When many high school students think of Shakespeare, they roll their eyes, already picturing a tedious essay. James Madison High School flipped this generalization on its head with its thrilling production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Shakespeare’s classic comedy was first performed in the 17th Century. Set in Messina, Italy, it follows two couples: Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice. While Claudio and Hero are set to be married, Benedick proclaims his opposition to marriage. Beatrice, Hero’s cousin, also claims her distaste for marriage, causing their friends to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling for each other. Meanwhile, the villain, Don John, tries to ruin Claudio and Hero’s upcoming nuptials.
The production’s stunning set, costumes, and music created a romantic ambiance, perfect for the themes about love that were prevalent in the show. The actors played their roles with a balance of comedy and drama, and ably managed the difficulty of Shakespearean language without missing a line. The show also featured ballroom scenes with the actors gracefully performing beautifully choreographed dances.
Perhaps the character with the most comedic material was Benedick, and Jonah Uffelman handled this with ease. Uffelman’s comedic timing never faltered, even through the long soliloquies demanded by the role. There was hardly a scene that featured Uffelman where the audience did not laugh, a true testament to the actor’s talent. Benedick discovered the ups and downs of romance with love interest Beatrice, played by Mary Ulses. Beatrice was extremely witty, and Ulses delivered the character’s many iconic lines with natural humor. Uffelman and Ulses played off each other with endearing chemistry, easily selling the audience on the characters’ somewhat unconventional love story.
The other romantic leads, Claudio (Aaron Shansab) and Hero (Katie Hindin) showed their full range of talent, moving from the innocence of the lovers’ early relationship to the drama of their wedding day to their eventual happy ending. Shansab nailed the jarring switch from reserved to angry, as did Hindin in her transition from blushing to the heartbroken bride, heightening the tragedy of a wedding gone wrong.
Upon entering the theater, it was impossible to miss the set (by Nic Crews, Alex Lundquist, and Carissa Ma) comprised of two levels with impressive painted stone and flowers covering the walls. Then the cast entered, their costumes (by Ciara Stefanik, Emma Burke, Mikenna Corcoran) colorful, fitting nicely into the color scheme created by the set behind them. The attention to detail was impressive, with every costume being equally as detailed for the leading roles as for the ensemble. The sound (by Patrick Thurston, Izzette Azari) in this production was sharp, never missed a cue, and made it easy to hear every actor when they were supposed to be heard. There was also music through each scene change, matched to the tone of the scene, keeping the feel of the show alive even without any action on stage.
James Madison High School’s Much Ado About Nothing caused no ado for its audience, who were left wishing for more laughs long after the actors had taken their bows and the lights had dimmed on the stage.
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