Members say: Great acting, Great singing, Absorbing, Great staging, Entertaining

About the show

Oscar and three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance returns to Broadway in this new drama about Spain's King Phillippe V's bond with a legendary castrato. 

... Read more

'Farinelli and the King' is inspired by the fascinating true story of Philippe V (Rylance), a Spanish monarch on the brink of madness who finds unexpected solace in the voice of world-renowned castrato, Farinelli. Soon, Farinelli and the King forge a powerful connection, and the celebrated singer must make a difficult choice: return to throngs of adoring fans or perform forever for an audience of one. Like Broadway’s 'Twelfth Night' and 'Richard III,' this contemporary work is presented in the signature style of Shakespeare’s Globe – traditional baroque instruments are performed live in a gallery above the stage; the audience enjoys intimate seating with several rows onstage; and the story is told by candlelight. 'Farinelli and the King' comes to Broadway following sold-out runs at Shakespeare’s Globe and on London’s West End.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Strangely enchanting...The language of the script doesn’t always flow melodically. But van Kampen has an illuminating appreciation not only for period music but also for the gap between artists and their art...Watching Rylance’s Philippe experience Farinelli’s voice, we hear what he hears. And an actor and a singer temporarily turn a night at the theater in an anxious city into an Eden beyond worldly care, all the more precious for its evanescence." Full Review


"Van Kampen's middling historical fiction...Van Kampen eschews the typical portrayal of Isabella as Lady Macbeth, opting instead for the even staler trope of the giving tree...A baffling attempt to insert conflict into the second act risks dramaturgical disaster, and is saved only by Davies's achingly beautiful interpretation of Handel's 'Cara sposa.'...Davies makes the most exhilarating Broadway debut of the year as the voice of Farinelli...Dove's production is a total delight to the senses." Full Review


"There’s not much to Claire van Kampen’s simplistic script...But with a lead performance by Oscar and Tony winner Mark Rylance in full sail, it’s enough...In the context of the period setting, the anachronistic language is barbarically contemporary...That’s a pity, since director John Dove has taken such pains to re-create the heavily gilded style of the formal Baroque setting of this production." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Davies’s singing provides most of the high notes in this otherwise workmanlike play. The nature of the central musical therapy is barely explored; instead, we get contrived court intrigue, low comedy, a rushed quasiromance, and an equally hasty coda, delivered in a steady march of flat-footed exposition...The pleasures of Dove’s production—the music, Rylance’s halting propulsion, the sumptuous sets and costumes—gleam to no purpose, real jewels glued to a trinket crown." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"What we have on stage is Sir Mark acting up a storm, a comically frenzied storm at that. Give an accomplished ham a dramatic role which allows him an occasional mad scene, and you are sure to have a memorable evening that is more or less unmissable. This is plenty enough to put 'Farinelli and the King' on the highly recommended list. But the drama, I’m afraid, doesn’t match the rest of the evening. The plot is intriguingly promising, yes; but the execution is merely functional." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Despite its many attractions, 'Farinelli and the King' is a crudely constructed affair that barely rises to the level of anecdote...For all of his lovingly rendered comic business, Philippe remains a distant figure, elusively skipping from one eccentric fancy to another...One wishes Rylance would strive harder to find roles commensurate with his abilities...For all of Crane's fine work, Farinelli is little more than a pawn with a gorgeous voice, his interior largely left unexplored." Full Review

Theater Life

“An overly familiar, underwritten play...'Farinelli' has an intriguing concept, but the execution is wanting...Van Kampen fails to develop her premise beyond some keen acting opportunities for her husband Rylance and staging possibilities for director Dove...There are no real stakes here...Fortunately, Rylance delivers his usual magnificent work...An entertaining historical curio, but not a full dramatic experience.” Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"If Van Kampen’s script unsurprisingly falls far short of Shakespeare, 'Farinelli and the King' also features what should count as a secret weapon — the singing of Iestyn Davies...Too often, the license van Kampen takes is more prosaic than poetic...'Farinelli and the King' may not offer any eye-opening insights into the power of music to heal, but the show itself feels restorative – the music just part of its sumptuousness." Full Review

