As You Like It

Original Public Works Cast, 2022 (Concord Theatrical Recordings) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) The second of composer-lyricist Shaina Taub’s Shakespeare adaptations for the Public Theater’s Public Works program, following Twelfth Night, this As You Like It is a joyful update of Shakespeare’s comedy. In songs like “You Phoebe Me” and “Gettin’ Married Tomorrow,” Taub playfully riffs on Shakespeare’s text in her lyrics. These songs sound closer to those that may be heard on Taub’s solo singer-songwriter albums than to her work on Twelfth Night, so Rosalind sings with a confessional, conversational cynicism in Rebecca Naomi Jones’s thoughtful, strongly-sung performance. Ato Blankson-Wood, who played Orsino in Twelfth Night, sounds wonderful again here. Taub herself is the best interpreter of Taub, and her opening delivery of “All The World’s A Stage” as the moody Jacques (reimagined here as a climate activist) is the album’s highlight. If you’re somehow immune to her charming navigation of her bluesy pop melodies, the chorus of children joining in her song will win you over. These young singers are part of Public Works’ engagement in each of these productions of nearly 100 performers, most of them amateurs, through partnering community organizations. The numerous ensemble moments heard here — including the rousing “In Arden,” led by Darius de Haas, and the gospel-inspired anthem “Still I Will Love” — capture the sense of massive community singing better than the Twelfth Night cast album does. But there’s a little bit of you-had-to-be-there energy to the recording; it’s the memory of the Public’s multi-generational staging that lends these tracks their greatest emotional potency. — Dan Rubins