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Review of Much Ado About Nothing, a Junior Players Production

Updated on July 24, 2013
5 stars for Much Ado About Nothing
Dante Flores and Catherine McCue play Benedick and Beatrice
Dante Flores and Catherine McCue play Benedick and Beatrice | Source

"I am glad that all things sort so well"

Beyond the youth of the actors, there is nothing "junior" about this production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The acting, costumes, lighting, music, and set design are marvelous and very professional. The Junior Players, drawn from Dallas-area high schools, perform their parts excellently, filling both large and small roles to perfection. Much Ado is easily Shakespeare's wittiest comedy, containing enough puns and rapid-fire dialogue that are enough to tie the tongues of even experienced actors, but the Junior players deliver their lines so well, even those unfamiliar with Shakespeare should have no trouble following the play. This is truly a joyous production, opening with Leonato (Beaven Waller) singing "Volare" and leading the supporting actors in a dance. You can feel the excitement of the players as they seamlessly tie Shakespeare and popular culture together, reminding the audience just how much the Bard still has to teach us about ourselves.

The play's director, Valerie Hauss-Smith, chose to set the play in its original location of Messina,Sicily but updated it to 1962. The setting helps emphasize the importance of male honor, companionship, and power in a time when women were becoming more independent and self-empowered. The aristocrats of the play become mafia dons and soldiers lending the threats of violence that lurk in the background of this play a very visible reminder. This production makes us remember how little choice Hero (and perhaps even her father Leonato) have in the matter of choosing her a husband.


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The Cast

Junior Players has assembled a gifted cast for this production. Catherine McCue is superb as Beatrice, Shakespeare's great comic role. She projects a confidence and mastery of her craft beyond her years, handling both her characters light and emotional moments with equally strong professionalism. Mary Ehrlicher is an excellent Hero. Her performance gives us a stronger Hero than is generally interpreted, she clearly wants to emulate Beatrice. By the final act, Don John's words are proven true, she is "every man's hero," and every woman's, as the play reminds us. Dante Flores, as Benedick, and Matthew Ybarra, as Claudio, both turn in strong performances. We see in them the bonds of male companionship and pride pitted against love and fairness. Shane McGoldrick chews up the scenery quite well as Don John, playing the pernicious malcontent to the hilt, while Tom Mizell does an excellent job as his drunken henchman. Finally, Carson Wright plays the role of Friar Francis extremely well. Although the role is very brief, Wright makes us sit up and take notice as the Friar outlines his plan that will lead to the play's happy conclusion.

The Production

In a few days, the Junior Players set designer Jeffrey Schmidt has transformed the Shakespeare Dallas stage to look like a coastal Sicilian town. The lighting, by Kenneth Farnsworth, and costumes, designed by Bruce R. Coleman, make for a colorful production that is very fun to watch. The songs and dances of the play are very well choreographed by Anastasia Munoz and actors Beaven Waller, Joan Milburn, and Kristin Raveneau put their musical talents to good use in several songs.

Junior Players has put together a wonderful production, every inch professional.This reviewer strongly recommends you see the play which runs July 23 - July 28, 2013 at Samuell-Grand Park Amphitheater, opening each evening at 8:15 PM. Admission is free but early admission and preferred seating will be available to Shakespeare Dallas Members.

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