Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare in the Park)
Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare in the Park)
86

Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare in the Park) NYC Reviews and Tickets

86%
(111 Reviews)
Positive
94%
Mixed
4%
Negative
2%
Members say
Great acting, Entertaining, Delightful, Clever, Funny

About the Show

Tony Award winner Kenny Leon directs an all-black staging of Shakespeare’s cherished comedy of romantic retribution and miscommunication for The Public's free, outdoor summer season.

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Member Reviews (111)

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75
Long, Clever, Great set, Lively, Fun singing/dancing

See it if you like creative Shakesp. Set in 2019 Georgia. Benedick shines. Crowd pleaser. Fast paced, but long...some slow spots.

Don't see it if you want to hear the verse spoken well by all actors; some do better than others. Still, a clever, well-directed adaptation.

84
Very entertaining "much ado" set in modern times in america w black cast, emphasizing black culture

See it if 1 of Will's great comedies; high-energy, laugh-out-loud production; beautiful singing & kinetic dance

Don't see it if best when Beatrice & Benedick jousting w each other are equals, here Bea dominates Ben; broad in your face production lacks wit Read more

Critic Reviews (29)

The New York Times
June 11th, 2019

“This delicious, admirably clear production, directed by Leon, acknowledges and builds on as it gently but firmly escorts the great comedy into a #MeToo, Black Lives Matter world...The actors play specifically black characters, drawing on their own resources of emotion and style to make those characters rich...Beneath the comedy, this production reflects a world in which domestic violence is more of a threat than the foreign kind...Its politics cloud neither the romance nor the comedy.”
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Time Out New York
June 11th, 2019

"Shakespeare in the Park's modernized new production of 'Much Ado' is powered by strong women of color...Leon's lucid production starts out frolicsome and funny; Brooks luxuriates in the humor, turning even the pronunciation of Benedick’s name into a punch line. But the show turns wistful after Hero and Claudio's nuptials are scuttled by John’s duplicity...A somber button reminds us that the battle of the sexes and the battle for equality both are far from won."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
June 11th, 2019

"Leon’s intermittently enjoyable production...doesn’t exactly tackle the play’s extant issues. Instead, it plays them straight and mostly breezy in a world that’s so fashionably contemporary that it throws the story’s fixation on spotless womanly virtue into strange relief...It’s a measure of the company’s big-hearted energy and of the play’s persistent delights that, despite its odd quirks and remnants, this 'Much Ado' stays afloat. Brooks and Coleman’s chemistry is largely responsible."
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The Hollywood Reporter
June 11th, 2019

“Leon's take is sufficiently distinctive and sexy...The ensemble — while at times directed to play the comedy too broadly — enlivens the language with the natural humor and musicality of black speech patterns...Leon plods through the rambling yap of Shakespeare's first two acts without much momentum, but the energy picks up...The twisty road to matrimony for Beatrice and Benedick often gets a little lost here in a busy staging that could have used a tighter focus."
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Entertainment Weekly
June 11th, 2019

“A near-perfect production of Shakespeare’s finest rom-com...While the production references our dispiriting current political climate, the mood is generally joyous, the laughs plentiful, and the focus rightly on Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes...For the most part the...text and updated milieu mesh nicely...At other moments, the plot bangs up against the setting...This ‘Ado’ offers too much joy to worry about vexing questions. For the most part, it makes a virtue of its contemporary touches.”
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Variety
June 11th, 2019

“Leon delivers the fun in a slaphappy, dance-crazy version of Shakespeare’s most likable, if thematically troubling, romantic comedy...The entire cast does exceptionally well by the Shakespearean language...Only the comic relief players, go too far, overdoing their buffoonish characters and leaning too heavily on the double entendres...Under the magical spell of theater in the park, no one could raise serious objections to the occasional license taken with the play."
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The Observer
June 11th, 2019

“Shakespeare in the Park’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Is the Best Party This Summer...Leon and a lovable, fierce, all-African American cast...Making Shakespeare’s zesty rom-com their own, and thereby delivering it to us fresher and funnier than I can remember in ages...Leon directs the entire affair with abundant flair and a great ear for the music of the original text—as well as finding places to insert more contemporary tunes...This is how Shakespeare in the Park should be.”
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AM New York
June 11th, 2019

