‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Mark Rylance. Photo: Joan Marcus



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Written by Claire van Kampen
Music Arranger Claire van Kampen

Directed by John Dove
Through March 25, 2018
Belasco Theatre

111 West 44th Street

(212-239-6200), www.farinelliandthekingbroadway.com


By David NouNou

Music is a healer for the heart, mind and soul. In playwright (and Mrs. Mark Rylance) Claire van Kampen’s Carlo Farinelli, the castrato was the healer of Philippe V, the King of Spain 1683 – 1746. After various British productions, Farinelli and the King is a show that has arrived on Broadway with a lot of pedigree behind it. It is one of the most anticipated shows of the season because it is the return of the brilliant Mark Rylance.

The play opens with Philippe V (Mark Rylance) in bed, gold fishing in the middle of the night. This causes alarm to his prime minister Don Sebastian De La Cuadra (Edward Peel) and Dr. Jose Cervi (Huss Garbiya) that Philippe is going mad and unfit for the throne of Spain. His second wife Isabella Farnese (Melody Grove) is distressed by what she sees and tries to comfort and soothe the distraught Philippe. The king becomes belligerent and believes they are all conspiring to dethrone him.

Isabella goes to London to meet the impresario John Rich (Colin Hurley) who manages Carlo Farinelli. She offers a great sum of money for Carlo Farinelli to break his contract and bring him to Spain to sing for the ailing Philippe. Two people portray Farinelli: The speaking one (Sam Crane) and the singing castrato (Iestyn Davies). Farinelli befriends the king and sings exclusively for him and the king’s mental health improves, but he has his ups and downs, especially when Farinelli wants to leave Spain and go back to England to resume his career. What starts as a one-month healing process ends up being a nine-year engagement.

The story itself is very compelling but, as a play, it leaves one empty and unfulfilled. It’s like cotton candy, lovely on the outside but quickly dissolves to nothing. There are three redeeming entities: Iestyn Davies as the castrato is superb. When he is on, everything else on stage disappears. Sam Crane is very good as the talking/acting Farinelli but is dwarfed once his alter ego the singer comes on. The dynamic Mark Rylance lends his usual expertise as King Philippe, but doesn’t have much of a role here. There are very few actors that can dominate the stage like Mr. Rylance can, but here the castrato eclipses even Mr. Rylance.

John Dove’s direction does not improve matters, because the direction and the set design by Jonathan Fensom look like they were totally plagiarized from the 2013 revivals of Richard III and Twelfth Night, both with Mark Rylance and both directed by Tim Carroll and designed by Jenny Tiraman. The three shows were designed and staged as if you were in the original Globe Theatre. The first two were brilliant conceptions and had excellent material to work with. Here it just looks like a hollow replica, trying hard to emulate its predecessors.

Ms. van Kampen is an expert on music and its healing powers. Not only is she Mrs. Mark Rylance, she is also the playwright, as well as the music arranger. It would have served her better had she concentrated more on Farinelli and his incredible story, and focused less on Philippe and his predictable storyline.



Edited by Scott Harrah
Published December 18, 2017
Reviewed at December 16, 2017 press performance.


Farinelli and the King

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Huss Garbiya, Mark Rylance & Melody Grove. Photo: Joan Marcus

Farinelli and the King

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: (Left to right) Iestyn Davies, Mark Rylance, Huss Garbiya & Melody Grove. Photo: Joan Marcus

Farinelli and the King

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Iestyn Davies & Sam Crane. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Sam Crane. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Iestyn Davies. Photo: Joan Marcus

Farinelli and the King

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: Sam Crane & Mark Rylance. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘FARINELLI AND THE KING’: (Left to right) Sam Crane, Melody Grove, Lucas Hall, Huss Garbiya, Edward Peel & Mark Rylance. Photo: Joan Marcus

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