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.
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.