Front Row Center

“This play is more a series of incidences than a story unfolding...Everything that could be done to bring this tale to life has been done...A great production of a play with little substance, however, does not a great play make. But for the performance of Rylance, who is as always remarkable, and Davies, who is a delicious surprise and deserving of the two final bows that Rylance engineers, ‘Farinelli and The King’ remains a tedious bit of business.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Visually plump but dramatically slim…Elegantly directed…and effectively acted and sung, this fact-based play's subject matter is inherently fascinating…But…'Farinelli and the King' doesn't contribute greatly to the advance of modern playwriting…Once the premise is established,…the plot itself is rather uninteresting and its suspense quite limited; the playwright has to depend on various distractions…to keep the action moving… Mark Rylance…is quite good…but he offers few surprises.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"If the play is structurally shaky and thematically a tad thin, Dove's exquisite staging yields compensatory rewards...This is a potentially fascinating story...But the drama becomes borderline inert...Once van Kampen has put Philippe and Farinelli together she doesn't really know what to do with them...The deteriorating mental health of a monarch here doesn't constitute a sustaining narrative arc, even if Rylance's commanding performance remains the center of attention." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"By all rights it ought not to work at all—yet 'Farinelli' still contrives to cast an odd spell on the viewer, and its best moments have a delicate beauty that will stay with you...Van Kampen’s Farinelli is an inscrutable stick figure, while her Philippe is a walking thesaurus of stage-madness clichés. Nor does her plot have any tension...Thanks to Davies’s singing and Dove’s staging, 'Farinelli' manages to circumvent its dramatic deficiencies and hold your attention—if you love music." Full Review

AM New York

"It may contain arias from obscure Baroque operas and candlelit chandeliers, but the play is, at heart, a straightforward and sentimental 'bromance'...It is also a celebration of the power of music to overcome emotional and mental instability. Rylance, who excels at playing sad and strange characters, gives a full-bodied and endearing performance that combines volatile behavior and over-the-top comedy with gentle contemplation." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Rylance turns in an exquisite portrayal of a King gone mad...Though the play by his wife is witty, it fails to capture Farinelli’s soul or the reason behind King Philip V of Spain’s madness...In each of the nine Handel aria’s we are transported to nirvana...However, Crane's Farinelli is so low key, weak, and non passionate, despite some of the text...Dove’s direction makes this piece so watchable and so entrancing...What Ms. van Kampen’s does is integrate music seamlessly into the piece." Full Review

Chicago Tribune

"Rylance dives deep inside wacky Philippe in a performance as empathetic as it is seemingly spontaneous...A strange and slow-burning theatrical experience in many ways and seemingly focused on just one relationship, actually turns out to be a remarkably complicated exploration of the most important question in the arts of the last 500 years, i.e., who gets to go? And, of course, you get the incomparably immersed Rylance, that most live of performers." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Claire van Kampen’s fact-based but liberally embroidered drama isn’t so sensational...Still, the drama at the Belasco is a richly theatrical reminder of what art can do...Rylance is riveting as the bedeviled ruler, but his star turn still raised mixed feelings. At times he is deliciously daft and spontaneous, but he's also occasionally too stagy and calculating to ring true...The play’s poky first half meanders, but it gains momentum after the intermission." Full Review


"It’s the best play and the best production of the season so far...Yes, it has a beginner’s nicks – unnecessary use of anachronism, a sometimes heavy-handed symmetry. But in the end, it’s wildly entertaining in the moment, and resonant in the aftermath. It’s not only fun, it’s really about something...And then there’s Rylance...Meticulously off-handed, it’s funny and sad, a performance to be savored in a totally engaging little triumph of a show." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Everything about this production feels old fashioned, and I mean that in the best of possible ways...The story is simple and charming, and even though it’s not captivating, it does truly engage. It has a glow and a quiet intimacy that is unquestionable and stunningly beautiful...The complexities and depth Rylance, and the company bring is equal to the beauty that engulfs us, leaving us feeling quenched and delighted by the exquisiteness of an evening of beautiful theatre making." Full Review


