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Set To The Music of The Beatles A Hilarious As You Like at STC Tweaks Shakespeare with a Phenomenal Cast

Set To The Music of The Beatles A Hilarious As You Like at STC Tweaks Shakespeare with a Phenomenal Cast

As You Like It
Shakespeare Theatre Company
December 10, 2023
Jordan Wright
Special to The Zebra

The cast of As You Like It. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

Imagine if Gilbert & Sullivan huddled with Tom Wolfe (author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), and in popped Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, high as kites on Tim Leary’s little Harvard experiment, only then might you glean some insight into the mind of Daryl Cloran who adapted and wrote this madly innovative interpretation of the beloved comedy.

This wild and crazy production of As You Like It is a game changer for keeping Shakespeare relevant to both younger audiences and those of us who have seen it umpteen times and crave a fresh take. It’s creative, ultra-modern and so massively off the chain that even Lewis Carroll wouldn’t be able to claw his way out of this rabbit hole – and he wouldn’t want to. After the five minutes I thought I may never be able to see it presented in any other way. It’s that exciting, as is this dream cast who sing, act, fight and play all the instruments. Shakespeare would have sat right on stage, which is what many of the audience can opt to do. Select those seats if that’s your jam.

Naomi Ngebulana and Matthew MacDonald-Bain. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

Did The Beatles know that they wrote some of the finest musical theater tunes? Some say it was Paul McCartney’s show-biz father’s vaudeville influence. Others say it’s because by then they had enough performance experience that they could truly work a crowd into a frenzy. And frenzy is what this mash-up gets from their audience who are blissfully and happily gobsmacked.

Using the music of The Beatles, it pings our collective memories of the boho days of the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s when the British moptops ruled the music world and bell bottoms and peace signs evoked San Francisco’s Summer of Love. Here the Forest of Arden looks more like California’s Muir Woods and flower power meant all you needed was love.

Emotions go from laugh out loud to sweetly tearful with Rosalind singing velvet-voiced “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, Phoebe crooning “Something”, Orlando and Rosalind dueting on “Can’t Buy Me Love”, Silvius hamming it up to “Love Me Do”, Touchstone belting “Helter Skelter”, and the entire ensemble singing “Across the Universe”. There’s so much to take in.

Jeff Irving, Naomi Ngebulana, Chelsea Rose, and Evan Rein. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

Twenty-three original Beatles’ tunes are woven into the fabric of this wildly original musical which starts off with a WWE-style wrestling match in a full-size ring, emceed by an Elton John look-alike who plays Touchstone. Standouts are everyone in this singular cast who have tons of talent using every performance trick up their “copulatives” (a made-up term from the show) sleeves. Think of a classic Shakespeare line from As You Like It and then tack on witty asides, grunts and groans, stutters, slapstick and pratfalls. It’s all here and proves that playing it to the hilt is its own reward.

With Henry Beasley as William/Jacques de Boys/Assassin/Forest Lord; Jennifer Copping as Corin/Dame Frances’ Attendant; Andrew Cownden as Jacques/Le Beau; Ben Elliott as Silvius/Forest Lord; Matthew Ip Shaw as Mustachio; Jeff Irving as Orlando de Boys; Kayvon Khoshkam as Touchstone; Alexandra Lainfiesta as Phoebe/Eleanor Rigby; Jennifer Lines as Dame Frances/Dame Senior; Matthew McDonald-Bain as Oliver de Boys; Norman Moses as Adam/Martext; Naomi Ngebulana as Celia; Evan Rein as Amiens/Hymen/Assassin; Chelsea Rose as Rosalind; Isaiah Terrell-Dobbs as Forest Lord; Marco Walker Ng as Charles the Wrester/Forest Lord; Sally Zori as Forest Lord.

Conceived by Daryl Cloran & Christopher Gaze on behalf of Bard On The Beach Shakespeare Festival; Music Director Ben Elliott; Choreographer and Fight Director Jonathan Hawley Purvis; Scenic Designer Pam Johnson; Costume Designer Carmen Alatorre; Lighting Designer Gerald King; Sound Designer Alistair Wallace; Pre-Show Content and Comedic Contributions Kayvon Khoshkam.

Highly recommended. Don’t miss one of the best productions of the year!

The cast of As You Like It. (Teresa Castracane Photography)

Through January 7, 2024 at Sidney Harmon Hall, 610 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 547-1122 or visit

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