The Musical and has substituted for countless others. He has performed with numerous orchestras, including the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, L’Opera Francais, the Boston Pops and the American, Baltimore and New Jersey symphonies. He has also shared the stage with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Pizzarelli, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald and the Arturo Sandoval Big Band, to name a few. He has performed on numerous soundtracks, and he has created Sax-o-Philm: Sounds and Sights of the ‘20s, a live event featuring music silent film and more; its website is saxophilm.com.

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Art Bailey, accordion

Pianist, accordionist, producer, composer and arranger, Art Bailey maintains a busy schedule playing improvised music, Latin jazz, traditional Cuban music and new classical music. He leads his own piano trio with bassist Michael Bates and drummer Owen Howard, which recently released its debut album Quiet as a Bone on HRL Records, and he leads the avant-chamber group Rare as Radium. Since his arrival in New York City, Art has performed or recorded with dozens of stellar musicians and ensembles, including Guy Klucevsek, David Krakauer, Marty Ehrlich, Kirk Knuffke, Andy Gonzales, the Atlanta Symphony and the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics. He teaches piano and accordion, and his website is artbailey.org.

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Fred Rose, cello

Cellist Fred Rose has played in the pit orchestras of Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera and The Boy from Oz and of the Westport Country Playhouse’s Into the Woods and She Loves Me, under the musical direction of Wayne Barker. As an actor (and often cellist), Fred has appeared on Broadway in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Cyrano de Bergerac, Company, Cabaret at Studio 54 and The Phantom of the Opera. He has had lead or major roles in regional theater, including Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at Capital Rep, Perón in Evita at Northern Stage, Albin in La Cage aux Folles at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Richard H. Lee in 1776 at Riverside Theatre and Hannay in The 39 Steps at both the New Harmony Theatre and Theatre by the Sea.

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Joseph Wallace, bass

Joseph Wallace, a double and electric bassist, has performed everywhere from a small Pennsylvania roadhouse to Carnegie Hall. Recently, he was the principal bassist for Mohammed Fairouz’s first opera, Sumeida’s Song. Joe has provided bass for several new works, including Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm: The Musical, Joe Iconis’ The Black Suits and Paul Leschen’s BedBugs!!!: The Musical. He has also played with Wayne Barker in George Stiles’ Honk! at the Two River Theater Company. Beyond the musical theater and classical realms, Joe has worked with numerous New York artists. Most recently, he played with Aaron David Gleason in a tribute performance of David Bowie’s classic album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

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Lynette Wardle, harp

Lynette Wardle was harpist for the Tony Award-nominated A Christmas Story, the Musical, the national tour of Light in the Piazza and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. She also performs regularly at Wicked, The Fantasticks and with her husband Chad Smith in Sax-O-Philm: Sounds and Sights of the ‘20s. Lynette is principal harpist of the Richmond and Albany symphony orchestras, and she plays with the New Jersey and American symphonies, New York City Opera Orchestra, New York City Chamber Orchestra and Trilogy, a flute, harp and viola trio. Lynette has performed with artists such as David Burnham, Marvin Hamlisch, Yo-Yo Ma, Megan Hilty, Ann Hampton Callaway, Deborah Voigt and Luciano Pavarotti.

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Billy Miller, percussion

Percussionist Billy Miller most recently played on Broadway in this season’s Scandalous. His other Broadway credits include The Addams Family, Finian’s Rainbow, LoveMusik, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Light in the Piazza, Nine and Follies. Off-Broadway, he played in Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show at the Public Theater. Billy will play for the New York City Center Encores! Off-Center presentation of The Cradle Will Rock next month and Andrew Lippa’s musical Big Fish, opening on Broadway in the fall. In concert, Billy has performed with Victoria Clark, Deborah Voigt, Tommy Tune and Bernadette Peters, and he played on Ms. Peters’ CD, Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein. He can also be heard on almost a dozen cast albums.

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Bryan Hunt, assistant stage director

Bryan Hunt is assistant director of Christopher Durang’s new play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which has been nominated for six Tony Awards and runs on Broadway through the end of the month. He has been with the play since its world premiere at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, followed by its run at the Lincoln Center Theater. Bryan spent a year as the resident assistant director at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut, working with the theater’s artistic director Mark Lamos on his productions of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Twelfth Night as well as several other shows.

Bryan’s own directorial credits include Brigham Mosley’s Pretty, Smart, Poetic at the Westport Country Playhouse; As You Like It at Theatre-Hikes CO, which holds its productions in park around Denver and the Rocky Mountains; Henry V at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota; and Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’ Urinetown: The Musical at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas, among others. He has also served as assistant director at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Center Stage in Baltimore, Arena Stage in Washington, DC, Great River Shakespeare Festival and Dallas Theater Center.

Bryan is a founding member of The Island Theatre Company in Chicago and the current artistic director of The Iron Curtain Theatre Company in New York. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, and he is making his Lyrics & Lyricists debut with “The Bard and the Broadway Musical.”

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