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Music takes center stage in 'As You Like It'

Feb 26, 2020
From left, Phoebe Norman, Tom Maycock, Mike Nickerson and Tom Crutcher in Belfast Maskers' "As You Like It."

Belfast — On Thursday, March 12, the Basil Burwell Community Theater, 17 Court St., will be alive with the sound of music. That’s opening night for Belfast Maskers' first production of the 2020 season, Shakespeare’s "As You Like It," which contains more songs than any other play by the Bard. It is, in fact, often referred to as “Shakespeare’s musical.”

The Maskers’ production is set in the 1960s and will feature a wide spectrum of music from that era. Director Erik Perkins and sound designer Jay Rosenberg have crafted a soundtrack that includes folk, rock, blues, pop and jazz music by artists as diverse as Simon & Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, and others. Because "As You Like It" is a pastoral comedy, Perkins and Rosenberg have chosen a lot of music that celebrates the rustic, country life. In addition to covering scene changes, the music will also be an important part of setting the mood and highlighting several themes.

At auditions, Perkins paid special attention to those actors who could sing and play instruments. “My hope was to assemble a band from within the cast so the music could flow organically from the scenes. I had no idea that I was going to be so lucky. These actors’ musical talents are simply amazing.”

Phoebe Norman, a junior at Belfast Area High School, plays Lord Amiens, the character who sings most of the play’s songs. Perkins says that she’s an outstanding singer who’s “rocking the songs at rehearsals.” Local audiences know Norman from her recent work in two of the school’s musicals — she was the female lead in "Newsies" last fall and Carmen in the school’s 2018 production of "Fame."

Tom Crutcher, a newcomer to Belfast but a veteran of the theater, is playing Jacques, who delivers the famous “Seven Ages of Man” speech. Early in the rehearsal process, he shared with Perkins some arrangements he’d composed for three of the show’s songs. “I had no idea if they’d be any good or, even if they were good, if they would have the right feel for my vision of the production. His songs were absolutely perfect.”

Long-time Masker Mike Nickerson, an accomplished bass player, is another member of the talented cast. “During one rehearsal,” Perkins says, “I suggested that the bass might not be appropriate for the feel of a scene that takes place around a campfire, so Mike pulled out a harmonica. Instantly, his music created the perfect atmosphere.”

Rounding out the musical talent are Kenneth Kornfield (Monsieur LeBau), who plays guitar and mandolin; Tom Maycock on the bodhrán, an Irish frame drum; and Melora Norman and Patricia Saucier who sing backup vocals while laying down some sweet tambourine.

"As You Like It" runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., March 12 through 22. Tickets are $15 and $12 for 12 and younger, with a special half-price preview night on Thursday, March 12. Tickets are on sale now at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St., with cash or check. Credit card purchases can be made at belfastmaskers.com.

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