The Kings Speech at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The Kings Speech at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) assists her husband Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) in an unconventional speech therapy exercise from Lionel Logue (James Frain) in Chicago Shakespeare’s North American Premiere production of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, directed by Michael Wilson, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, September 12–October 20, 2019. Photo by Liz Lauren.

“You can’t call me Bertie, only my family calls me Bertie”

The North American Premiere of David Seidler’s “The King’s Speech” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings the remarkable story that inspired the 2010 Academy Award-winning film, “The King’s Speech” to the stage.

The battle to overcome a chronic stammer by Albert, Duke of York–the man who becomes King George VI (Harry Hadden-Paton) plays out, in royal fashion, in this production.

Known by his family as “Bertie,” Albert being the younger brother to David, Duke of Wales, was never expected to rule. So although his stammer was always problematic, it was never a matter of  royal desperation.

That all changed when David abdicated the throne to wed American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Now, about to be king, Albert had to speak in front of a nation that was preparing for war. And he couldn’t do it. He could not complete a sentence with out terrible bouts of stammering.

Lionel Logue (James Frain) in Chicago Shakespeare’s North American Premiere production of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, directed by Michael Wilson, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, September 12–October 20, 2019. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Lionel Logue (James Frain) in Chicago Shakespeare’s North American Premiere production of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, directed by Michael Wilson, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, September 12–October 20, 2019. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Enter an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue, who Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) had heard could do wonders. She convinced Logue to secretly meet with her husband to help the monarch find his voice.

Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton, at right) prepares to address the nation, as his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) stands by reassuringly in Chicago Shakespeare’s North American Premiere production of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, directed by Michael Wilson, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, September 12–October 20, 2019. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton, at right) prepares to address the nation, as his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) stands by reassuringly in Chicago Shakespeare’s North American Premiere production of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, directed by Michael Wilson, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, September 12–October 20, 2019. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Portraying the unlikely duo of the Duke and expatriate/speech specialist are Harry Hadden-Paton (Broadway’s My Fair Lady, Downton Abbey, The Crown) as the Duke and James Frain (The Tudors, True Blood, The White Queen) as the unconventional speech specialist. 

The stellar the cast also features a heartfelt performance by Rebecca Night as Elizabeth (best known for her title role in Andrew Davies’ BBC production of Fanny Hill)Elizabeth Ledo as Myrtle Logue, distinguished classical actor Alan Mandell as Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang,three-time Jeff Award-winner Kevin Gudahl as Winston Churchill, Jeff Parker as King Edward VIII, John Judd as King George V, and David Lively as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Completing the ensemble are Jeff Diebold, Tim Monsion, and Tiffany Scott.

The new production is directed by Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner Michael Wilson.

The creative team, includes Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet (three-time Jeff Award winner; National tours: Cats, Kinky Boots, On Your Feet); Costume Designer David C. Woolard (Broadway’s First Date, Lysistrata Jones, The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Tony Award nomination); two-time Tony Award-winning Lighting Designer Howell Binkley (Hamilton, Jersey Boys); Projections Designer Hana Kim (Princess Grace Award in Theater Design; Helen Hayes Award); Sound Designer John Gromada (Broadway’s The Trip to Bountiful – Tony Award nomination, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Clybourne Park); and Chicago Shakespeare’s resident Wig and Make-up Designer Richard JarvieHannah Wolff is the production’s Associate Director, Christopher Baker is Dramaturg, and Kate DeVore serves as Dialect Coach.

Following its Chicago run, the production is slated for engagements at other theaters across the country.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars
What: “The King’s Speech”
When: through October 20
Where: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier (600 E. Grand)
Tickets: $50-$90 at 312-595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com
Run time: 2 hours and 5 minutes

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