The all-star cast features Simon Callow, making his RSC debut as Falstaff after he replaced an injured Desmond Barrit at short notice during rehearsals, Judi Dench (as Mistress Quickly), TV impressionist Alistair McGowan (Frank Ford), Scarlett Strallen (Anne Page), Alexandra Gilbreath (Mistress Ford) and Haydn Gwynne (Mistress Page). The production is directed by RSC chief associate director Gregory Doran, who also adapted the piece, with music by Paul Englishby and lyrics by Ranjit Bolt.
Overnight critics gave the musical a mixed reception. While they unanimously praised Dench’s performance, they concurred that the source play itself is one of Shakespeare’s weakest and the plot seems all the thinner for being adapted for musical comedy. While some enjoyed the eclectic musical styles employed by Englishby, others tired of the score of many genres, and some felt the company was trying too hard to make merry.
- by Caroline Ansdell