“TWELFTH NIGHT,” Utah Shakespeare Festival, through Oct. 18, Randall L. Jones Theatre, 351 W. Center, Cedar City, Utah (435-586-7878 or bard.org), running time: 3 hours (one intermission)
"If music be the food of love, play on!"
And with that, the Utah Shakespeare Festival production of "Twelfth Night" is off and running, and it doesn't really slow down.
One of the Bard's comedies, "Twelfth Night" rollicks and romps with the best of them and employs many of Shakespeare's great comedic devices: mistaken identity, trickery, love triangles, slapstick and folly.
But what this particular production handles so beautifully is the music. "Twelfth Night" is the most musical of Shakespeare's works with the music written into the script. Director David Ivers has taken it a step further and incorporated a three-piece band right on the stage that lends accompaniment for songs and also aids in the comedy.
Aaron Galligan-Stierle (Olivia's Clown) sings most of the songs and does so exquisitely. They are true show-stopping moments — his beautiful tenor voice is used with great control and nuance. Seeing "Twelfth Night" is worth it just to hear those solos. Plus, he's also funny as the far-too-wise clown.
The play begins as Viola ends up stranded after a shipwreck and assumes her twin brother, Sebastian, is dead. She dresses as a man and enters the service of the Duke. The Duke loves Lady Olivia. Lady Olivia falls in love with Cesario (who is really Viola). Viola loves the Duke. Then there's the whole nonsense with Malvolio (Olivia's servant), Olivia's drunk uncle and his friends, and let's not forget the twin brother who may not be dead after all.
Though the plot may be difficult to follow in print, it's really quite fun with Ivers' sure direction. Also, thanks to Kevin Copenhaver’s costume design, the production has a bit of a steam-punk feel here and there.
Melinda Pfundstein delivers an Olivia with spark and sass and beautifully sings her solo at the top of the show.
At one point in the performance, she appeared to be brought to giggles by her co-star David Pichette, who plays Malvolio. And it’s easy to see why. Pichette slinks and slimes his way across the stage, milking the role in each advance toward Olivia. Pichette is so sleazy in this role that it’s a bit shocking to see him play a very normal narrator in “Into the Woods,” another USF offering. (Seeing actors morph into different characters for different shows is one of the best parts of the festival.)
Grant Goodman delivers a stoic yet playful Orsino. Nell Geisslinger and Zack Powell are perfectly cast as twins Viola and Sebastian, respectively, both delivering fine performances and having an uncanny resemblance to each other.
“Twelfth Night” is delightful and is considered one of Shakespeare's best comedies. For this production, play on indeed.
Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."