Music and Theatre – They’ve always gone hand-in-hand. One thinks immediately of “The Sound of Music,” “Phantom of the Opera,” perhaps “Spring Awakenings” or even Broadway’s current blockbuster “Hamilton.” The name Shakespeare does not immediately come to mind to many, however.
When I heard the upcoming Sandra Fenistein Gamm Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” was infused with music, I just kind of said, “huh?” And, while Shakespeare certainly wasn’t writing musicals like the above mentioned Broadway favorites, upon being schooled that music has indeed historically been an important element in many Shakespearian classics, I was quite surprised (Contrarily, my old high school English Lit teacher would not be amazed that I did not know this.)
Gamm’s Artistic Director Tony Estrella’s fondness for all things Shakespeare is readily apparent to those who know him. If not for the barrier of time, it is easy to picture Tony with Globe Theatre Season Passes; and Tony would have been all too happy to shell out some serious pounds and shillings for the really good seats. Estrella, who teaches Shakespeare at The University of Rhode Island, explains the significant role music has played in the bard’s work.
“There was music in every one of his plays…from pre-show mood setting, to medleys between acts, to the occasional trumpet blare, to full-on production numbers. There are three levels of language in Shakespeare; Prose, Verse and Song. He was a master of knowing exactly when the audience needed to be transported with a tune, often for joy and uplift but not infrequently to peel back another layer of a character’s emotional journey. It was integral to the playgoing experience 400 years ago and remains so today.”
Now we were intrigued, so we sent a camera to Gamm’s “The Winter’s Tale” rehearsal (above) to talk with director Fred Sullivan, Jr and Music and Assistant Director Milly Massey and to see and hear the music of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” on its merry way to the Gamm’s stage.