Heigh-Ho! Pop Group Barenaked Ladies Will Score Shakespeare's As You Like It

By Kenneth Jones
January 19, 2005

If you had a million dollars, would you have ever bet that the Canadian pop group Barenaked Ladies would provide a musical score to a Shakespeare play at the prestigious Stratford Festival?

It would've turned out to be a good bet. The band that gave the world "If I Had a Million Dollars," "Jane," "Be My Yoko Ono" and "One Week" will be writing five song settings and incidental music for the 2005 production of As You Like It, directed by Antoni Cimolino, executive director of the world-renowned Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario.

The group will record the instrumental music and festival actors will sing the songs during performances, which begin April 27 at the flagship Festival Theatre and continue to Oct. 30. Opening is June 4.

Tony Award-winner Santo Loquasto will design the production.

"This offers us an opportunity to present the audience with a marriage between recorded and live music," said Steven Page, lead singer for Barenaked Ladies, in a statement. "As You Like It has more songs built into it than any other of Shakespeare's plays, and they help to propel the plot and characters. More importantly, they serve to create the mood and the setting. It's very exciting to work as a team with Antoni and Santo to make their vision of Arden come to life."

Director Cimolino said, "As You Like It is a play that explores many kinds of love from the viewpoint of the young. In the spirit of youthful rebellion, the characters drop out of the envious and sophisticated world of the court in favor of the peace and simplicity of the country. I felt that a 1960s setting supported and made vivid each one of the play's themes. Barenaked Ladies are ideal collaborators on this project their wit and energy are positively Shakespearean."

As for taking on Shakespeare as a collaborator (the songs in the text include "Wedding is great Juno's crown," "Blow, blow, thou winter wind," "Under the greenwood tree"), Page said, it's going to be "a gift" to write the music to Shakespeare's words. "It's hard to ask for a better co-writer, really, even if he is a little unbending in his approach to collaboration!"

Founded in 1988 by Steven Page and fellow singer-guitarist Ed Robertson, Toronto's Barenaked Ladies have sold more than 10 million records worldwide, offering hits such as "One Week," "If I Had a Million Dollars," "Be My Yoko Ono," "Pinch Me" and "Brian Wilson." Their concert appearances are beloved by fans who recognize the band both for its musicianship and its sense of humor as they lark about, they look like they're having a great time on stage.

For more information about the Stratford Festival, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.