Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Rock Musical

By Ron Bingham

There was no warning (apart from the 13:05 start time) that this was a show performed by young teens (I’m guessing the average age was fifteen, but then, I’m old and everyone these days looks fifteen). Although American, this show is not part of the American High School Theatre Festival, the performance group is called Infinity Repertory Theatre (New York) and their performance is a retelling of the classic Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which I always thought of as a Christmas play, due to the amount of times I saw it played in the Botanic Gardens during Australian summer evenings). It has been updated and abridged, but the extraneous material they’ve added (references to cars, mayors and guitars) can be disregarded and the play just enjoyed for the romantic farce that it is.

It starts with lovers Hermione and Lysander singing as they run away into the woods because Hermione’s father is against their love. Demetrius also fancies Hermione, but he has just dumped Helena, who still loves him. They sing some more and follow them into the woods, where Oberon, the fairy king, dispatches his naughty sprite Puck for a little merry-making, which goes wrong when the wrong man is given the love potion, Meanwhile Fairy Queen Titania falls in lust with Bottom, a yokel who’s head has been turned into that of an ass.  After some rather acrimonious scenes (and songs), Puck & his King put all aright and love is restored . Cue finale song and dance.

The music could be trimmed a little, as I thought the choruses went on for a bit too long without advancing the plot of the show. The music and dancing was entertaining though, and I could detect a few Springsteen influences in some of the songs. The large (about 200 seater) room was 3/4 full and the audience were enjoying the show. My favourite was, of course, Puck, who gets all the best lines and makes merry with the cast and audience for her own designs. Demetrius was also played by a lady (is New York running out of teenage boys looking for an acting career?).

If you are after a lunchtime show full of boisterous young singers and dancers retelling a classic Shakespeare comedy of errors (wait a minute that’s a different Shakespeare play but you know…) with a rock and roll beat, then you could do worse than picking up a ticket for this show.