On February 23 and 24, Concord Academy students had the opportunity to see this year’s winter mainstage, Twelfth Night the musical, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy play by the same name. Twelfth Night was adapted into its current form by playwrights Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub. Theater faculty Shelley Bolman directed the mainstage; Michael Bennett directed the music (characterized as jazzy-funk) and Eliza Malecki choreographed the dances. The cast and crew—from actors to on-stage musicians, to the tech crew responsible for behind-the-scenes work like lighting and stage managing—were entirely composed of CA students, many of which were new to theater.

The story of Twelfth Night the musical is very similar to the plot of the original play. In the show, two twins named Viola (played by Elspeth Yeh ‘24) and Sebastian (Avery Kunchala ‘24) are shipwrecked on a tropical island, and each assumes that the other is dead. Viola disguises herself as a man to work for a local duke, who sends her to court a countess for him. Unfortunately, the countess falls in love with the disguised Viola instead, and Viola falls for the duke. Sebastian then arrives ashore and is confused for his twin, who is in the middle of an entire island’s worth of love and politics. Music, elaborate romance and a gender-bending story ensue.

Despite lots of Shakespearean English in the dialogue, this rendition of Twelfth Night is contemporary and full of life. Bolman shared that he partially chose to produce Twelfth Night because the original play grapples with ideas at the forefront of contemporary politics and culture wars: “The show poses questions about gender identity, gender fluidity, who we love, and how we are perceived by ourselves and others,” says Bolman. Deanna Stewart, the show’s production manager, also explained that the setting of Twelfth Night had opportunities for many different cultures and periods. Bolman wanted these diverse ideas to be reflected in the costumes and the set, which gave the cast an amazing opportunity to choose their own costumes for the production. Each actor created an idea board, which the designer then turned into a costume for the show. The end result was a colorful, elaborate musical full of chaos and joy.

This vibrancy was something Bolman had always wanted from the show, “It's a tremendously fun play, and I think we can all use a little laughter at the end of February!” He was certainly right. Twelfth Night was a perfect comedy for the end of winter, full of love and drama.