"It's clear that Van Kampen has taken enough liberties with historic facts to allow her play to champion the healing effect of music...The playwright's vision for having two Farinellis heightens the dramatic point/counterpoint of Farinelli and Phillippe's divided selves. Fortunately the shared casting fits the mirroring of the characters' psyches very well...More an enjoyable, fanciful entertainment than a play likely to join the canon of Shakespeare's memorable king plays." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Dove’s staging gives the breadth and depth of Ms. Van Kampen’s script the 'space' it needs to unfold and embrace the audience with its pathos and ethos. The scenes between Farinelli and the King brim with effusive energy...Crane brings an authentic vulnerability to his role as Farinelli that counterpoints brilliantly with the tempered desperation of Rylance’s Philippe...It is clear to the audience how Farinelli and the King walked together in distinction and in imprisonment." Full Review


“While the play entertains and the performances hold one's interest, there are holes in the script. We learn nothing of the causes or beginnings of Philippe's illness. Although we know that he is the grandson of the French King Louis XIV, we learn nothing about his history or his first marriage. The only thing we learn about Farinelli is that he is Italian and that his composer brother arranged for his castration when he was ten to preserve his angelic voice on the death of their father.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A feast for the eye and ear...Crane, in particular, is the perfect foil for Rylance. Against the star's edgy, rambunctious performance, Crane's Farinelli is calm, centered, and quite content to be at a remove from the limelight. Van Kampen does her best work in contrasting these opposites...While Mr. Rylance clearly dominates the stage, 'Farinelli and the King' would not work nearly so well without the collaborative dance of Mr. Crane and Mr. Davies that brings Farinelli richly to life." Full Review

The Huffington Post

“An enjoyable piece of magic for theatergoers during this holiday season. It is a delightfully charming play...The Belasco is transformed into a dazzling setting in the Kingdom of Spain... Davies doppelganger to actor Crane’s tender Farnelli spoiled the audience for any other countertenor they will ever hear. Rylance’s guileless interpretation of King Phillipe proves to serve the suffering King by eliciting compassion and patience.” Full Review

The Wrap

"The wonderful thing about 'Farinelli' is the chance to hear a great countertenor in a theater of 900 seats...Davies’s tone, range, and coloratura can be heard to their full dazzling effect...This story is the stuff of grand opera! Van Kampen’s disjointed storytelling and John Dove’s pedestrian direction, however, turn it into something nearer soap opera...Fortunately, Rylance puts his full arsenal of mannerisms on display to prevent this king from being the royal bore of Madrid." Full Review

Woman Around Town

“Rylance, arguably the best actor in theater today, is once again lighting up the Broadway stage aided and abetted by a skilled company…It’s engaging, surprising, thoughtful, and humorous…The play’s ending reflects but doesn’t depict reality. Here, however, it makes perfect dramatic sense. An extraordinary journey has been shared. Rylance is masterful…Director John Dove gives us a voyeur experience. Every character has presence.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Clever, Great acting, Profound, Indulgent, Playful

See it if you want a superb cast telling a story about compelling characters, set in a attractive interpretation of 18th century Spain. Countertenor!

Don't see it if you want historical purism, you're attached to the 4th wall, you'll be disappointed to hear countertenors instead of castrati (?)

Also Rylance was tremendous, but the entire cast kept up.... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining

See it if you love Mark Rylance and clever stagiing and you have some historical knowledge

Don't see it if You don/t like historical novels and you don/t like to read about what you'll see in advance. Reading up on some history will increase your

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You love Elizabethan plays that capture the times when Kings ruled the world. Beautiful staging. Original music & story. Mark Rylance rocks.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy Elizabethan music and a story about an incompetent king.

Clever, Exquisite, Masterful, Must see, Riveting

See it if you want to see a stunning British production that has drama, humor, and a marvelous countertenor

Don't see it if a great theater-going experience isn't for you; you can't get tickets before it closes

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing, Unexpected

See it if You like unique theater. If you enjoy plays and operatic music. Mark Rylance is wonderful along w/the rest of the cast.

Don't see it if You like traditional theater, don’t like period pieces, opera or stories about mental illness.

Funny, Clever, Entertaining

See it if you are a Rylance fan for he gives an outstanding performance. Fabulous sets and costumes add to the allure of this show.

