If Music Be The Food Of Love... Is It Time For Shakespeare The Musical?

Posted on 11 April 2015

Theatre fans! What if there was a show that combined two of our favourite things - Shakespeare and musicals?

Well, sadly such a wondrous thing does not exist. Yet. But I started thinking about this the other day (actually it was April Fool’s Day, but that’s another story), and I reckon there might be an opportunity here to combine the current success of the jukebox musical with the enduring popularity of Shakespeare’s plays. After all, if it’s good enough for Abba, Michael Jackson and the Kinks, why not Will? I even have a title in mind: Play On! (Get it?)

If you’re noticing the tiny flaw in this great plan - that Shakespeare was a bard, not a band - fear not, because I’ve thought of that. Here’s how it would work. There’s some debate, but let’s say for the sake of argument that Shakespeare wrote 37 plays. So just like Let It Be, which works through the Beatles’ back catalogue in chronological order, we’ll have a song for each play - even the ones that nobody’s heard of, like 'Cymbeline' - in the order they were written. And just as Shakespeare’s works have different styles and cover a range of themes, so the songs can reflect various musical genres, from the upbeat (something mischievous, maybe, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to the sombre (you wouldn’t want anything too cheerful for Othello, for instance - I don’t recall a lot of laughs in that one). We can even throw some instrumental pieces in there, just to mix it up.

I am aware, obviously, that this is all a bit silly. But the point is, jukebox musicals are insanely popular at the moment. Just look at Jersey Boys, or Sunny Afternoon; they’re massive, and I bet not everyone who buys tickets to see them is a die-hard fan before they go. Last week, I went to see Be Bop A Lula, and even though I didn’t know much of the music, I was still on my feet dancing by the end of the evening. You can read my Be Bop A Lula review here: C'mon Everybody Be Bop A Lula's In Town! So maybe this crazy idea could actually be a way to make Shakespeare’s work accessible to a new audience, who wouldn’t necessarily want to spend two hours watching a play at the Globe, but are interested enough to take a whistle-stop tour of the complete works. And maybe have a bit of a boogie while they’re at it.

Either way, we can have some fun. So while I look for someone to make this dream a reality, tweet your song title suggestions to @theatre_direct using hashtag #Shakespearemusical!

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