Quote of the Day: This show is sure to be the most unique musical in the Twin Cities this spring and is Shakespeare as you’ve never experienced before. As much parody as homage, the story is modernized with four performers playing all the parts, bringing with them a tremendous amount of comedy. And while “Hamilton” can be credited with popularizing the use of hip hop in Broadway musicals, “Othello: The Remix,” written by the Q Brothers and developed with Rick Boynton, brings it to another level with rap and hip hop used throughout to breathe new life into the classic story. from Minneapolis Musical Theatre, Rare Musicals, Well Done.
Othello, The Remix is a fast-paced, fun, modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s play of manipulation and jealousy. Human beings were the same in the 1500’s as they are today. Wondering if this plotline has relevance today? Read the headlines. In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s tale, the Q Brothers developed a breathless score with creator Rick Boynton. The words come at you in RAPid fire, very rhythmic to the backbeat of hip-hop. Four actors play all the characters. I find that fascinating. With just a minor costume change, like a shawl or a headband, an actor becomes a different character by using their skills with voice, body language, words and actions. These four did an awesome job.
Umar Malik, a drummer/percussionist and singer, takes on the role of Othello. He is the only one who plays only one character. We learn of his rise to fame and marriage to the beautiful and alluring Desdemona. His own insecurities and self-doubt, not to mention his jealousies and foolish trust of his supporters, lead to his downfall. Desdemona is an implied character. We see her through the eyes of other characters and hear her through recorded sounds and vocals. She’s the muse in the recording studio, and the cause of tension among the members.
The modern motif of this Shakespeare adaptation is a rising Rap artist and recording studio. Alex Church plays Othello’s right hand man, and others, until he is bumped out of position by Cassio. Miles Scroggins plays Cassio and Emilia, Iago’s wife. Both actors do a great job of making each character distinct.
The fourth actor in this ensemble is Alaster Xan-Elias. They play multiple characters, and get most of the laughs. They’re wonderful as the nerdy Roderigo, who has an obsession with action heroes, figurines, and those role-playing games like D & D. A very appropriate metaphor for the storyline of this play. They are also creepily charming as Bianca who is obsessed with Cassio, to the point of being a bit of a stalker. It is fascinating to watch Alaster easily transition between these multiple characters with a quick duck behind the couch to put on a headband or glasses, and come out with all the body language of another character.
Othello, The Remix comes at you fast and furious, but don’t worry if you miss a word, or two. There’s plenty of recap, good songs, and interesting characterization to help you follow. This is likely a production geared more for the younger crowd. I can see this being a huge success for college students who are bogged down by Shakespeare’s language. The Q Brothers, and this creative team, bring the story into the modern era. Denzel Belin directs this dynamic cast. Maia Maiden provided music direction and choreography – well done, by the way on the tiny stage at The Phoenix theater in Minneapolis. Denzel also did the costumes, which work well for the quick transformations of theses actors for various characters. Audio design by Abe Gabor really helps with focus, as well as the lighting changes by Grant E. Merges. Scenic design by Vicky Erickson gives the whole show an urban feel, words on the walls, a sound booth, and a movable chest used to stage some of the bigger numbers.
The other person on stage is Glorius L. Martin aka DJ Huh?What?? who provides the preshow music and runs the sound board throughout the show.
You can see Othello, The Remix, produced by Minneapolis Musical Theatre, at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis, MN through May 7, 2023. It’s a quick 90 minute show, with one intermission. Come, see this dynamic modernized retelling of Othello!
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What are some unique stagings/adaptations that you’ve seen of Shakespeare, or other theatrical productions?