BELFAST — The Basil Burwell Community Theater will be alive with the sound of music for the company’s first production of the 2020 season, Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which contains more songs than any other play by the Bard. It is, in fact, often referred to as “Shakespeare’s musical,” according to Belfast Maskers, in a news release.
Opening night is Thursday evening, March 12.
The Maskers’ production is set in the 1960s and will feature a wide spectrum of music from that era. Director Erik Perkins and sound designer Jay Rosenberg have crafted a soundtrack that includes folk, rock, blues, pop,
and jazz music by artists as diverse as Simon & Garfunkel, Canned Heat, Buffalo Springfield, Fairport Convention, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Kinks, and others.
Because As You Like It is a pastoral comedy, Perkins and Rosenberg have chosen a lot of music that celebrates the rustic, country life. In addition to covering scene changes, the music will also be an important part of setting the mood and highlighting several themes.
At auditions, Perkins paid special attention to those actors who could sing and play instruments.
“My hope was to assemble a band from within the cast so the music could flow organically from the scenes,” he said, in a news release. “I had no idea that I was going to be so lucky. These actors’ musical talents are simply amazing.”
Phoebe Norman, a junior at Belfast Area High School, plays Lord Amiens, the character who sings most of the play’s songs. Perkins says that she’s an outstanding singer who’s “rocking the songs at rehearsals.” Local
audiences know Norman from her recent work in two of the school’s musicals — she was the female lead in Newsies last fall and Carmen in the school’s 2018 production of Fame.
Tom Crutcher, a newcomer to Belfast but a veteran of the theater, is playing Jacques, who delivers the famous “Seven Ages of Man” speech. Early in the rehearsal process, he shared with Perkins some arrangements he’d
composed for three of the show’s songs.
“I had no idea if they’d be any good or, even if they were good, if they would have the right feel for my vision of the production,” said Perkins. “His songs were absolutely perfect.”
Long-time Masker Mike Nickerson, an accomplished bass player, is another member of the talented cast.
“During one rehearsal,” said Perkins, “I suggested that the bass might not be appropriate for the feel of a scene that takes place around a campfire, so Mike pulled out a harmonica. Instantly, his music created the perfect atmosphere.”
Rounding out the musical talent are Kenneth Kornfield (Monsieur LeBau), who plays guitar and mandolin; Tom Maycock on the bodhrán, an Irish frame drum; and Melora Norman and Patricia Saucier who sing backup
vocals while laying down some sweet tambourine.
As You Like It runs Thursdays through Saturdays, at 7 p.m.; and Sundays, at 2 p.m., March 12 to 22.
Tickets are $15 ($12 for 12-and-under), with a special half-price Preview Night on Thursday, March 12. Tickets are on sale now at Left Bank Books, 109 Church Street, with cash and check. Credit card purchases can be made at BelfastMaskers.com.