Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" is getting a total musical makeover in the Public Theater's new staging at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.
With director Alex Timbers and songwriter Michael Friedman on board, this version of the Bard's comedy relocates the action from the kingdom of Navarre to a modern-day resort populated by rowdy college graduates.
Timbers and Friedman were the minds behind the musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," which ran at the Kirk Douglas Theatre before transferring to the Public and later to Broadway. This time around, they've taken the bulk of Shakespeare's plot, only some of his text and fashioned a musical production featuring high-spirited songs and dance numbers.
This isn't the first time that "Love's Labour's Lost" has been given a musical spin. Kenneth Branagh directed a movie version in 2000 that was set in the early 20th century and featured songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins.
The new production in Central Park features a cast that includes Daniel Breaker and "Saturday Night Live" veteran Rachel Dratch.
What did the critics think?
Entertainment Weekly's Thom Geier called the production "a silly summertime confection as tasty and ephemeral as cotton candy." Timbers and Friedman "are never less than clever" and "there's a generous expansiveness" in this ensemble piece.
Ben Brantley of the New York Times described it as a "spirited but slapdash show" that "keeps trying on different stances and voices like an attention-deficient kid in a Halloween costume shop." Timbers' conception "becomes airborne only in fits and starts. As a silly diversion for the silly season, it passes muster, but only just."
The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck wrote, "This delightfully antic show is a perfect midsummer night’s entertainment" but "it's definitely not for Shakespeare purists." Overall, the staging "marks a refreshing change of pace from the Public’s usual faithful productions."
Jesse Green of New York magazine wrote that the creative team has "made opportunities out of the play’s liabilities, and a delicious summer evening out of questionable ingredients." The songs "are especially smart, finding in standard musical moments apt analogs for the exploration of themes" that Shakespeare himself didn't fully flesh out.