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Rejoice greatly! The Public Theater’s delicious new Shakespeare in the Park production of “Twelfth Night,” which Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub have turned into something closely resembling a Broadway musical, is at least as good as any of the new musicals that have opened in the past decade, and better than all but a handful of them. Indeed, Ms. Taub’s tuneful pop-soul score is reminiscent of a big-budget Disney show, only without the soul-shriveling slickness of a cold-hearted commodity musical like “Frozen.”…
While it wouldn’t take much work to develop this “Twelfth Night” into a commercial show, the outdoor version has an unpretentious charm all its own. It got its start two years ago as one of the Public Theater’s Public Works productions, in which “civilians” and professionals band together to create what Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, calls “radically inclusive” shows that blur the line between community and fully professional theater….
I’d like to go into more detail about the show, a colorful modern-dress version that runs for 90 tightly packed, feather-light minutes, but I can do no more in this space than hint at its limitless pleasures…
Speaking of productions that deserve both a larger audience and a longer life, Goodspeed Musicals’ “Oliver!” fills the bill as abundantly as “Twelfth Night.” Lionel Bart’s ever-so-English stage version of “Oliver Twist” first came to Broadway in 1963 and ran there for nearly two years, after which Carol Reed turned it into one of the last high-budget movie musicals to whack the box-office gong. But “Oliver!” tanked when it returned to Broadway in 1984, closing after just 17 performances. Since then, professional American revivals have been comparatively scarce, so much so that I’d never seen it performed live until I drove up to Connecticut to take a look at Rob Ruggiero’s new production. Mr. Ruggiero has a knack for fitting big musicals onto Goodspeed’s tiny stage without breaking off the corners, but “Oliver!” is notable even by his own high standards. It is, in fact, one of the finest things Goodspeed has ever done, making a convincing case for a musical at which many musical-comedy buffs turn up their noses—and one that could be transferred to Broadway almost effortlessly….
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Read the whole thing here.
Excerpts from the original 2016 Public Works production of Twelfth Night:
Excerpts from Goodspeed Musicals’ revival of Oliver!: