Play On!

Play-OnOriginal Broadway Cast, 1997 (Varèse Sarabande) 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) Play On! was at least the fourth musical adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to play, albeit briefly, in New York. This version moved the action to Harlem, circa the 1940s. The noble Count Orsino of the original became the greatest jazzman of his time, a composer and bandleader named “the Duke” — and if there’s any doubt as to who inspired the character, the musical’s songs were all taken from the catalog of Duke Ellington. The trouble with the show is that, even though the songs make dramatic sense as slotted, the book writing is deadly. But what you’ll find on the recording is one terrific Ellington song after another, gorgeously arranged by Luther Henderson. There are famous titles — “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” — and others not-so-famous, such as “Hit Me With a Hot Note and Watch Me Bounce.” All of them are wonderfully performed by Tonya Pinkins, Cheryl Freeman, Carl Anderson, Lawrence Hamilton, AndrĂ© De Shields, and Larry Marshall. — David Wolf