Bard on the Beach As You Like It

Two of jolly ol’ England’s best exports have finally been united in a raucous affair! William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It intersects Beatlemania in Bard on the Beach’s audacious, musical rendition.

Director Daryl Cloran’s take on the Bard classic is bold, exuberant and sheer glee for fans of the Fab Four.

Bringing this mash-up to fruition was no small feat. 25 years ago, artistic director Christopher Gaze was given the idea by writer and friend John MacLachlan Gray. Unfortunately, Bard was only a fledgling company in 1993.

Besides securing song rights, where would he corral the appropriate talent to score a success? This year, with Cloran at the helm and a remarkably gifted cast, Shakespeare’s play is transmuted to delight even those unfamiliar with the Beatles or the Bard.

Bard on the Beach As You Like It

The essential themes of the storyline revolve around justice, freedom, and of course, love. These are perfectly at home amongst the counterculture of 1960’s Kitsilano. A wrestling extravaganza, reminiscent of All Star Wrestling, entertains guests before the start of the play and launches, without a hitch, into the opening act.

Duke Senior, rightful heir to a successful business firm, is exiled by his brother Duke Frederick. Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, is allowed to remain in Vancouver because she and Frederick’s daughter, Celia, are inseparable.

Due to the custom of primogeniture, young Orlando de Boys is denied fair treatment by older brother Oliver. He’s also forced to flee and will chance upon Senior in the Okanagan forest.

Lindsey Angell, Harveen Sandu
[Lindsey Angell, Harveen Sandu]

Orlando had become smitten with Rosalind at the wrestling match and is heartbroken to be separated from her. Frederick suddenly changes his mind and banishes Rosalind as well but Celia departs with her. Both ladies make their getaway to the Okanagan where a lot of song, bouts of buffoonery and a little pinch of the psychedelic will unite everyone.

In order to accommodate 25 iconic songs, Cloran had to strip out much of the play’s original dialogue, but not to worry! Memorable lines are preserved and Shakespeare diehards won’t miss any of the content as the meanings are conveyed through song lyrics.

The Beatles verses actually make the play more digestible for modern audiences. The seamless fusion of these two genres is beyond mind-blowing and attests to the unparalleled genius of both the playwright and the musicians to transcend time and place.

The entire Bard cast wowed audiences with their triple threat of dancing, singing and acting finesse! Under the meticulous direction of choreographer/fight director Jonathan Hawley Purvis, every leap, stumble and swagger is on target.

Lindsey Angell, Nadeem Phillip
[Lindsey Angell, Nadeem Phillip]

Brandishing a fourth skill, Nicco Del Rio, Austin Eckert, Jeff Gladstone and Ben Elliott (also the musical director) channels Beatlemania-style as a four-piece band that pumps out sing-along tunes on stage. Righteous!

As Orlando, Nadeem Phillip maintains probity while staying nimble on his feet. He evolves from a naïve suitor to sensible husband under the tutelage of a dazzling Rosalind, played by Lindsey Angell. She navigates her cross-dressing role with grace and tremendous tenderness.

Although their comedic styles differ, the striped and starched Touchstone (Kayvon Khoshkam) and the gangly Silvius (Ben Elliott) steal the show every time they tumble across the stage.

Kayvon Khoshkam, Emma Slipp
[Kayvon Khoshkam, Emma Slipp]

Khoshkam triggers guffaws as the abused Touchstone, unleashed in the freedom of the countryside.

Elliott taps his emotions as a lovesick punching bag as easily as he taps on a keyboard. As sound designer and musical director, the arrangement, flow and rhythm of the Beatles treasury falls squarely on his shoulders. No need for luck and no shortcuts; the man has the knack!

At times though, the musical instruments overpower the actors’ voices, but I hope “[They] Can Work it Out”. 

The only character that seems out of place is Jaques but Ben Carlson exerts the most of his considerable talents into this role. Jaques’ melancholic rants are clever only when bolstered by the original dialogue from other supporting characters. Without this context the witticisms fall flat and monotonous. Jaques becomes a killjoy among all the laid-back and jubilant players.

Bard on the Beach As You Like It

From the glaring lights of the boxing ring to the soft glow of the Okanagan sun, stage lighting is embellished by Gerald King’s deft touch. Carmen Alatorre’s wardrobe choices are a love letter to 1960’s kaleidoscopic styles.

Structured monochromatic pieces adorn the city dwellers while relaxed, bohemian patterns parade through the Okanagan. Mop-tops, the beehive and flips make a comeback!

For this show, Pam Johnson once again demonstrates her adeptness and foresight as set designer. She transforms her imposing and somber stage for Macbeth into a robust boxing ring for As You Like It’s first act and orchestrates the efflorescence of an apple orchard while the audience is distracted with a rendition of Help!

Harveen Sandhu, Lindsey Angell

There is no “Yellow Submarine” but she supplies a yellow flower-power van! All these shifting segments and almost everything that makes its way in front of the audience are expertly coordinated by the stage management team of Stephen Courtenay, Rebecca Mulvihill and Jenny Kim.

Shakespeare’s poetry served with a wallop of sing-along, feel-good Beatles tunes — Bard on the Beach’s As You Like It is this summer’s 2-in-1 entertainment bargain. Shows have been selling out and you only have until September 22 to join the mania!

About Our Contributor Cora Li

Cora Li

Cora dabbles in arts, technology, food, and travel. She loves that Vancouver offers a vast playground for exploring all of her passions. Cora’s most memorable job to date was working with VANOC during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

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