Under the Greenwood Tree is a musical re-imagining of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, with originals songs by Tyler Phillips. The production was held at the Flea Theater in Manhattan and was also directed by Phillips along with Carly Howard, who played the role of Rosalind.
It is not easy to put a different spin on the Bard’s work. The production can be a great success or go horribly wrong. Thankfully, Under the Greenwood Tree had no such bad luck. It was a fantastic production with an extremely multi-talented cast. For those who’ve never read As You Like It, this play follows the adventures of Rosalind, Orlando (Brett Benowitz), and the rest of the characters from Shakespeare’s famous work as they make their way through the Forest of Arden. Rosalind, her cousin Celia (Kendra Jo Brook), and the court jester Touchstone (Kyle Sallee) have fled from Duke Frederick (Sean Griffin) and are now hiding in said forest. Rosalind disguises herself as the young man Ganymede and Celia as the poor woman Aliena. Meanwhile, Orlando, who is already madly in love with Rosalind, has made his way to the Forest of Arden as well, leaving his horrible older brother Oliver (played by Andy deRado). All the while, Duke Senior (played by John Gardner) has been living in the forest since his exile. All kinds of madness ensues, accompanied by some truly great music and songs I cannot get out of my head.
Under the Greenwood Tree was a very pleasant surprise for several reasons, the first being that the cast is so talented. Every one of them could sing, dance, and play one (or more) instruments. The play felt like one big commune and I had to fight the urge to join everyone on the tiny stage and share in the camaraderie. The dance numbers were choreographed well and I was impressed at how efficient everyone was at moving props and setting up for the next scene. As I’ve said before, the Flea Theater is a small one, and so many things could have gone wrong by having so many people on the stage all at once. But the cast and crew worked well to make sure everything was on point.
It’s a shame that the show had such a short run (only August 8-18) because it was such fun to watch and experience. It would be nice to see this play on stage once again, as I think many theater-goers would enjoy it. Until such time, go to the show’s website and download the songs. My favorites are “Idiot Love,” sung by hopelessly in love Silvius (Trevor McGinnis), and “Oh, Winter Wind” sung by the entire cast. I guarantee you will catch yourself humming at least one of the tunes throughout your day.
Photos courtesy of Heller Highwater LLCPowered by Sidelines