As You Like It: Theatre Calgary’s Ode to Joyful Storytelling

On February 27, I had the pleasure of attending a preview of Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It. Directed by Daryl Cloran, this production brilliantly melds Shakespeare’s timeless drama with the iconic tunes of The Beatles. Set against the backdrop of the vibrant 1960s, As You Like It explores themes of love, identity, and transformation, offering a fresh and captivating take on a classic tale.

Before the show, the lobby buzzed with anticipation, heightened by Eric Wigston, an actor and mixologist, who whipped up the night’s special drink, the Mustachio. Priced at just $4.83 with the Tipsy Tuesday deal, this zesty and boozy drink with a hint of orange was everything I could want in a cocktail. It was affordable, delicious, and the perfect way to kickstart the night.

"As You Like It": Theatre Calgary's Ode to Joyful Storytelling
Alexandra Lainfiesta as Phoebe (left) and Anton Lipovetsky as Silvius (right) front the cast of Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It. Courtesy, Trudie Lee.

With my Mustachio cocktail in hand, I settled into my seat just as the pre-show wrestling started. The best word to describe it? Camp. It was delightfully corny, featuring multiple matches that set a fun, lighthearted tone for the evening.

As the lights dimmed, the atmosphere in the room changed. The lively atmosphere turned into excited focus as everyone’s eyes were fixed on the stage.

The play takes us back to the 1960s in Vancouver, a time filled with Beatles music and a love-for-all attitude. Our story follows Rosalind, portrayed by Chelsea Rose, who is unjustly exiled by her deceitful uncle, who adopts the disguise of a man, Ganymede. Accompanied by her cousin Celia, played by Naomi Ngebulana, and witty jester Touchstone, played by Andrew Cownden, they flee to the Okanagan forests.

Central to the plot is Orlando, played by Oscar Derkx, who, deeply in love with Rosalind, does not recognize her behind the guise of Ganymede. As he navigates his affections, guided unknowingly by Rosalind herself, the story intricately probes the various facets of love—from the thrill of romantic love to the enduring nature of familial bonds—all against the iconic music of The Beatles.

As You Like It: Theatre Calgary's Ode to Joyful Storytelling
Chelsea Rose as Rosalind (left) and Jan Alexandra Smith as Jacques (right) in Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It. Courtesy, Trudie Lee.

At the heart of it all is Chelsea Rose’s sensational portrayal of Rosalind, with an energy so vivacious that it was impossible to look away. Her performance radiated warmth and charm, breathing life into every scene with a sunny disposition.

Opposite her, Oscar Derkx’s portrayal of Orlando was equally compelling. His voice, angelic and full of emotion, perfectly captured Orlando’s depth and longing for Rosalind.

The chemistry between Rose and Derkx was electric. Together, they crafted a duo that was not just seen but felt, drawing the audience into the heart of their romantic journey with genuine emotion and masterful performances.

Andrew Wheeler, who plays the mischievous jester Touchstone, was also a highlight for me. His spot-on delivery of cheeky one-liners had me laughing out loud, which is rare.

What added to the fun was seeing the whole cast dive into the playful chaos of the story. They embraced all the gender-swapping tricks and tangled romances with a contagious sense of fun.

My only critique is that the start of the show feels slow, with the pace taking a while to pick up as it sets the scene with heavy background information. However, the moment the story transitions to the forest, the energy on stage is transformative.
The second act, filled with classics like “Good Day Sunshine” and “All You Need Is Love,” is a whirlwind of joy. I left the theatre with my face aching from smiling – a level of pure happiness I had not experienced in a very long time.

As You Like It: Theatre Calgary's Ode to Joyful Storytelling
The cast of Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It. Courtesy, Trudie Lee.

The real magic of this production lies in its unexpected yet brilliant fusion of Shakespeare’s dialogue and The Beatles’ music. At first, it might sound like a strange combo, but it works beautifully, breathing new life into a classic story.

If you are worried about getting lost in Shakespearean English, don’t be. The cast’s superb acting and familiar Beatles songs sung in modern English make the story easy to follow.

Overall, I highly recommend seeing Theatre Calgary’s As You Like It. This production is a vibrant celebration of love showcasing the enduring and universal appeal of Shakespeare and The Beatles. Running until March 24, 2024, with limited tickets remaining, this is a theatrical experience you do not want to miss.


About Josie Simon 8 Articles
Josie Simon (she/her) is a writer, passionate LGBTQ+ advocate, and lover of the arts. As a former dancer with a keen eye for detail, Josie brings a unique perspective to her writing. She is a current fourth-year political science major at the University of Calgary and has previously contributed to the Gauntlet.