“The Public Theater’s terrific new Shakespeare in the Park production...Out of the many productions of ‘Much Ado’ I have seen over the years, this one comes closest to successfully balancing the play’s frothy comedy, romance and verbal dexterity with its equally threatening and violent components. The danger outside the community of Messina is reflected in the danger that materializes inside the community during the play...The mostly young cast is outstanding.”
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Theatermania
June 11th, 2019

“My favorite Shakespeare comedy: It has some of the wittiest dialogue and most outlandish contrivances. In the hands of a great director and performers, it soars. That is the case more often than not with Kenny Leon's production, which transposes this story of high jinks in Renaissance Sicily to modern America...It's a setting that provides for a lot of delightful sights and sounds, even if it doesn't always make total sense for the story."
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Lighting & Sound America
June 12th, 2019

“The genius of Leon's production is its unusually lucid rendering of Shakespeare's text combined with a thoroughly contemporary view of its battle of the sexes...An uproarious evening...It all works because Leon has at his command performers who can neatly turn an Elizabethan phrase while making it sound like present-day speech...A fresh and pristine look at one of the most perceptive comedies ever written."
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New York Stage Review
June 11th, 2019

“Leon has sussed out Shakespeare’s astounding insight and brings it to the fore in his first-rate, all-African-American ‘Much Ado About Nothing’...Leon has such a grasp on the tragicomedy that by the time Peter Kaczorowski’s turns his lights out for the last time, it feels as if the Bard wrote the piece knowing that in 2019 someone would at last come along and get what he was truly prognosticating.”
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New York Stage Review
June 11th, 2019

"Leon has definitely put his stamp on this Shakespeare, transporting the setting from 16th-century Italy to 21st-century America...He leans so heavily on ‘Much Ado’s’ darker moments that some of the lighter ones get almost completely obscured...As for the ending, Leon has chosen to try to make a statement—one that, regrettably, sucks most of the joy out of Shakespeare’s cheerful conclusion.”
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Theater News Online
June 11th, 2019

“As soon as we settle into our seats...we are not in Shakespeare’s port city of Messina, or anywhere in Sicily or Italy for that matter, and not in the 16th century, either...Some will doubtless find this fiddling silly or pandering...Leon has pleasure, not revolution, in mind with this soulful adventure...The show luxuriates in swagger and sway as Beatrice and Benedick eagerly tear each other apart...’Much Ado’ has plenty of something for a warm summer night in the park.”
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TheaterScene.net
June 20th, 2019

"Director Kenny Leon has made his reputation with trenchant productions of contemporary and new plays...Now with his delightful all-black modern dress version of 'Much Ado About Nothing' at the Delacorte Theater for Free Shakespeare in the Park he demonstrates a light touch with classic plays. Led by Danielle Brooks...the generally youthful cast is up to the requirements of this witty Shakespeare comedy."
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Theater Pizzazz
June 15th, 2019

While modern settings often add complications to Shakespeare plays, particularly in terms of language and message, this 'Much Ado' couldn’t resonate more clearly. Most importantly, Shakespeare’s language rings out from the actors...Not only does one not miss a word, but the nuance and flow comes across perfectly natural and modern...There are countless components of the play beautifully delivered, but what ties it together is the sheer joy with which the company performs."
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CurtainUp
June 12th, 2019

“Leon retains Shakespeare's language but, with the assistance of composer Webb and choreographer Brown, he adds a rich mix of songs and dances that gives this romantic comedy a fresh twinkle and contemporary sound...This is Shakespeare done in an African-American key and with the theme of community in the fore...The cast includes several standout performances...In Leon's new take, we revisit a work whose central themes are male bonding and female disempowerment."
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Front Mezz Junkies
June 24th, 2019

"This year’s 'Much Ado About Nothing,' as directed with skill and sass by the phenomenally gifted Kenny Leon and glorious choreography by the talented Camille A. Brown, finds a playing field of originality and festivity within Shakespeare’s sacred text...This production plays and flies through the text with ease and joy, lead by the strong and gifted Danielle Brooks."
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Exeunt Magazine
June 13th, 2019

"There’s plenty to savor in the cast...The problem is larger than one or two tragically out-of-place numbers; this 'Much Ado' bears upon its back the weight of a capital-M-Message...It could have been nothing but black joy, or black joy tempered by the reality of the issues that sparked protests like Black Lives Matter in the first place, but the middle ground—somewhere between joy and a broader context of blackness in America—just doesn’t quite do."
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New York Theater
June 11th, 2019

