Sunday, January 28, 2018

Broadway Theatre Review: Farinelli and the King with Mark Rylance

Iestyn Davies, Mark Rylance, Huss Garbiya, and Melody Grove. Photo: Joan Marcus
Farinelli and the King
By Claire Van Kampen
Directed by John Dove
Belasco Theatre
Through  March 25

By Lauren Yarger
What do a mad king and a falsetto opera singer have in common? Quite a lot it turns out, in the Shakespeare’s Globe production of Farinelli and the King starring Mark Rylance.

The debut play by Claire Van Kampen is based on the true story of the relationship between King Philippe V of Spain (Rylance) and castrato Farinelli (portrayed by actor Sam Crane of TV's "The Crown" and countertenor Iestyn Davies). Queen Isabella (Melody Grove) thinks Farinelli's voice, which has captured the hearts of all who hear it, might just be the cure for the king's insomnia, brought on in part by the political pressures of his crown, but perhaps more so by his encroaching madness. The two might come from very different backgrounds, but being thrust into the pubic light and not being able to pursue the lives they might otherwise have desired uncovers a bond between the men that might just save the king. It might cost Farinelli everything, though.

The production is performed by candlelight on a set designed by Jonathan Fensom that extends the palace walls and decor out into the house of the Belasco. Actors in costume (but not in character) interact with theatergoers prior to the show. Audience members sit on stage during the production, where actors stroll while playing baroque instruments.The two-hour-30-minute run time seems long. It did, however, provide detailed information I did not have about the sexual abilities of men who have been castrated. My understanding of biblical eunuchs has been enhanced following post-show discussions.

Director John Dove's vision for having singer Davies step in for actor Crane is rather distracting to the action. Arias, arranged by Van Kampen, include "Ho Perso il Caro Ben" (Handel, from Parnasso in Festa), "Alto Giove" (Porpora, from Polifemo), "Fra Tempeste Funeste a Quest'alma" (Handel, from Rodelinda), "Venti, Turbini Prestate" (Handel, from Rinaldo), "Cara Sposa" (Handel, from Rinaldo) and "Lascia Ch'io Pianga" (Handel, from Rinaldo), among others. The Handel arias first were sung by the real-life Farinelli in the 1730s. Truth be told, I'd rather hear a soprano sing them.

Farinelli and the King originally premiered in London. The testosterone-heavy cast features Huss Garbiya as Doctor José Cervi, Lucas Hall as Jethro, Colin Hurley as John Rich and Edward Peel as De La Cuadra. Award-winning countertenors James Hall and Eric Jurenas perform at select performances.

Farinelli and the King wraps up its limited run at the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th st., NYC, March 25. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $32 - $157:

Additional credits:
Lighting design, Paul Russell; Hair and Wig Design, Campbell Young Associates.

-- Language
-- Sexual dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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