Brush Up on Your Shakespeare

by Alexander Hehr

After 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and over 400 years of adoration, it is safe to say everyone’s heard of William Shakespeare. But has everyone heard the songs inspired by Shakespeare? Not only did the immortal bard create works of art that lasted for centuries, but his stories influenced lyricists and composers of the modern era to create their own masterpieces that hold a special place in our hearts.

Almost 20 years after its initial mounting in 1999, Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits is leaping back to FST as the final cabaret of the winter season. This revamped Cabaret is a celebration of the words of William Shakespeare and the renaissance of music that he inspired long after his death. Classic songs like “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “Falling In Love With Love,” and “Something’s Coming,” hit the Court Cabaret stage in the comedic tribute to the poet and playwright from Stratford.

Just how often are we “Quoting Shakespeare” in our everyday conversations? Is Shakespeare supposed to be seductive? Which Broadway shows are based on Shakespeare’s classic works? Whether you are at the Cabaret to say “Welcome to the Renaissance,” or even, “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits will tickle your funny bone and tug at your heartstrings.

FST Cabaret veteran Dane Becker joins this comical cast. No stranger to comedy, this is Dane’s fourth show with FST, having previously starred in Older Than Dirt, Inspired Lunacy, and Hairspray. Another FST Cabaret expert joining the cast is William Selby, who starred alongside Dane in Older Than Dirt, and performed in Laughing Matters Vol. 5. In cahoots with our returning performers are newcomers Samantha Joy Pearlman and Galen Murphy-Hoffman.

Artistic Director Richard Hopkins returns to direct Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits two decades after directing the original production. “What’s interesting about this production is that it’s 20 years later, and while Shakespeare’s works haven’t changed, the audience has changed,” said Hopkins, “The perception of Shakespeare changed because the culture has shifted since the original production; we have to create a new approach to the Cabaret this time around, make it current, so it permeates the hearts and minds of the audience today.”

Hopkins continued, “When we set up Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits next to Blue Suede Shoes with its iconic Rock & Roll songs, and following Mack the Knife with its pop standards of the ‘50s, it really puts Shakespeare in context with modern lyricists and composers. Shakespeare is the greatest writer and lyric poet of all time, but when we compare him to the great living lyric poets of our age, we see how truly talented they are, and how they speak to us in the same way Shakespeare speaks to his audience, how he rocked his audience the same way Elton John rocks us.”

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