Shakespeare’s Cymbeline A Folk Tale With Music

Adapted by David RiceFirst-Folio theatre

Music and lyrics by Michael Keefe and David Rice

Directed by Michael Goldberg

At First Folio Theatre, 31st St & Rt 83, Oakbrook

Tuneful adaptation of Shakespeare works as an Appalachian delight

The world premiere of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline A Folk Tale With Music is a sheer delight!  Combining the lyrical words of The Bard with tuneful, expert music and lyrics by Michael Keefe and David Rice and putting Cymbeline in Appalachia during the American Civil War adds punch to the tale making more folk than fairy (tale). With 10 songs accompanied by a jug band, this Cymbeline is a tale with music but it is darn-near a hillbilly musical.


Keefe and Rice need to team up to write a full musical based on the clever use of Shakespearean lyrics with toe-tapping melodies that would be welcome at the Grand Ole Opry. The music makes Cymbeline come to life as it both comments upon and enhances as well as furthers the story-just as in a fully musical. Combining authentic Appalachia culture and Shakespeare works mainly through the music and the rich fluid accents that masked but not hindered The Bard’s dialogue (credit dialect coach Jason K. Martin) only gave a fresh take on Cymbeline.

From the press notes:

“The Story:

Falsely accused of betraying her lover, Imogen must flee to the hills to escape her death. With the help of the shepherd Belarius and his two sons (and disguised as a boy!), she must prove her honesty and chastity, restore her good name, and defeat her evil stepmother. This wondrous Shakespearean folk tale has been moved to Appalachia and set to music in First Folio’s new production of this timeless story.”


Several fine performances (besides the terrific jug band) made Cymbeline dazzle. Ron Keaton, as Morgan/Belarius, both narrated the tale and nicely played the banished Morgan. Lia Mortensen is delicious as the villain queen while Kate McDermott is delightful as Imogen the innocent accused. John Milewski ass grandeur as King Cymbeline. Andrew Behling was wonderful as the goofy Cloten while Matthew Keefer was splendid as Posthumus. James Earl Jones II steals his scenes as Iachimo and Gabriel. His vocals were stunning. The supporting cast and the musicians (some actors also deftly played various instruments).


The outdoor setting gave depth to the Appalachian theme that propelled the genius of Shakespeare combined with the smart and clever music and lyrics by Keefe and Rice to produce an engaging and homespun adaptation of Cymbeline. With Michael Goldberg nimble free-flowing direction, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline A Folk Tale With Music is a most worthy interpretation of The Bard’s fairy tale. This show begs to be remounted at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I can’t think of a finer way to introduce youngsters to the wonders of bluegrass music and the sheer delights of Shakespeare than with Keefe & Rice’s Cymbeline. This show is tuneful, action packed, humorous as well as adventurous and heartwarming. It is a folk tale for the ages. First Folio Theatre’s Cymbeline is the hit of the summer! Get your picnic baskets full of food and drink and get to Mayslake Peasbody’s Estate and to enjoy a fabulous summer treat.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: June 22, 2013

For more info checkout the Shakespeare’s Cymbeline A Folk Tale With Music page at

At Mayslake Peasbody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83, Oakbrook, IL

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