Yeomen of the Guard = Too. Much. Fun.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the Very Place for a Knee-Slappin’ Hoedown
As if the Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors were not already talented enough, the cast of Yeomen of the Guard adds musical talent to their repertoire. Not only in singing and dancing, but playing musical instruments ranging from the ukulele to a set of spoons—and, according to an online interview with director Sean Graney, some of the actors had never played their instrument before Yeomen. Every member of the ten-person-ensemble played their musical part; the main characters hardly let their guitars leave their shoulders, and it seemed like they had always been there. This raucous musical will be on the stage in the Thomas Theatre until October 30.
This world premiere adaptation done by Graney and Andra Velis Simon was originally written by the famed Gilbert and Sullivan in the late 1800s. While steeping the set, costumes and music in the country western theme—think Hank Williams and Patsy Kline—Yeomen keeps the quirky storyline meant to make a political statement back in the day—Fairfax is wrongfully sentenced to death for dealings with the Devil in order to steal Fairfax’s land, and multiple misunderstood romances blossom and are crushed as the community rallies to either encourage or foil the execution—while managing to engage the modern audience of all ages with puns, music and … promenade seating.
In addition to the traditional play where the audience watches from standard ascending seats and discouraged from leaving them, the patrons of Yeomen were not only seated on the stage and required to move around, they also interact with the members of the cast—sharing knowing glances at pivotal moments in the story, using props like the onstage rocking horses and literally rubbing elbows with the characters as they clamber over the bale of straw where you are sitting. While standard seating is available, all audience members are invited to dance, sing and visit the bar. From this intimate vantage point, a certain excitement much akin to stage fright enveloped me, but the ensembles’ thoughtful inclusion and graceful maneuvering around the on-stage audience quickly lowered my heart rate. It was also an excellent spot to truly appreciate the intricate detail of the costumes, from the bedazzled cowboy boots to the multi-colored pleated skirts.
The Yeomen of the Guard
1:30 and 8 pm, through October 30
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Thomas Theatre, 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland
$30 – $111