What Country, Friends? A Musical One, in Illyria at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ Nov. 30-Dec. 26

News   What Country, Friends? A Musical One, in Illyria at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ Nov. 30-Dec. 26 Illyria, the musical version of Twelfth Night seen Off-Off-Broadway in 2002, gets its regional-theatre premiere Nov. 30-Dec. 26 at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Michael Roache as Malvolio in The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's earlier touring production of
Michael Roache as Malvolio in The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's earlier touring production of "Twelfth Night" Photo by Warren Westura

The Shakespeare-inspired musical by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel stars Tony Award nominee Joel Blum (Show Boat, Steel Pier) as Feste; Elena Shaddow as Viola; Chris Peluso as Sebastian; Steve Wilson as Orsino; Maria Couch as Olivia; T. Doyle Leverett as Toby; Kristie Dale Sanders as Maria; Benjamin Eakeley as Sir Andrew Aguecheek; Ames Adamson as Malvolio; Darren Matthias as Antonio; Howard Emanuel and Peter Maris as officers and courtiers; Suzanne Houston and Justine Williams as ladies-in waiting.

Performances play in the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's mainstage home at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison, NJ.

"Girl, disguised as boy, steals the hearts of both the lord and the lady in this festive comedy of unrequited loves and mistaken identities," according to the New Jersey company. "The title of the musical, Illyria, is drawn from the name of the mythical kingdom in which story of Twelfth Night takes place — "a land of fools, where clarity's a rarity and madness rules." In Elizabethan times, Twelfth Night or Jan. 6 was a huge celebration marking the end of the holiday season. Filled with revelry and licensed chaos, a Twelfth Night festival turned the real world upside down — much like the world of Illyria. As is tradition, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents Illyria as a holiday offering for families and people of all ages, and provides a unique alternative to standard holiday fare."

The musical played an Off-Broadway run in 2002 and was heard in a starry concert version in New York City in 2004. Adapted by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the show has book, music and lyrics by Peter Mills. Paul Mullins directs, F. Wade Russo musical directs.

The creative team includes set designer Michael Schweikardt, costume designer Frank Champa, lighting designer Shelly Sabel, sound designer Steven L. Beckel and choreographer Becky Timms. Mills is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson grant. Reichel and Mills collaborated on the original musicals The Taxi Cabaret and The Flood. He and Reichel, longtime collaborators and sweethearts, married last summer.

They debuted Illyria in 2002 at the Hudson Guild Theater in New York City. Originally produced by Prospect Theater Company, of which Mills and Reichel are founding members, the "contemporary operetta" was met with critical praise. Since then, the writers have continued to refine Illyria, adding further luster to this jewel of a musical, which gets a brand-new production at The Shakespeare Theatre.

For more information, visit Illyria are $36-$58, with discounts available for groups of 10 or more. For tickets, call (973) 408-5600 or visit www.shakespearenj.org.