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Review: Farinelli and the King, starring Mark Rylance

Above: clips from the show

Following two sold-out runs in London, Farinelli and the King has arrived on Broadway. It tells the true story of Philippe V, a Spanish king on the verge of madness who finds comfort in the voice of the world-renowned castrato Farinelli. The show is presented in the style of Shakespeare’s Globe with baroque instruments played in a live gallery above the stage, some of the audience on the stage, and lit by candlelight. The experience created by the candlelight, instruments, and story makes for an incredible time at the theater.

The play, mainly focusing on the healing power of song, needs a singer. And the singer is countertenor Iestyn Davies, who gives incredible life to the production led by Mark Rylance. Davies’ performance complements Sam Crane, who portrays every aspect of Farinelli besides the singing. Mark Rylance plays off them magnificently and is one of the best actors I have ever witnessed onstage. His ability to portray the madness of Philippe, which today would be categorized as bipolar disorder, speaks to his talent.

The rest of the cast does a phenomenal job as well. Melody Grove, who plays Isabella Farnese (Philippe’s second wife), is also a fabulous actor and her performance is one of the most memorable I have seen in a play. Additionally, her chemistry with Crane as Farinelli creates a beautiful performance. And special mention must be made for the instrumentalists as their talent with their respective instruments is captivating.

Despite being in a theater that seats just over 1,000 people it still feels intimate and you step away feeling as though you’ve entered the world of Philippe, Isabella, and Farinelli for the duration of the show and it leaves you with a new understanding of the power of music.

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