It's very rare that one of the two mainstage Shakespeare in the Park shows each summer is a musical, but we've got one this year...and, boy, is it glorious!


1. Shaina Taub. Is there literally anyone cooler on Planet Earth? Shaina is a rocketship bound for megastardom as a composer, performer, and activist. She wrote this musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, but also stars as our troubadour-ish and narrator-ish Feste. Shaina is straight-up the future of the American theater, currently at work co-writing the upcoming Broadway musical version of The Devil Wears Prada with Elton John, nbd. Read more about Shaina in YesBroadway's 2018 40 Under 40.

2. It's Public Works. Twelfth Night is part of the Public Theater's Public Works program, which "deliberately blurs the line between professional artists and community members" by inviting NYC residents into the creation and performance process. The result? A stage filled with ~100 New Yorkers from across the city playing ensemble members that make the big dance numbers so radiant they don't even need the stage lights. Those numbers are filled with so much joy, heart, and creativity that it's impossible not to smile so hard that your face hurts during them. The Public Works program is creating, quite simply, the kind of art our country needs right now!

3. Nikki M. James and Ato Blankson-Wood. Yes, yes, and more yes to these two delicious performers. Nikki is best known for winning a Tony for her performance in The Book of Mormon and Ato shined in both last year's As You Like It (also a Shaina Taub/Public Works musical adaptation!) as well as showing off his dramatic acting chops in MCC Theater's excellent Transfers. Nikki and Ato have undeniable chemistry and both give magnificent performances in Twelfth Night. Hey, even Lin-Manuel Miranda agrees:

4. You get to walk around in Illyria before the show. Co-directors Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah (who also co-conceived this adaptation with Shaina Taub) pull one of the coolest directorial moves ever: you get to explore the town square of Illyria before the show by walking around on the stage. There's singing, vendors, performances, magicians, and a whole lot of grooviness that totally gets you ready for 90 minutes of action once you take your seat. You are literally invited to come hang out in lllyria at this Twelfth Night.

Photos: Joan Marcus

5. It's outside and free! There's hardly anything as magical as dusk in Central Park on a warm summer night as incredibly good theater is being performed right in front of you. The vibe matches the utopian vision put forth in the show. Oh, and did you know that tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are always FREE? Check out the ticket link below for how to get them after you watch this short montage from the show. Good luck not falling in love with Shaina's music!

Twelfth Night runs through August 19.