Theater Review: 'Love's Labour Lost' -- 3 stars
Love’s Labour’s Lost
The new musical “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which is being produced by the Public Theater as this summer’s final Shakespeare in the Park offering, attempts to turn the bard’s verbally witty but dense, tiresome and esoteric romance into a youthful, lively and freewheeling rock musical.
Director Kenneth Branagh once tried to do the same kind of thing, and failed miserably, in his 2000 film version of the play, which plugged in Great American Songbook standards.
Considering the success of the Public Theater’s musical version of Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” back in the early 1970s, it’s surprising that it took so long for the Public to musicalize another Shakespeare play.
Songwriter Michael Friedman and director Alex Timbers’ (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”) contemporized adaptation is extremely faithful — perhaps too faithful — to the plotting of the original play, about how a young king (Daniel Breaker) and his pals pledge to shun the presence of women and devote themselves to the classics.
Their plans go awry once a princess (Patti Murin) and her party girl companions arrive on the scene, leading the boys to declare their feelings in love poems and then pull silly pranks on the girls. Once it seems that all will end happily, the princess receives word that her father has died, bringing a cold dose of reality that forces everyone to grow up a bit.
There are moments, particularly the tuneful ensemble numbers, where the cast wins the audience over with a silly, self-effacing spirit.
But it saps in energy and slows down during the openhearted solos or whenever any of the many supporting characters take over.
But Timbers’ gorgeous production does provide a good deal of fun. It is also far easier to sit through this uneven, but accessible adaptation than the head-inducing original “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, go to public theater.org for info on obtaining FREE tickets. Through Sunday.