Wirtz Center hosts musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’


Photo courtesy of Justin Barbin, Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts

“As You Like It” is a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name, which includes modern aspects such as pop and folk songs.

Kunjal Bastola, Reporter

As You Like It,” a modern musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play, opened Friday night at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. It will run through Nov. 20. 

The musical begins by bringing the audience in with the song “All The World’s A Stage,  featuring the entire cast entering onstage as if preparing for a show. Then actors join in on a wrestling tournament, incorporating modern aspects like business casual attire and a cellphone.

“This is not a musical that’s 50 years old,” Director Jessica Fisch said. “It is like five years old.” 

The adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy attempts to integrate aspects of today’s world by incorporating modern pop songs, such as a reference to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” as well as boyband and folk music. 

Communication senior Jared Son,  who plays Touchstone in the musical, said the show’s style is relatively new.

“It’s like Shakespeare and musical theater kind of combined,” he said.

The play follows Orlando, son of Sir Rowland De Boys, as he leaves his town after being banished by Duke Frederick. Before leaving, he meets Rosalind, the Duke’s niece, and falls in love with her before the Duke banishes them both. 

Orlando and Rosalind leave town and venture to the welcoming forest community of Arden. Rosalind’s cousin, Celia, and Touchstone also accompany her. Unbeknownst to her, Rosalind’s father also resides in Arden. 

Rosalind poses as a man and meets Orlando in Arden, where she helps him learn how to love someone, no matter their flaws. Orlando is not aware that it is Rosalind, whom he loves, teaching him.

“As You Like It” also explores queer love stories. In this adaptation, the original character of Silvius is renamed Silvia.  

“It’s been a very interesting process to explore what it means to have this character to be a woman instead of a man,” said Communication junior Claire Guthrie, who plays Silvia. “We talked a lot about queer representation in the media, how it is now and how we’d like it to be and how this dynamic plays with the general tropes of lesbian representation in media.”

The play caters to an immersive audience with direct audience interaction. At one point, cast members passed around flags to audience members so they could cheer during a wrestling tournament scene. 

Bringing in a live audience is something the cast and crew said they were excited about — especially after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted theatre in many ways, according to Fisch. 

For her, the audience is what completes the performance. 

“We’re wanting to create a communal space and wanting to have the show feel like an experience,” Guthrie said. “All we’re missing right now is that other piece of the audience.”

Fisch noted how she was excited for the cast and crew, who have put in so much work rehearsing for four to five hours a weekday alongside full weekends, to finally have an audience. 

The musical ends with the words “love makes magic real,” touching on the universal theme of love. 

For Fisch, this is what makes the play relatable — it revolves around loving someone through their faults and being loved despite flaws. 

“It’s the story of young people figuring out who they are meant to be and falling in love while they’re doing it,” she said.

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Twitter: @kunjal_bastola

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