Tag Archives: “Twelfth Night”

“Twelfth Night”: Staples Players’ Jazz-Funk-Pop Shakespearean Sizzler

Staples Players’ spring production is “Twelfth Night.”

People might think: “Teenagers doing Shakespeare. I’ll pass.”


For one thing, Players is no ordinary high school troupe. Their near Broadway-quality shows always entertain, excite and inspire.

For another — and this is key — this “Twelfth Night” is not really Shakespeare. It’s a big, bold musical, filled with singing and dancing.

Ben Herrera as Malvolio, with “Twelfth Night” ensemble.

It’s funny. It’s fun. It’s accessible.

And it zips along: 12 songs are packed into a quick — and very engrossing — 90 minutes.

Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long knew they were taking a risk. “Twelfth Night” — whether familiar Shakespeare, or an unfamiliar musical — is a tough sell.

(From left): Charlie Watson, Matthew Bukzin, Jackie Peterson and Henry Carson in “Twelfth Night.”

But they loved Shaina Taub’s music. They knew that the cast recording was popular with theater people. (When the Public Theatre debuted the show in 2018, the New Yorker called it “less an interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy than a block party sprinkled with iambic pentameter.”)

And when the directors announced it this winter, they challenged Players cast members to listen to the jazz-funk-pop score with open ears.

The next days, the young actors were singing in the halls. (Click below for senior Sophia Betit, singing during rehearsal.)

During their 65-year history, Players have tackled Shakespeare before. Roth and Long directed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2005, and “Romeo & Juliet” 3 years later.

As with much of The Bard’s work, despite being over 400 years old, “Twelfth Night” remains timely.

The plot deals with “our perceptions of gender — what it means to be a man or a woman, and how women are perceived in society,” Roth says.

(After a shipwreck, a woman dresses as a man to get a job. And of course, there are love complications.)

Quinn Mulvey as Viola. (All photos/Kerry Long)

“The message of the show is about walking in another person’s shoes, and seeing how the world perceives you,” Long explains. “There’s not a lot of equity.”

“Twelfth Night” is not “Mamma Mia!” or “Grease.” But — like those Staples Players blockbusters — it too will thrill audiences of all ages.

“We want to expose people to shows we love,” Roth says. “Take a 90-minute leap of faith with us!”

(“Twelfth Night” performances are March 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., and March 19 and 25 at 3 p.m. Youngsters 12 and under get a sweet swag bag, including a coupon for a free ice cream cone donated by Saugatuck Sweets, plus a button proudly announcing “My first Shakespeare!”

(Click here for tickets, and more information. Click below to hear the original cast recording music.)

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“Twelfth Night” Composer Jams With Staples Players

Sure, “Twelfth Night” is Shakespeare.

But Staples Players’ productions always come with a twist. Next month’s show by the award-winning high school troupe is a catchy, contemporary musical version of the Bard’s romantic comedy.

They’ve been excited about it, ever since rehearsals began.

Last week, they got an added jolt: Composer Shaina Taub came to the Staples stage, to chat — and sing — with the cast.

The visit started as a shot in the dark. Co-director Kerry Long reached out on Instagram, noting that Taub’s friend Justin Paul — composer of “Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land” — is a Players alum.

Taub’s schedule is packed, but she graciously agreed to visit.

Shaina Taub (front row, center, hands clasped) enjoys a sing-along with Players. Andrew Maskoff is at the piano. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The Westport teens related to her stories about growing up as a musical theater kid in Vermont. She described the importance of her extended theater family at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, and the daunting task of writing an adaptation of Shakespeare after a call from the Public Theater.

Long and co-director David Roth led a Q-and-A session. A question about her writing process brought this advice about getting something — anything — down: “A C+ song on paper is better than an A+ song that hasn’t been written.”

Then the real fun began: a sing-along around the piano.

“There’s something amazing for theater kids to sing songs with the person who wrote them,” Long says.

“Our students are obsessed with the music. They all the know the words to every song, even if they don’t sing it in the show.”

Shaina Taub (left) with Sophia Betit. The senior plays Feste in “Twelfth Night” — the role Taub originated in her own show at the Public Theater. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Taub is now an accomplished composer and actor. But she went right back into “theater kid” mode, singing and bopping joyfully with the young cast.

It was a magical 90 minutes.

Then — the moment it was over — rehearsal began.

Shaina Taub could surely relate.

(Staples Players perform “Twelfth Night” at 7:30 p.m. on March 17, 18, 24 and 25, and 3 p.m. on March 19 and 25. Click here for tickets, and more information. Hat tip: Jill Johnson Mann)

(Staples Players is where teenagers meet Shakespeare — and Shaina Taub. “06880” is “where Westport meets the world” — and you read all about it. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)