“Shrew’d” review by Carol Moore

Highly Recommended **** 

I always look forward to the evenings I spend watching First Folio’s Shakespeare under the stars.  Somehow, that atmosphere – an outdoor stage set in the lush Mayslake Peabody Estate – transports me into Shakespeare’s world.  That stage has been transformed into a 1930’s Chicago jazz club as the backdrop for “Shrew’d”, First Folio’s brand new musical based on Shakespeare’s misogynistic comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew”.  I fell in love with this show listening to the very first song, “City of Dreams”, a tribute to Chicago.  Don’t miss “Shrew’d”!  4 Big Spotlights

Kudos to David Rice and Lydia Hiller for the adaptation, which sets the comedy in Baptista’s jazz club in Chicago, and for their clever, complicated rhyming lyrics set to original music by Christopher Kriz.  “Shrew’d” is directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller.

“Shrew’d” opens with the entire cast singing a terrific new song called “City of Dreams”, an amazing tribute to Chicago.  It must have been difficult to write something completely new about the windy city, but they managed!  By the way, when I did an online search for songs about Chicago, I found literally hundreds of titles.

Baptista (George Keating) owns a jazz club in Chicago.  His two daughters, Kate  (Sierra Schnack), a songwriter, and Bianca (Emma Rosenthal), a dancer, frequently perform in the club.  Several young men have fallen for the lovely Bianca but Baptista has decided that Kate, who positively loathes men, must be married first.  Kate sings about her solo status with a little ditty called “I’m Not Looking for a Man”.   

Lucentio (Tony Carter) arrives in Chicago with his servant, Tranio (Sasha Kostyrko).    When he switched places with Tranio, he was able to get close to Bianca by masquerading as her dance instructor.  Her other admirers, Hortensio (Steven Strafford) and Gremio (Karmann Bajuyo) never really have a chance.  Meanwhile, Petruchio (Christopher W. Jones) comes to Chicago from faraway Kentucky and hears about Kate.  Petruchio joins Bianca’s suitors and Tranio in singing “A Little Bit of Larceny”.

When Petruchio sees Kate, he’s determined to win her over, plying her with flowers, gifts, and adulation.  While he’s doing that, Gremio and Tranio sing “The Bidding Song” with Baptista.  Lucentio and Bianca are falling in love as they sing “Dancing Is Dessert”,  while Kate and Petruchio sing “The Wooing”

Also appearing: Biondello (Sam Shankman), Saleswoman (Jazmin Corona), and Vincenzo (Ray Andrecheck).  The ensemble – some of whom also played musical instruments – includes Isabella Andrews, Brice Baron, Laura Brennan, Eric Deutz, Rebecca Keeshin, Ted Kitterman, Thomas Squires and Rachel Lauren Wagner.  Playing in the Band were Kevin Reeks (Keyboards), Jake Saleh (Bass) and Andy Wilmoth (Drums).

Just a note – In years past, I’ve wondered how First Folio handles weather issues.  Last summer, I found out.  At intermission, a young woman from the First Folio staff  announced that they were shutting down the production because of a rapidly moving storm.  She encouraged everyone to quickly pack up so they could get home safely.  As people left, they were given rain checks.  Meanwhile, the stage crew were up on ladders covering the lights, etc. – battening the hatches, you might say.

My friend Karen and I were happy with our snacks and sun tea.  We brought our snacks in an insulated bag, so we didn’t have a table, unlike many people who’d grouped their chairs around portable tables festooned with candles, wine in proper glasses and gourmet foods!  For the first time this summer, custom-made boxed suppers (Bistro Beef Sandwich, Cheese & Meat Plate, Chipotle Chicken Club, Harvest Salad, etc.) can be ordered, $17.50 each, from Standard Market.  Place your order by phone at (630) 986-8067 or online at www.app.arts-people.com/index.php?retail=folio at least 48 hours in advance.

By the way, if you forget your chairs or your blanket, don’t worry, First Folio offers both chairs and blankets for rent.  They also have a small concession stand.

“Shrew’d” runs through August 19th on First Folio’s outdoor stage on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street (31st & Rt. 83), Oakbrook.  Parking is free.

Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 8:15 pm.

Tickets range from $34-$44.

FYI (630) 986-8067 or www.firstfolio.org.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Shrew’d”.