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Hathaway, McDonald, Esparza, Pittu and Walker Preserve Twelfth Night on Disc

By Adam Hetrick
August 24, 2009

The starry, music-filled Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night, featuring a score by the Brooklyn-based band Hem, will be released on CD Oct. 27.

Shakespeare's tale of unrequited love, hidden identity and midsummer madness played a critically praised run at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in early June. Under the direction of Daniel Sullivan, the production was the first of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park offerings of 2009.

The 28-track recording captures principal cast members including Academy Award-nominated actress Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza (Company, Speed-the-Plow), four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (110 in the Shade, Master Class, Ragtime), two-time Tony nominee David Pittu (What's That Smell, Lovemusik) and Jon Patrick Walker (Young Frankenstein). Bonus material, including instrumental and vocal passages cut from the production, will also be featured on the disc.

Sullivan's production of Twelfth Night incorporated Hem's score into the action of the play by featuring an onstage band (The Illyrian Marching Band) led by Hem band member Steve Curtis, as well as recorded tracks featuring the Gowanus Radio Orchestra. Hem band members include Dan Messe (piano), Steve Curtis (guitar, harmony vocal, percussion), Gary Maurer (mandolin, guitar), Sally Ellyson (vocals), Mark Brotter (drums) and George Rush (bass).

"It was our goal to both capture the live energy of the Delacorte production, and at the same time create an idealized version of the score," Hem's Dan Messé said of the recording. "In order to best achieve this balancing act, we tried as much as possible to have the singers there together with either the band from the show (The 'Illlyrian Marching Band' as we dubbed them) or some semblance of Hem and the Gowanus Radio Orchestra. In some cases – especially with the extra songs we wrote for Audra, Anne and Raúl – we were really flying by the seat of our pants, and it would have been impossible had it not been for the incredible musicianship of these artists."

The disc, priced $12, is currently available for preorder by visiting HemMusic.
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