Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies. A classic tale of love, mischief, deception and gossip. In this production of Much Ado the director wanted to place the show in the post WW1 era of America. Our production took place in New Orleans with an aesthetic inspired by Mardi Gras. Since the show took place in the late 1910s, we decided to use the music of the time, specifically Ragtime as the backdrop for the show. I approached using the music as a part of transitions to help us keep pace from scene too scene. I also added character motifs to accompany moments to accompany certain characters throughout the play and emphasize important moments.
During preshow I used this time to get people acclimated to the sound of the show and create an upbeat and inviting atmosphere to match with the celebratory feeling we feel going into the first scene, since it immediately follows the victory in the war against Don Jon. Samples of each song in preshow can be heard below.
Preshow into Act 1 Scene 1
For the first transition from preshow to Act1 I used "Louisiana Rag" by Richard Zimmerman. This song helps continue the upbeat and celebratory vibe from preshow going into the first scene. I also felt having the first song be called Louisiana Rag would be a fun because the show takes place in New Orleans.
Act I Scene I into Act I Scene II
For this transition I used "The Easy Winners" by Scott Joplin. I went ahead and sped up the recording a bit to have it keep the fast pace going from the first scene into the second. I wanted this transition to be free flowing and care free as we are still early in the story and Don Jon hasn't started his plot yet.
Act I Scene II into Act I Scene III
Going into the first Don Jon scene in which we see him conceive his plan I figured we needed to change the pace and tone going in. I used "Melancholy Drag" by John Novacek to create, as the songs title suggests, a melancholic feel and slow things down as we enter Don Jons headspace. This song will be used as Don Jons Character motif throughout the show.
Act I Scene III into Act II Scene I
Going into the next scene I wanted to return us to the party feel of the beginning of the show since the masquerade is the next scene. I used "Gladiolus Rag" by Claude Bolling to bring pace back up and return us to the celebration.
Don Jon Motif #1
After the dance, Don Jon approaches Claudio who is disguised as Benedick and tells him that Don Pedro is actually conspiring to steal Hero for himself. To accompany this moment I used a short snippet from Melancholy Drag as the music that follows Don Jon as he gets closer to achieving his goal.
Act II Scene I into Act II Scene II
Since Don Jons plan was foiled and the wedding of Claudio and Hero is officially on, I decided to use "Hearts Are Trumps" by Tom Brier to keep the triumphant feel going into the next scene.
Act II Scene II into Act II Scene III
For the next scene we go into Leonatos orchard where Benedick is tricked into believing that Beatrice is fiercely in love with him. I wanted to emphasize that playful feel with "Country Club Rag" by Scott Joplin.
Act II Scene III into Act III Scene I
At the end of the scene Benedick is elated to find out that Beatrice actually loves him. He can't wait to requite his feelings for him and he has a childish like joy to his demenor and a pep in his step. I wanted to elevate this feeling by using "Seagull Shuffle" by Martin Spitznagel. The song has this inherent jovial and fun feeling to it that fit just right.
Act III Scene I into Act III Scene II
Just like the last scene, at the end of this scene Beatrice is shocked to find that Benedick likes her. I wanted to use the transition to show that the tender part of Beatrice is starting to come out. I used "It Takes Two" by Art Tatum as a sweet and soothing transition taking us into the next scene. Because of the directors approach it wanting to be in a "timeless now" I used an early jazz piano piece to show this aspect of the approach but also show how Benedick and Beatrice differ.
Act III Scene II into Act III Scene III
This transition is going into our first scene with Dogberry and Verges. Because these characters are very physical in their acting and comedic style, I wanted to match the feeling of watching a Charlie Chaplin film. Both because Chaplin was active during this time and I felt that evoking that type of over the top musicality would fit the feeling of the next scene perfectly. I used S. O. S. Musicians Distress by Tom Brier. This song comes back as Dogberry and Verges motif later in the show.
Intermission into Act III Scene IV
Going into this scene I wanted to bring back the early jazz piano to fit the more mellow and dainty feel of Hero and the other women getting ready for the big wedding and another reminder of Beatrices inner feelings for Benedick finally starting to come out. I went ahead and used "I Would Do Anything For You" by Art Tatum.
Act III Scene V into Act IV Scene I
Going into the wedding between Claudio and Hero I thought it only fitting to use a ragtime arrangement of the classic wedding march to fit the time period. The ragtime arrangement brings a lot more energy and pep to it and helped put on the appearance that everything would go fine.
Don Jon Motif #2
During the wedding Claudio shames Hero for apparently cheating on him because of Don Jons trickery and the men (except Benedick) leave as Hero faints. As a way to show Don Jons scheme has come to fruition, I brought back his motif one more time.
Benedick and Beatrice Motif #1
After the Friar explains the plan to hopefully get down to the truth and get Hero's name back in good faith, everyone exits except for Beatrice and Benedick. This is the first time they are truthful to each other instead of witty back and forth banter. I used the time during the other characters exit to utilize a motif to exemplify this moment between these two characters. For this I used “Meditation” by Tom Brier.
Benedick and Beatrice Motif #2/ Transition into Act IV Scene II
I went ahead and put in Benedick and Beatrices motif at the end as the first half of the transition into the next scene. I wanted to highlight the connection that Benedick and Beatrice have made, creating this romantic like tone. I then cut it off abruptly with Dogberry and Verges song to make the transition into the next scene funnier.
Act V Scene I into Act V Scene II
After the scene prior in which Claudio and company find out that they have been fooled, I wanted to bring this somber yet hopeful feeling going into the next scene. I went ahead and used "Solace" from the film "The Sting".
Act V Scene II into Act V Scene IV
For the transition going into the final scene I wanted to create this sense of finality and a feeling of a hopeful end as all the characters convene for the 2nd wedding. I used "Sunlight and Shadow" by Tom Brier.