I make it my mission to see at least one Broadway show per semester and thanks to Hofstra University Honors College, I was able to check that box early.
I saw a newer play, Farinelli and the King, at the Belasco Theatre in New York. The show tells the story of how the mentally unfit King Philip IV of Spain is being undermined by his courtiers, while his wife fights against them and hires the sweet soprano-voiced Farinelli to sing to her ill husband. It turns out that Farinelli’s soothing voice does the trick to save Philip’s deteriorating mind, but also woos the queen. This play originally debuted in London in 2015, and has made its way overseas with some of the original cast.
The reason I am writing about this is not to tell you about the comedic play, but to highlight the quick, but insightful talkback the cast had after the show. This is the only talkback I have been to in recent times, and I thought it was interesting because the cast talked about the differences between putting on the show in America and England.
Something repeated by a few cast members is that the matinee crowd in America is much more lively than that in England. Go us!
In terms of the stage and members, the cast had a larger stage in America and was able to bump the musician count from three to six. Also mentioned was the fact that there was no director telling actors where to stand on stage. King Philip IV, played by Oscar and Tony winner Mark Rylance, compared it to learning to play tennis, where “you give and take focus to each other.” The actors learned where the better-lit places on the stage were based on the positioning of the candles that provided the light for the production.
Another unique factor of Farinelli is that there was two-tiered audience seating on the stage, which proposed another challenge to the actors. No one wore a microphone, and while some audience members were near, they had to make sure to focus on the members sitting in the main theater. “We want to make you feel like you’re in the same room as us,” said Rylance. “We want to be as attentive to you as you are to us.”
Some of the favorite pieces from the show are the dresses, which was agreed upon by the whole cast, the wigs according to Queen Isabella, played by Melody Grove, and Rylance took a liking to the gold fish he talks to in the beginning of the show. He explained that there is a rotation of fish used, and jokingly said sometimes they are a bit out of character, which was a challenge.
The cast finished with a thoughtful discussion of amateur versus professional acting. “I enjoyed acting as much when I was an amateur actor as when I’m a professional actor,” said Rylance. He especially feels positive when “you have a really great night and feel connected with the audience.”
Whitmanythought 1: I did not realize much of the cast was from England and I thoroughly enjoyed the true British accents
Whitmanythought 2: I hope I can see a show again this semester!