Don't see it if you do not like to engage in historically set pieces.......

Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if you love the sound of countertenors - or you love Mark Rylance. It's an odd play in a way but it a very enjoyable theatrical experience.

Don't see it if you're expecting a lot of plot.

Exquisite, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see one of our best living actors. This is a beautiful, unique experience.

Don't see it if you don't have any appreciation for music or craft.

Great acting, Masterful, Raunchy, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you are looking to watch a masterful performance by one of the world's greatest actors.

Don't see it if you are anti anachronisms or have difficulty with stories from the past.

Quirky, Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if You want to see a man on the stage who talks nonsense and screams. Dullsville.

Don't see it if You sit rear orchestra. Lots of street noise as theater is on heavily traveled street.

Entertaining, Intriguing, Showcase

See it if Mark Rylance is always a pleasure to watch, but you wonder if his tics fit his character or vice versa. Main supporting cast are lovely

Don't see it if Would be confused by the arthouse doubling concept (although paradoxically, it gets a bit lost in the hamming)

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if Historically based drama/comedy, Italian castrato opera, Mark Rylance= perfection! Although not for everyone .

Don't see it if Do not see if you do not like period pieces, opera or Mark Rylance.

Funny, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Great singing

See it if love great acting by the best-Mark Rylance. Intelligence farce for grownups with amazing singing by countertenor Iesyn Davies.

Don't see it if you do not like fairytales.

Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You're looking for a show where one actor truly carries the show, great singing, play with music and a nice ambience through the theatre.

Don't see it if You're looking for a play with a story that constantly moves or a play without music.

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you would enjoy a rather madcap period piece that combines great acting and operatic singing, schtick humor, and historical subject matter.

Don't see it if you expect exact and seriously handled historical accuracy or if you don't appreciate a little humorous leeway with the 4th wall.

Funny, Great acting, Disappointing, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you like period pieces infused with modern jokes, want to see why Rylance is a master of his craft, or enjoy countertenor style singing

Don't see it if you are expecting an accurate historical representation and don't appreciate anachronism

Also I expected a historical drama--I didn't expect it to be infused with m... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if Especially for Mark Rylance, but also the entire cast. Every part is well acted and the song is captivating. Beautiful set gorgeously lit.

Don't see it if The play has some issues especially in act two where some of the choices make no sense. I didn’t at all like the audience involvement.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you enjoy an unusual plot with great acting, staging and singing. It's based on a true story with some poetic license taken.

Don't see it if you do not like baroque music or countertenors. There is a small baroque orchestra on top of the set and wonderful singing by a countertenor

Also Great staging, acting and singing but this show is not for everyone. I... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Must see, Great staging

See it if You love Mark Rylance or have never seen Mark Rylance. See it if you want to have some rare enchanted type of fun.

Don't see it if You don't like period pieces. Or arias sung by castratos.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you are interested in history. Great staging. Great acting. The countertenor is FANTASTIC.

Don't see it if you don't like good theater.

Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Slow

See it if You like period pieces.

Don't see it if You’re hoping for an epic story

Funny, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You like history, music, great staging and singing and can forgive weak script in which King Phillip V mental illness healed by castrato.

Don't see it if Your idea of fun is not Mark Rylance being cured from manic-depression by gorgeous Handel counter-tenor arias by Iestyn Davies-beautiful set

Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You are a Rylance fan. You like a play about tortured royalty.

Don't see it if You like great writing because you will not find it here. It is okay in that department but not up to the quality of the production overall.

Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like good plays and great actors

Don't see it if you only like plays that will blow you away with their brilliance

Also It isn't great, per se, but it is very, very good. And Rylance actuall... Read more Read less

Original, Absorbing, Quirky, Great staging, Funny, bittersweet

See it if a most unusual play featuring a riveting Mark Rylance, glorious music & singing, striking set, & poignant, truth-based story intrigue you.

Don't see it if you need more than character-centric drama; you're likely irked by period-piece wigs/costumes, atypical dual-acted role, or melancholy tale.

Also I usually avoid countertenor performance, but I was familiar with (& l... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (18)