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  • Angela Allyn

Joyous Twelfth Night at Chicago Shakes

I do not ordinarily recommend Shakespeare as a must see musical, but Tyrone Phillips’ effervescent tropical Twelfth Night is a singalong, dancealong tuneful romp that is the perfect antidote to the now earlier darkness of winter. From the sun soaked lighting design of Xavier Pierce paired with the vibrant projections of Mike Tutaj on the beach paradise inspired set by Syndey Lynne, this is a delightful escape from the heavy weight of today’s world. From the signature tropical cocktails that await in the lobby concession to the glowing experience of being transported to another land, this Shakespeare is a feast for the senses.

Standout solos and song leading by Feste the Jester, a silver throated Israel Erron Ford,will have you dancing in the aisles. There is singing and clapping along as this fast paced (at only 2 hours!) version speeds you through the gender swapping Viola’s (well played by Jaeda LaVonne) adventures in Illyria after nearly drowning. She believes her twin brother (played by Justen Ross)to be fully drowned. Viola, disguised as Cesario to now survive is servant to the virile Duke Orsino (Yao Dogbe) as he woos the colorful and passionate countess Olivia (the stunning and many gowned Christiana Clark). Olivia’s household is currently hosting her mostly drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (played by Ronald L. Conner) as he advances the doomed suit of his pal Sir Andrew Aguecheek (the side splitting physical comedian Alex Goodrich) who has no chance with the fair Olivia. The true comedic highlight of the night is Malevolio, Olivia’s steward who pines with adoration for his mistress, and is played with perfect timing by Paul Oakley Stovall. There are endless laughs in this delightful production.

As we move into winter you may be thinking why leave the comfort of your couch? I assure you, this is the kind of show that makes your heart sing: fresh, alive, filled with an energy that will send you home happy. Twelfth Night has always been a comic chestnut, and this reimagining takes this beloved work to a splendid new level. It's a show with an afterglow.

Twelfth Night is playing now through November 26th in the Courtyard Theatre at Navy Pier, 800 East Grand Avenue.There are audio described, Spanish transcription, ASL and Open Captioned performances. For tickets and information go to

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