Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Musical, by Wade Ablitt, Jerwood DanceHouse, January 31.
- Credit: Wide Eye Productions
Transforming one of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedies into a modern musical is a task fraught with danger. The much-quoted lines and the story are so well known that, if the new additions are not up to scratch, it can leave you open to accusations of cultural vandalism.
Happily, these fears were never realised. What we got instead was a stunning debut from a 20 year writer-composer who had been preparing for two years for this one day, semi-staged workshop performance.
Using a cast of 20 talented, mostly teenage, performers, Wade Ablitt brought a style and sophistication to the musical numbers that would not have been out-of-place in a professional theatre.
There was a good mix of solo and ensemble numbers and a nice blend of voices in the multi-part arrangements. There was also a healthy mix of different tempos and styles of song from big production numbers to quiet love songs to quirky comedy numbers.
The songs were also incredibly well sung. Wade had clearly cast the show very carefully. It was obvious from the confident and assured performances from the whole cast that he hadn’t just offered parts to his mates,
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The standard of the acting and singing was first-class. It was genuinely uplifting to see so many 17-20 year olds that were able to sing quite challenging songs and handle the Shakespearean dialogue with equal aplomb.
It was also good to note that Wade had obviously spent time rehearsing the acting side rather than just focussing on his music and songs.
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The staging of the Mechanicals was hilarious and benefitted from some well-timed gags that were obviously well-rehearsed but to an audience looked spontaneous and natural.
I have seen several professional productions with painfully unfunny Mechanicals so well-done for that.
As with any musical adaptation the original source material has to undergo a serious pruning exercise to fit the songs into the show and Wade has trimmed Shakespeare’s play sensitively and knowledgably.
Having said that, as Wade will undoubtedly go back and fine tune the show again, I would have liked a little more of Shakespeare’s dialogue to have been retained. There were several key lines which failed to make an appearance – “put a girdle about the earth” being one – and perhaps, he could incorporate a few of the Bard’s lyrical motifs into the songs themselves?
This is just me being picky. All in all this was an outstanding debut from a gifted young writer and I can’t wait to see what happens to this show and indeed what Wade comes up with next.
Remember the name, Wade Ablitt, he’s a composer going places.