Published in The Planet Weekly, November 4, 2013:
Prentice Concert Chorale, under the direction of Leslie Poss, featuring The Rude Mechanicals, directed by Steve Burch and Mark Hughes Cobb, present “Shakespeare Spoken & Sung.” Performances are scheduled on November 1st and 2nd at 8:00 PM in the new Black Box Theatre in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, located on the corner of Greensboro Avenue and Seventh Street, downtown Tuscaloosa. General admission tickets, $10 for adults and $5 for students, will be available at the door.
Music played an important part in Shakespeare’s work; his words not only filled dozens of sonnets and narrative poems, but also appeared in songs sprinkled throughout his plays. The Rude Mechanicals’ selections for “Shakespeare Spoken & Sung” include scenes and soliloquies from a variety of plays including: “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” “As You Like It,” “Hamlet,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “Twelfth Night.” Interspersed among the theatrical excerpts will be choral, ensemble, and solo settings of Shakespeare’s song texts from many of these plays, and from “Measure for Measure” and “The Tempest.” Additional music is also included from “Kiss Me Kate” and “Westside Story,” modern musical theatre adaptations of “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Scene selection was influenced either by the role of music and how it played an important – and sometimes direct – influence on the characters or the scene’s ability to stand alone outside the larger work. Musical settings of Shakespeare’s texts were selected to provide either a direct connection to a specific play or to provide musical commentary to a scene’s general theme. Certainly, the quality of Shakespeare’s spoken and sung words is without debate. The composers, too, who set his words to music, are superior: Emma Lou Diemer, Thomas Morley, Cole Porter, John Rutter, and Leonard Bernstein.
William Shakespeare’s influence exceeds that of many historical figures. Four hundred years after his death, contemporary writers, actors and filmmakers continue to find inspiration in his work. Filled with quotable quotes and commonly used words and phrases that he originated, his plays touch on timeless themes of love and friendship and incorporate characters that are real and recognizable. “Shakespeare Spoken and Sung” provides an accessible portal into Shakespeare’s view of human behavior, the comedy and tragedy of life observed through carefully chosen scenes and songs, and eliminates the fear and frustration frequently associated with watching an entire Shakespearian play.
The Rude Mechanicals just completed their eleventh season of highly successful outdoor summer performances of Shakespeare in the Park. Affectionately referred to as “Shakespeare Camp,” the Rude Mechanicals is comprised of University of Alabama students and community theatre artists. Co-founder and musical director, Mark Hughes Cobb composes original music for each production and works with Steve Burch to co-produce The Rude Mechanicals, and Deborah Parker serves as company manager. Taken from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” The Rude Mechanicals refers to Quince and his six artisans, referred to as “Rude Mechanicals” by Puck, who must put on a show in order to please the Duke.
Prentice Concert Chorale is an auditioned choir of professional and amateur singers joining to perform major works of choral literature, original compositions by local composers (including commissioned pieces), and high quality choral music of all genres, from classics to pop. Founded in 1970 as Tuscaloosa Community Singers, Prentice Concert Chorale has been and is actively engaged in the local Tuscaloosa and West Alabama communities. Beyond its Tuscaloosa home, Prentice Chorale has recently performed in Demopolis and this past season presented free concerts in Greensboro and Brent. Prentice Chorale’s most recent events include invited performances at the 2013 Alabama Choral Director’s Summer Celebration Workshop and at the gala opening of the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center.