Review: Wars & Whores: The Henry IV Musical


By Toby Zinman

  This rollicking musical from The Underground Shakespeare Company starts with a famous phrase from Henry IV, Part One -- “civil butchery” -- and uses it as a lyric, adding, “It makes us into men.”  So it looks, briefly, as if this musical version of Shakespeare’s history play has a political agenda.

  That soon vanishes, though, and the show continues as a parody (travesty? burlesque?) that in spite of itself sometimes captures the emotional power of the real thing as some good actors with strong singing voices do the play justice.

  Prince Hal  (Gary Kurnov) and his rival, Hotspur ( Dave Kurnov — that the actors are brothers and look very much alike adds an extra dimension) square off, and, once again, fat Falstaff (Eric Johnson) is banished, while King Henry (Rob Bobst) despairs of his profligate son.

  There are two show-stopping songs, and both belong to the outstanding Dave Kurnov: “Make Love From a Horse” and the hilarious “Talkin’ Richard Two Two-Timin’ Blues.” (Once Hotspur becomes the star of the show, the play’s meaning shifts.)

  Conceived and directed by Benjamin Kamine, with music and lyrics by Jeffrey Barg, the show survives the burden of the Rotunda’s terrible acoustics  (not to mention the hardness of the pews and the heat). 

$10. 7 p.m. 9/11 at the Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St.