“Brooks takes complete command of Shakespeare’s language...But Brooks also creates her own language – a body language, whose every expression and gesture brings us clarity and joy...Brooks and the rest of the cast nail the comedy and do right by the romance in this play...Holder is a standout in a cast full of pros that convince us that laughter and love can win out over hate.”
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Broadway Blog
June 12th, 2019

“This production delivers a modern setting with a formidable all-black cast...Leon’s current rendition cuts through the emphasis on Shakespeare’s clever wordplay, never mistaking the forest for the trees. In today’s political climate, it’s a welcome sight, as is a Shakespeare in the Park production that gives an entire company of black actors their due. This 'Much Ado About Nothing' is, actually, quite something and not to be missed.”
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C
June 11th, 2019

"The result seems to please crowds of all backgrounds (the true mission of Shakespeare in the Park) while also doing justice to the Bard's text. That's certainly true of the wonderful Danielle Brooks, whose hard-edged sassiness and fierce displays of independence only barely hide the softer heart beating inside Beatrice - a woman who longs to give that heart away no matter how much she swears she doesn't! (And yes, this woman can SING! And DOES!)"
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The Guardian (UK)
June 11th, 2019

“Leon’s uneven, exuberant production, at war with itself, rarely knows where to aim...If neither couple has particular chemistry, the leads are individually attractive and mostly charismatic, though this is very much Brooks’s show. When the play’s energy flags - she boosts it pretty much on her own...She is grandstanding, sure, but she is also listening and responding to her castmates...Leon has made some of the comedy too broad...The ending moments undermine the production.”
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New York Theatre Guide
June 12th, 2019

"It sings. It flies. Leon and his fine cast have imbued the production with a certain style, grace and spirit...Both Brooks and Coleman bring a special understanding to the text, lifting it above the strict confines of the page and turning it into a kind of sweet music...Chuck Cooper turns the poetry into dialogue that is a marvel to the ear. Nearly everyone else follows suit....What did they do to make it so their own? Methinks it is a soupçon of theatre magic."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
June 12th, 2019

“Robust, entertaining and relevant up-to-date staging...What works especially well is the casting...The spirit of this production fits neatly into the concept and enables one to have a very good time without feeling that the Bard would have anything to complain about. On the contrary, inherent in the ultimate romantic resolution is an appeal for peace and people getting along, a today-ring of hope without seeming heavy-handed.”
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C
June 20th, 2019

"This update of 'Much Ado About Nothing' resonates as an abiding Shakespearean classic. Director Kenny Leon’s vision for the comedy with threads of tragedy evokes a one-of-a-kind production with currency and moment. This is especially so as we challenge the noxious onslaught of Trumpism’s war on democratic principles, our constitution and the rule of law...One for the ages...This production’s greatness is in how the director and cast extract immutable themes."
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scribicide
June 24th, 2019

"[T]he current revival at the Delacorte Theater is full of effortless speech, a rarity in Shakespearean performance. The cast is clearly having a blast-their good cheer is contagious-and they deliver their dialogue with an easy fluency that gives the jokes room to breathe."
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Newsday
June 11th, 2019

“With its near future setting and an all-black cast, Leon gives the production, political undertones not usually so blatant in a work better known for its explorations of betrayal and miscommunication...Leon has gathered an impressive cast...Brooks and Coleman are on fire as those romantic sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick...In keeping with its updated setting, the production gets a lift from frequent musical interludes and contemporary choreography.”
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The Wrap
June 11th, 2019

“Leon has delivered a modern-dress version of a Shakespeare classic that retains all of the Bard’s poetry and, in this case, comic brio...The modern touches never feel forced...This show remains relevant...What makes Leon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ sing is that it remains exceeding wise, thoughtful in its updating of the Bard while never losing sight of the show’s genuine comedic heart. And at its center, there is that star-making, sharp-tongued turn by the radiant Danielle Brooks.”
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Plays to See
June 12th, 2019

“One of the best productions of this classic play that you could hope to see...Leon embraces the disturbing lows and the raucous highs...Strong themes of unconditional female love and the contentiousness of male camaraderie underlie every scene...With Leon’s direction and an original text...the full effect of the trauma inflicted within this so-called comedy is laid bare with chilling emotional poignancy for us to re-examine. It’s all so close to home that you almost want to cry.”
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