I’m excited to announce that my musical “Romeo and Juliet” is now available to watch on YouTube (Full Show – English)
I composed the music for this stage production entirely to the original text of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The RJ musical premiered on stage January-February 2015 at the Historic Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, WA. This video is from the live stage performance on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015.
This event is also a fundraiser for the Historic Lincoln Theatre which has been severely affected by the COVID shutdown. The Romeo Juliet premiere is a free public event, but donations are encouraged and 100% of all donations will benefit the Historic Lincoln Theatre. Donation link will be in the video description before and during the premiere.
At the time of the production, and I believe it is still true today, there has never been a successful musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that is set to his original English text. In fact, during rehearsals I even had a standing prize of $100 for anyone who could find a previous successful production. That prize was increased to $300. Several cast members challenged “I’ll find it for $300”, but no one did. Now, there have been many people who have set the Bard’s original script to music, but none successful. When I say “successful”, my metric is a show that had extended runs, to a public paying audience that made a profit and received positive critical reviews. There are many college professors who have composed classical renditions of the text and even 12-tone compositional approaches. But honestly I don’t know of many, or any, outside of academia that want to experience that kind of production.
So, if no production has successfully set music to Shakespeare’s original text, the big question is: Is this Romeo and Juliet musical the first to successfully incorporate Shakespeare’s English text? That’s up for audiences to decide. If the answer is no, then I stand in a long line of composers who have tried and failed. If the answer is yes, then this is the first musical theater production in history to do so.
The Historic Lincoln Theatre, where the RJ musical first hit the stage, is in a little farming town near the Canadian border in Mount Vernon, WA. I love this part of the RJ story as well. A little agricultural community with a big heart had the courage and audacity to join me in such an audacious effort as taking on The Bard.
The production was produced by a local youth community theater group who worked very hard to bring this Romeo and Juliet musical to the stage. Because the music had to serve Shakespeare’s lyrics, words and script text – the music is not easy to perform. The melodies often shift on a dime – all in the service of Shakespeare’s text.
My personal rules for creating the musical was:
- Only use William Shakespeare’s original text
- Original text can be redacted (cut) – but not added
- Sentences cannot be edited to change meaning, in other words, lines cannot be so heavily edited that they create entirely new sentences that were not written by Shakespeare
- A word or phrase can be repeated, but only after it has already appeared in Shakespeare’s original order.
- Words and sentences must appear in the original order that Shakespeare wrote them.
Adhering to these rules, I was able to do so much with changing sub-text of dialogue delivery by using opposing emotional feelings from the underscore music.
I did use the Narrator in a way where he is part of conjuring the events of the story. The Narrator begins the world and ends the world of the story. His actions are stage actions often without dialogue, so this is one way I added a new layer to the Romeo Juliet story without making dialogue changes.
Adhering to Shakespeare’s original chronology and text, I did take advantage of my rule that I could repeat text after it had appeared in Shakespeare’s original order. I do this in Act Two as a flashback scene that, to me, makes one of Juliet’s crucial plot decisions more clear to the audience. The Flashback allows us to see the debate that is happening in her mind before she decides to part ways with the Nurse character.
So, no more spoilers. If you happen upon this post after April 17, 2021 and the video does not appear above – that’s probably a good thing because it might mean that a larger production is in the works and upcoming new performances.
Thank you so much to META Performing Arts, the Historic Lincoln Theatre and the wonderful people of Mount Vernon, WA for supporting this bold production!
ROMEO JULIET 2015 PRODUCTION TEAM
Presented by META Performing Arts
Director: Joe Bowen
Music, Book and Orchestrations by Conrad Askland
Lyrics and Text by William Shakespeare
Assistant Directors: Tammy Lanphere Oommen and Seth Fine
Choreographer: Glynna Goff
Stage Manager: Brooke Hofstetter
Romoe Juliet Music Director: Conrad Askland
Dramaturg: Carl Turner
Marketing: Sara Fisher
Program Design: Barbara Fuller
Photographer: Lindsey Bowen
Costume Designer: Y’hon Frakes
Costume Assistants: Jeffrey Le Fleur and Tarryn Morrison
Hair: Lisa Lane
Live Sound Design: Kyle Blevins
Live Sound Mixing: Milton Grambo
Lighting Design and Operation: Don Willcuts
Technical Crew: Vianey Banuelos, Anika Pugmire, Divine Banks, Hunter Listiak and Nathan Esskew
Custom Metal Work and Swords: Peter Whited
School Show Coordinator: Tania Kahlor
Props Mistress: Sandra Deasy
Set Design: Bruce Weech
Set Construction: Aviathar Pemberton
CAST of Romeo and Juliet Characters
Juliet – Katherine Fisher
Romeo – Dylan Kane
Friar Laurence – Joe Johnson
Nurse – Lindsey Bowen
Lord Capulet – Peter Whited
Lady Capulet – Karen Pollack
Benvolio – Alex Hollingsworth
Paris – Waylon Johnson
Tybalt – Nate Wheeler
Mercutio – Mike M. Marlin Jr.
Prince Escalus – Bruce Weech
Lord Montague – Brandon Taitano
Lady Montague – Tammy Lanphere
Sampson/Chief Watchman – Mark Cronin
Peter – Megan Harris
Balthasar – Alexa Lane
Apothecary – Mark Sampson
Page to Paris – Moses Marlin
Rosaline and Juliet understudy – Adia Bowen
Abram – Derek Laird
Gregory – Megan Harris
Fighters – Ladies in Waiting – Montague Youth
Conductor/Keyboard 1 – Conrad Askland
Keyboard 2 – Lauren Lippens
Flute – Drew Shipman
Oboe – Rebecca Wright
Clarinet – Barry Ulman
French Horn – Jim Gaudette
Trombone – Rob Queisser
Guitar – Jeff Bradley
Bass – Peter Bridgman
Drums – C.J. Tveit
Romeo and Juliet the musical © 2015 Conrad Askland