Much Ado About Nothing / New York Shakespeare Festival (Broadway Theatre Archive)
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Shakespeare's rollicking comedy is classic tale of romance, mistaken identity, and the battle of the sexes. Featuring Oscar nominee Sam Waterston (Law & Order) and Emmy-winners Kathleen Widdoes(As the World Turns)and Barnard Hughes(Midnight Cowboy).
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
For years this was available only on bootleg off-the-air videotape. Then Broadway Theater Archive finally released it on VHS and at last on DVD. The only filmed Shakespeare that comes close is the 1968 Midsummer Night's Dream with--incredibly--Judy Dench, Ian Richardson, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, Ian Holm, and David Wagner--all very young and practically unknown then. If you can find that one on DVD, buy it!
When Claudio rejects Hero at the altar and demands that Benedick defend Hero's honor by challenging Claudio (it is given out that the shock of rejection killed the girl), Benedick finds himself caught between his best friend and the woman he's falling in love with (or being made to love!). This was a 1973 video recording of the Joseph Papp stage production, directed by A.J. Antoon. It sets Shakespeare's Sicilian play in turn-of-the-last-century U.S., with the men as Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders returning from the Spanish-American war. It's far enough into historical memory that all the "thee's" and "thou's" don't sound at all out of place. Sets are beautifully elaborate.
Shakespeare's song lyrics are delightfully set to ragtime, sets and costumes are wonderfully period and elaborate, and there are several unforgettable scenes. (I particularly love the one where Beatrice hides among the plants in a solarium to overhear Hero and her maid praising Benedick and his supposed passion for her, then they turn on the sprinkler system and she has to remain hidden and get soaked; and the one where the two principals finally meet and kiss while a wind-up record player grinds to a halt.) Barnard Hughes and the police are done up as the Keystone Kops to provide some slapstick along with Shakespeare's malapropisms. For the time, the sound quality is surprisingly good. My only quibble is that the show drags a little at times; the camera lingers over a few scenes with no action or dialogue -- only music.
For me, the perfect Benedick will always be Waterston's.
Where it works best is when the stakes are low, mostly during the first half of the action. Don John's villainy has yet to kick into high gear, and several of the set pieces emerge with imaginative bravura. The decision to transplant the eavesdropping scene in the orchard, for instance, to one in which Benedict hides in (and behind) a canoe works very well, especially when Balthasar's ragtime band swings out "Sigh No More Ladies." I would imagine this bit was even more effective on the actual stage.
However, to see the characters as melodrama "types" plays against the tone of the last half of the text, and this is where the production begins to seem a trifle one-note (to the detriment of the overall effect). Hero, for example, is even more two-dimensional than usual, so that the viewer (or at least this viewer) does not really care when she is spurned at the alter, partially because the conventions of melodrama dictate that all will be resolved in the end, and partially because I have no emotional connection to her. By contrast, if the characters are played more-or-less straight from the onset, there is greater pay-off in the end because the audience becomes more invested in them. This is a much bigger problem in the Hero/Claudio sub-plot because Sam Waterston and (especially) Kathleen Widdoes are very charming as Benedict and Beatrice, in effect, transcending the limitations of the contemporary up-date through the strength and complexity of their performances. These are the only two to emerge as real flesh-and-blood characters.
On the whole, I like this production a lot, but the old BBC television production remains (for me) the definitive performance captured on film. Why it was not included in the comedy box-set (along with Twelfth Night) defies explanation, since these two were among the few real triumphs in a very uneven series. Luckily, one can order them directly from Ambrose Video (at a very inflated price).
Most recent customer reviews
Look for similar items by category
- Movies & TV > Broadway > Broadway Theatre Archive
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Arts & Entertainment
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Performing Arts
- Movies & TV > Genre for Featured Categories > Special Interests
- Movies & TV > Musicals & Performing Arts
- Movies & TV > Shakespeare on DVD Store > Playing Shakespeare > Acting Troupes & Companies
- Movies & TV > Shakespeare on DVD Store > The Works > The Comedies
- Movies & TV > Shakespeare on DVD Store > The Works > The Tragedies
- Movies & TV > TV