A church in the Hampden area of Baltimore dating back to the 1800s playing the sounds of Lily Allen–wait am I in London?
Kicking off the Charm City Fringe Festival, I headed out to see “The Shoemaker ‘s Holiday” on Friday, November 4th at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. This play, once banned in England dubbed vulgar and lewd hits Baltimore audiences for the first time and you will not be disappointed.
After a long week I was bracing myself for a long night of Shakespearean era acting, however, this was no ordinary performance.
….quirky, off-the-wall and brilliant….
“I will sweat in purple for you mistress,” “Knit like a pair of stockings in Matrimony,” just some of the quippy lines that make this play a must-see.
You are greeted by several of the cast singing songs such as ‘London Town’ by Lilly Allen, as a Brit, I immediately felt at home. It wasn’t the stiff upper lipped welcome I expected when heading out to watch Shakespearean actors.
A quirky, off-the-wall and brilliant combination of London in the 1500s, kicking off the wacky story with a medley of songs featuring Elvis and the overall theme of shoes. The play is called “The Shoemaker’s Holiday” Genius! I Never thought I would be tapping my feet to the song Blue Suede Shoes sang by people wearing period costume.
Resident costume designer April Forrer depicted her vision of London in the 1500s. The costumes were outstanding and became more elaborate, as the storyline progressed. As the daughter of a seamstress, I kept noticing intricate details throughout the show that I had initially missed.
Director and Artistic Director Tom Delise did a great job in casting and directing this show. The characters were perfectly cast; the costumes also suited each cast member. Delise admits that the shadow cast by Shakespeare didn’t allow other great playwrights to shine. “The Shoemaker’s Holiday” was written by Thomas Dekker.
“The Shoemaker’s Holiday” in modern day terms is a risqué, whacky comedy partially based on the life of Simon Eyre, a commoner who became the Lord Mayor of London. All this surrounding the love story of Eyre’s predecessor the Lord Mayor of London Sir Roger Oatley his daughter Rose is in love with the nephew to Sir Hugh Lacy.
Conrad Deitrick plays Simon Eyre, a larger than life and confident character. Deitrick filled the stage and depicted the role of a shoemaker and wannabe Mayor perfectly. Blessed with so many quippy one-liners, “Move you pile of beef queens,” he takes every opportunity to remind his wife with hilarious sexist put-downs that he is the bread-winner.
Bethany Mayo plays Margery, Eyre’s wife, she is confident playing next to such a strong character and develops a wonderful rapport with her husband by the end of the show. If this is opening night, this show will be packing out the theater by the end of it’s run.
This cast is so strong it’s really hard to not praise them all.
The play ran for about 2 hours with the cast singing during the intermission; this is a grueling task. They keep the energy high, and the pace of the play will keep you on the edge of your seat. A very comfortable seat I may add- which is not always the case.
Ian Blackwell Rogers plays Frik, a shoemaker. His character is hilarious and has some of the funniest lines in the show. From his unruly hair, to his choirboy face, his outlandish costume -everything about this character is on point.
There were a few moments when the voices of some actors couldn’t be heard as they were facing the back of the stage. Opening night teething problems that I am sure will be fixed.
Craig Allen plays, the original Lord Mayor of London Sir Roger Oatley with charisma, flare, and class. Just what you would expect from a mayor.
Allie Press plays several roles including that of Rose, the Mayor’s daughter. Press plays the beautiful, young and innocent Rose exquisitely, her timing and character development along with her exceptional singing voice are impressive.
It’s not easy shifting roles when Press switches to the role of a shoemaker so does seem a little less confident at times.
Her love, Roland Lacy is played by Chris Cotterman.
Cotterman interacts with the audience ahead of the play and during the intermission providing information on the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, clearly showing this company is more than an acting company. It also offers education on Shakespearean works in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
As Roland, and as his secret character Hans, Cotterman is brilliant. Depicting the nephew of Sir Lacy and a Dutch man who barely speaks English, he pulls it off with hilarity.
Sir Hugh Lacy played by Ben Fisler was everything one would expect in a ‘sir.’ Noble and convincing.
Tegan Williams played several roles–all very well and is clearly a talented singer and actress — oh and she played a drum! Triple talent.
Another noteworthy performance was Kerry Brady who plays several roles, one being Sybil, a servant slash friend to Rose. She plays out her different roles to the max. So much so I had to look at the program to see if it was the same girl.
If you fear Shakespearean era works, check out this play it’s super entertaining and a smashing choice for me to kick off my first experience with the company and charm city fringe festival.
I would like to add without giving too much away that there are references to a ‘Shrove Tuesday and pancakes during the play. A British pancake is very different to the version we eat here in the U.S. I felt this was an important and delicious note to end on.
I am happy to share my recipe.
Run Time: 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.
“The Shoemaker’s Holiday” runs through November 20th.
For more information on Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and to buy tickets click here.
If you want more information about Charm City Fringe Festival click here.