Review by ALEX KNOXJune 11, 2015 certified reviewer
My overall impression
From my first fringe experience a couple years ago, I’ve admired Michael Shaw Fisher’s work. His rock musicals are always smart, biting, hilarious, brutal, and beautiful. With this show, he’s gone above and beyond. (He also happens to be an all around awesome guy, who embodies the generous, artist-community spirit of the fringe festival.) Few people could pull off a one-man musical about William Shakespeare, but Michael is the perfect man for the job. A scribe himself, he knows the agony and the ecstasy of birthing a piece of drama and bringing it to life with a ragtag troupe of players.
As the evening unfolds, Shakespeare reflects on his life through songs and recounts the writing of some of his best known works. It’s like a cross between “Shakespeare in Love” and Tenacious D. Bardophiles and Shakespeare newbies alike will relish the anecdotes of this man’s life. Love triangles, daddy issues, big city dreams, rivalry, arson – all the good stuff is here. Whether or not it’s all accurate to Shakespeare’s life, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the perfect life story for this man – the guy who wrote the rapid-fire wordplay of the peasants, as well as the soaring speeches of kings and queens. And just like Shakespeare himself, Michael sprinkles in current vernacular and bawdy references a-plenty. You won’t feel smothered by stilted language or lofty verse. But if you enjoy iambic pentameter, there’s plenty of that, too.
As a performer, Michael leaves it all out there, pouring his being into the character. His Shakespeare is naughty, clever, gentle, thoughtful, scrappy, wise, and heartbroken. He makes the audience feel like a vital part of the show, too. You can tell how sacred it is for him to bring this guy to life, with us, in that room. Jeff Sumner’s direction (including some clever work with lanterns) makes excellent use of The Three of Clubs. That plus the musical wizardry of Allison Sulock and Alistair Cooper transforms the red-curtained burlesque club into an Elizabethan tavern. And with a handy candle-lighting system, you can even order drinks during the show. Not that you’ll need them – Michael’s songs and spirits are intoxicating enough.