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BERNARD J. TAYLOR

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Much Ado

Introduction to the Album
by Bernard J. Taylor

For a number of years I had been toying with the idea of doing a musical based on one of Shakespeare's works and had been trawling through his complete works whenever the opportunity presented itself. One of the problems was that so many of them had already provided the basis for musicals in the past - Kiss Me Kate and West Side Story to name but two of the more successful ones.

I had more or less settled on tackling A Midsummer Night's Dream - and may return to this idea later - but then I saw Kenneth Branagh's cinema version of "Much Ado About Nothing" and was immediately struck by its potential to be converted into a musical.

In fact, it seemed to me that Branagh had actually filmed it as a musical - but without the songs (apart from Balthasar's ballad, "Sigh No More", which I have included with a change of lyrics and melody). I kept waiting for people to burst into song and was rather disappointed when this did not happen. It seemed to be begging to be made into a full-scale musical.

The story had a lot going for it - a mixture of comedy, romance and near-tragedy, with the feisty characters of Beatrice and Benedick at its core as they exchange abuse and swear they will never marry anyone.

In addition to these two, however, there is an interesting variety of peripheral personae whose different characters and situations called for a variety of musical moods and expressions - the sinister character of Don John, the dreamy romanticism of Claudio and Hero, the comic absurdity of Dogberry and his Watch, the dignity and spirit of Leonato.

Some po-faced purists might think that to turn a Shakespeare work into a musical is to trivialise it, while some may also feel that to tinker with his words is nothing short of literary sacrilege. I believe, however, that Shakespeare was essentially a populist playwright in his day and that one is therefore not departing from the Shakespearian tradition in attempting to make his work more widely accessible to a mass modern audience.

I have kept more or less to the original structure of the play and have tried to retain as much of the original prose as possible.

Musicals: Liberty! | Much Ado | Nosferatu | Pride and Prejudice | Success! | Wuthering Heights

 

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