Stratford's Rockin' Twelfth Night Gets Cast Album; Des McAnuff Performs

The rock-kissed songs of Stratford Shakespeare Festival's current new production of Twelfth Night, directed by artistic director Des McAnuff, will be released on a new CD this summer. McAnuff co-wrote the songs (using Shakespeare's verse) with Michael Roth.

Brian Dennehy
Brian Dennehy (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

"Michael and I were so delighted with all of the performances that it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up," McAnuff said of the decision to record the music from the revival at the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. "We have an incredible group of actors, singers and musicians here at Stratford who have really made this Twelfth Night sing."

With lyrics by Shakespeare — as well as a poem by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh — "the score pays tribute to the past 60 years of musical history." According to Stratford notes, "The exotic land of Illyria is depicted as a place where music and sport reign to create an erratic and disobedient world of mayhem and mischief."

Among the performers is Tony Award winner Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch.

McAnuff and Roth first met as fellow songwriters, and have worked together as director and composer on dozens of productions over 20 years (Stratford's 2010 productions of The Tempest and As You Like It, with Justin Ellington). The score for Twelfth Night is the first they have composed as a team.

McAnuff said in a statement, "I would describe Twelfth Night as 'Shakespeare's other musical' with As You Like It being the first. There are seven songs in the script, but we've taken that to ten, all of which will be included in the CD." The songs are performed by members of the acting company and Festival musicians. Also expect a bonus track of "The Wind and the Rain" performed by McAnuff and the Red Dirt Band.

Ben Carlson, who plays Feste, acts as lead singer in the production and plays acoustic guitar, electric bass and harmonica. Throughout the production many instruments can be heard, including keyboards, cello, flute, saxophone, electric guitar, trumpet, mandolin and drums, with musical direction and arrangements by Roth.

"We use contemporary songs as a kind of foundation for Illyria, this world of music," McAnuff said. "Just as Shakespeare would have used his own period's instruments regardless of the time in which the play was set, we are using the full range of instruments — period and modern — available to us."

The CD will be available for $19.95 as of Aug. 12 through The Theatre Store, online at or by calling (800) 561-1233. Songs will also be available for download through CD Baby.

The tracklist includes:

1. "Overture": Band
2. "Play On": Ben Carlson with Victor Dolhai, Ryan Field, Aaron Krohn and Jaz Sealey
3. "O Mistress Mine": Ben Carlson with Victor Dolhai, Aaron Krohn, Ian Lake and Jaz Sealey
4. "Hold Thy Peace": (in order of appearance) Ben Carlson, Stephen Ouimette and Brian Dennehy with Victor Dolhai, Aaron Krohn, Ian Lake and Jaz Sealey
5. "Come Away Death": Ben Carlson with Victor Dolhai, Barbara Fulton, Suzy Jane Hunt and Jaz Sealey
6. "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love": (in order of appearance) Ben Carlson, Jaz Sealey, Ryan Field, Aaron Krohn, Ian Lake, Juan Chioran and Sara Topham with Victor Dolhai, Barbara Fulton and Suzy Jane Hunt. Text by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh
7. "Jolly Robin": Ben Carlson with Aaron Krohn and Jaz Sealey
8. "To the Devil": Ben Carlson
9. "Sebastian and Viola - Themes and Variations": Band
10. "The Wind and the Rain": Ben Carlson with Victor Dolhai, Juan Chioran, Barbara Fulton, Suzy Jane Hunt, Aaron Krohn and Jaz Sealey
11. "Curtain Call": Band
12. Bonus Track, "The Wind and the Rain": Des McAnuff and the Red Dirt Band

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's 2011 season runs until Oct. 30, featuring The Merry Wives of Windsor, Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Homecoming, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's Will, The Little Years and Hosanna.

For more information,

View highlights from the show: