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Shakespeare 4 Kidz Macbeth Review by Kathy Gelzer

Devine Entertainment
2 Berkeley Street, Suite 504
Toronto, Ontario, M5A 2W3 Canada

Shakespeare 4 Kidz Macbeth is a musical version of the Bard's famous tragedy, specifically aimed at children. It is a video-taped theatrical production with a live band and a real audience. It has all the feel of a play and is not at all like a movie. The running time is almost two hours.

My husband and I are Shakespeare aficionados, having seen many productions of his various plays. I admit we had our doubts about this one. Shakespeare set to music? It sounds preposterous if not irreverent! We were both pleasantly surprised, and our three children (ages 7 to 13) loved it! The songs and dances--some modern, others "period" pieces--fit the text and worked.

Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. It does an excellent job of portraying the negative consequences of sin and evil. In the play, the murder of Duncan ruins Macbeth's relationship with God, his family and friends, and himself as true fear and guilt haunt his daily and nightly existence. The cyclical effect of sin is seen in the play as well, as one murder leads to lies and more murder. This important content is well evident in Shakespeare 4 Kidz Macbeth and provides ample opportunity for valuable family discussion.

While watching the DVD, I had my Folger Shakespeare Library edition of the play in hand and was amazed at the adherence to the original text, even though the production is a "blending of the original Elizabethan Shakespeare and the modern language of today." Famous lines especially remain intact.

The accompanying literature I received boasts that this is "Shakespeare for everyone . . . that everyone can understand." This musical is very engaging for children, but it is not watered down at all. There is quite a bit of stage blood, you will hear "shut up," and Macbeth's head is produced on a stake in the final scene. Shakespeare is Shakespeare, after all, with bawdy humor, rough language, and mature themes. And Macbeth is Macbeth, with witches, murder, and a ghost.

One feature about the DVD I especially liked was the method used for scene changes. It was simple enough, but it helped the viewers comprehend the passage of time or the change of location. A plain, solid-colored background screen shot with a title preceded each new scene, such as, "Outside Macbeth's Castle" or "Near Birnam Wood."

The three witches are a gruesome bunch. They have several modern song and dance numbers, and they do quite a bit of shoulder-gyrating.

Through the filming process, there are ample close-up shots of the actors. Although this gives you a good feel for the character, you lose the "whole stage" perspective at these times.

In the middle of the production there is a very funny 10-minute porter/clown scene. This is not in the original script. My husband and I were wondering if this was some sort of half-time show, providing a break for the actors and an intermission opportunity for the audience.

Families who study Shakespeare--or those who just like Shakespeare--will want to seriously consider including this thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of Macbeth.

Product review by: Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008