PROVO — Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. Upon arriving at the Pardoe Theatre at the BYU Campus, I looked around at the set designed by Nat Reed and thought that it seemed extremely familiar. I was clued in as I read the director’s note by Megan Sanborn Jones that she had decided to help the theater goers at BYU experience what it is like to attend a show at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, something I had the privilege to do this summer, and from first entrance into the space, Reed’s design has certainly helped to make that mission a reality. I enjoyed explaining to my daughter, who had attended the production with me, how the pillars on the stage matched exactly what I had seen this summer and what I enjoyed about this current experience as well.
Another element that Jones incorporated into this production that was like the Globe experience was the preshow mingling of the cast and the playing of the musicians. I had had my 9-year-old theater companion read up about the show, and she had a fun time asking the players who was Claudio and who was Dogberry while I enjoyed listening to some wonderful music that is credited as directed, arranged, and even composed by music-major, show music director Tiffany Parker. As a theatre critic, one of my favorite things about attending collegiate productions is seeing when the productions give students the opportunity to be a part of the creative process, and Parker added a great deal to this production musically. In addition to the beautiful oboe and violin melodies, I appreciated the vocals that were presented in four part harmony throughout the show as well as the fine percussion and the choreography in combination with the music by Kristian Huff.
During the preshow I was also able to examine the traditional Shakespearean costume design by Elizabeth Banks and makeup and hair design by Paige Francis, all of which were very lovely. While I do enjoy some of the experimental things that theatrical companies can do with Shakespeare, BYU’s theatrical department’s production of Much Ado was such a lovely telling of the tale that I found myself transported to the Bard’s story with ease. Some of my favorite elements were the hair design of Antonia, played by Hyejoon Kim, and the costume of Dogberry, played by Joanna Noall. Both Francis and Banks helped director Jones achieve the vision of giving Provo the chance to be transported to London’s Globe.
As for the players, I confess myself smitten by the couple Benedick and Beatrice, played by Preston Taylor and Rebecca Leigh Wing. Starting the show as a pair who cannot seem to ever get along, the two portray an ability to banter with excellent chemistry while delivering the difficult words in the production with ease and while managing the comedic timing magnificently. In particular, Taylor stole the show with the scene when Benedick discovers unexpected feelings whilst hidden in a barrel, and Taylor combined his ability to recite with his ability to perform physical comedy. This particular scene also showed some impressive prowess with Mikah Vaclaw as Leonata, Ren Cottam as Don Pedro, and Skylar Jaison Denfeld as Claudio.
Both Denfeld as Claudio and Justine Marie Kitteringham as Hero should be commended for their fantastic facial expressions. In the first half of the production, there is a scene of romance that they two actors play up with their faces. The scene had me laughing and smiling because of their playing off of each other and their understanding of how to react with the audience in a way that is part of the expectation of the theatre in the time of Shakespeare as set at the Globe in London.
Much Ado About Nothing has been done in many ways and in many forms of media, but the team here at BYU has shown that tradition can still be a fantastic and creative way to enjoy this show. For those who have ever wondered what it is like to experience a show at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, I highly encourage you to head over to BYU’s Pardoe Theatre before December 7th and get a taste of London in your own backyard.