Five Reasons Why Much Ado About Nothing is Worth Making an Ado About

By: Iris Wiener

June 24, 2024: In Thomas G. Waites’ reimagined, somewhat modernized version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, an acting troupe of stellar proportions excels with a piece that is rife with playful flirting, sexual innuendo, and epic antics. A comedic play filled with love, deception, and pun-tastic twists, the story takes place in 1940s Italy, and follows the courtship of Hero and Claudio; their incessant drama contrasts with the banter-filled sparring of Benedick and Beatrice. The action culminates in a double wedding filled with surprises and mishaps. Now open at the Gene Frankel Theater, here are five reasons why Much Ado is an airy, enjoyable start to the summer:

1.    The phenomenal actors are comprised of a rotating cast of actors, all of whom are acting students from Waites’ TGW Acting Studio…though one would never know they have not been gracing New York stages for years. Taking on the Bard is not a task for the faint of heart, and this troupe makes it seem as they Elizabethan is their second language. Most notably, Jake Minevich gives a master class in the art of timing as Benedick; his patience and thoughtfulness with the quick-witted, somewhat boastful entertainer are a precursor to what is surely a long career on the New York stage. Kaitlyn Mitchell’s Beatrice and Dillon John Collins’ Claudio are also perfect players in this chess game of a love story.

2.    Thomas Waites’ direction of a constantly moving cast of fourteen is exciting to witness in the miniscule space at the Gene Frankel Theater. The dialogue is never stagnant and the ever-changing scenes are fluid and natural. Waites’ use of the space coupled with the thoughtful set design and the comedic choices of the actors is a dexterous demonstration of Shakespeare. (Take note of how the troupe delightfully and profoundly charge through and interact with the singular black stage curtain, as if it’s a character in and of itself!) 

3.    This Much Ado is most notably set apart from other productions through a steady stream of carefully curated music, setting the wildly different tones for each scene. Composed by Cedric Allen Hill, who also plays Balthazar (a musician), the original music ranges from a full piece that accompanies the masked ball, to sultry underscores and comedic sound effects. Hill even treats audiences to a pre-show jazzy set on the keys, accompanied by drummer John Galligan. 

4.    Elle Kunnos De Voss’ simple, yet captivating set design, coupled with Thomas R. Gordon’s transformative lights, bring the piece an unforgettable vibrancy. The pastels in the garden bougainvillea and the painted flowers that cascade across the stage set a whimsical tone. The actors flank an enticing banquet table that is as detailed as it is colorful. The lighting highlights the airy colors in the multi-hued costumes, adding another layer to the mood of each moment.

5.    The impetus behind Much Ado is as interesting as the play itself. The piece is presented by Kelsey Grammer (yes, that Kelsey Grammer) and Faith American Brewing Company; Grammer and Waites are long time friends, having met when they were starting out at Juilliard more than fifty years ago. Grammer chose to help this production because he wanted to give back, allowing young actors to get stage time that is often difficult to find amongst the stiff New York competition. After Covid, Waites saw fewer opportunities for his students to hone their craft on stage; thus he was inspired to produce shows, with Much Ado being the third of such projects. 

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