Two Gentlemen of Verona
Original Cast Recording
MusicGalt MacDermot
LyricsJohn Guare
BookJohn Guare
Mel Shapiro
BasisWilliam Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Productions1971 Broadway
1973 West End
2005 Shakespeare in the Park
2011 St. Louis
AwardsTony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Drama Desk Outstanding Book
Drama Desk Outstanding Music
Drama Desk Outstanding Lyrics

Two Gentlemen of Verona is a rock musical, with a book by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, lyrics by Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, based on the Shakespeare comedy of the same name.

The original Broadway production, in 1971, won the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. A London production followed in 1973. The Public Theater revived the piece in 2005.


Proteus and Valentine, lifelong friends, each leave their rural hometown of Verona to experience life in the city of Milan. Valentine strikes out on his own, arriving first; he falls in love with Sylvia, and makes plans to win her hand. However, her father, the Duke of Milan, has betrothed her to the wealthy but undesirable Thurio. Antonio, a Veronese nobleman, then decides to send his son Proteus to the Duke's court in Milan, to experience a more well-rounded life. After his arrival in Milan, Proteus also sets his sights on Sylvia, disregarding his loyalty to both Valentine and Julia (his sweetheart back home). Valentine admits his own plans to elope with Sylvia. Proteus tells the Duke of their plans, gaining favor for himself - and causing Valentine's banishment from the court. Meanwhile, in Verona, Julia asks her maid Lucetta for help, in deciding upon which of the two she should fall in love with. Julia disguises herself as a page) named Sebastian so she can travel to Milan—accompanied by Lucetta, in the male guise of Caesario—to be reunited with Proteus. After arriving at court, she witnesses Proteus and Thurio wooing Silvia.

While traveling to Mantua, the exiled Valentine is kidnapped by outlaws, who have been banished also. They demand that Valentine become their king, but if he refuses, they intend to kill him; Valentine accepts. In Milan, Julia (disguised as Sebastian) delivers to Silvia the ring Proteus gave her, on his behalf (not realizing the page was actually his Veronese girlfriend). Silvia enlists her friend Sir Eglamour to help her escape her betrothal to Thurio, and to find Valentine instead. However, while traveling through the forest, they are overtaken by a band of outlaws. Eglamour runs away, leaving Silvia to fend for herself.

By then, the Duke, Proteus, and Thurio, along with the disguised Julia, organize a search party for Silvia. Proteus wrests Silvia away from the outlaws. Proteus demands that Silvia give him some sign of her favor for freeing her, but she refuses. He tries to rape her, but the hidden Valentine emerges and stops him. Proteus apologizes, and Valentine offers to give him Silvia as a token of their friendship. Then "Sebastian" (Julia) faints, revealing her true identity. Proteus decides he really loves Julia more than Silvia, taking her instead. The Duke realizes that Thurio is a thug, and recognizes Valentine is much nobler and should marry Silvia. Valentine asks for clemency for the outlaws, and suggests that his marriage to Silvia and Proteus' marriage to Julia should take place on the same day.

Original cast and characters

Character Broadway (1971)[1] West End (1973)[2] Off-Broadway (2005)[3]
Silvia Jonelle Allen B. J. Arnau Renée Elise Goldsberry
Proteus Raul Julia Ray C. Davis Oscar Isaac
Julia Diana Davila Jean Gilbert Rosario Dawson
Valentine Clifton Davis Samuel E. Wright Norm Lewis
Lucetta Alix Elias Veronica Clifford Megan Lawrence
Launce John Bottoms Benny Lee David Costabile
Eglamour Alvin Lum Minoo Golvala Paolo Montalban
Duke of Milan Norman Matlock Keefe West Mel Johnson Jr.
Antonio Frederic Warriner Terence Conoley Richard Ruiz
Speed Jose Perez Michael Staniforth John Cariani
Thurio Frank O'Brien Derek Griffiths Don Stephenson


† This number was replaced in the original London production by the song "Howl",[4] due to concerns that the lyric to "Mansion" was too New York-centric, with references to rent control, sublets, and other uniquely urban concerns. For 1971 Broadway audiences, which were more New Yorkers than tourists (the reverse of Broadway audiences today), these references would have been both commonly understood and very funny in this faux-Shakespearean context. Theaters producing the show now have a choice between using "Howl" or "Mansion."[5]

Productions and history

After tryouts at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in the summer of 1971 and twenty previews, the Broadway production, directed by Mel Shapiro and choreographed by Jean Erdman replaced by Dennis Nahat for Broadway and London productions, opened on December 1, 1971 at the St. James Theatre, where it ran for 614 performances.[6][7][8]

The musical won two Tony Awards including Best Musical over such shows as Grease and Follies.[9]

The original Broadway cast album[10] was released on ABC Records in the US at the time; through merger and acquisition over the years, the Universal Music Group now owns the rights. The master tapes were restored for digital release through the Decca Broadway label[11] in 2002.

An Australian production was presented at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, opening on March 31, 1973. The production featured John Waters, Gilbert Price, Gail Boggs and Judd Jones.[12]

A West End production was mounted at the Phoenix Theatre beginning on April 26, 1973 and ran for 237 performances. Mel Shapiro directed with Dennis Nahat staging and choreography.[13]

The New Jersey Shakespeare Festival revived the piece in 1996, directed by Robert Duke and starring Philip Hernandez, Dana M. Reeve, and Keith Byron Kirk.[14]

The musical was revived by the Public Theater in their Shakespeare in the Park series for a limited run, from August 28, 2005, to September 11, 2005, at the Delacorte Theater. Kathleen Marshall directed and choreographed.[15]

Critical reception

In his review for The New York Times, Clive Barnes wrote, "What I really love about Two Gentlemen is its simplicity. Beneath all the multicolored gimmicks and extravagances, there are real people living and loving, and this I find very moving."[16]

Critic Ben Brantley, in The New York Times, compared the 2005 revival to a "festive production" to "a fruity sangría", praising the cast but concluding that the work has not held up well. He wrote that the play's "wayward" characters were "not without parallels among the lotus-eating youth of the post-Woodstock years – a comparison that Messrs. Shapiro, Guare and MacDermot made canny use of. They also scaled down Shakespeare's passages of poetic pain for an approach that emphasized an easygoing, multicultural exuberance over wistful poetry and nonsense over sensibility.... [But] MacDermot's songs... lack the variety of his score for Hair.... And the lyricism Mr. Guare is known for as a playwright is rarely in evidence in his clunky work here as a lyricist".[17]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1972 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical John Guare and Mel Shapiro Won
Best Original Score Galt MacDermot and John Guare Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Clifton Davis Nominated
Raul Julia Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Jonelle Allen Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Mel Shapiro Nominated
Best Choreography Jean Erdman Nominated
Best Costume Design Theoni V. Aldredge Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Book of a Musical John Guare and Mel Shapiro Won
Outstanding Performance Raul Julia Won
Jonelle Allen Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Mel Shapiro Won
Outstanding Choreography Jean Erdman Won
Outstanding Lyrics John Guare Won
Outstanding Music Galt MacDermot Won
Outstanding Costume Design Theoni V. Aldredge Won
Theatre World Award Jonelle Allen Won


  1. ^ Playbill 1971 Bio Cast Listaccessed 07/14/2023
  2. ^ Playbill 1973 Bio Cast Listaccessed 07/14/2023
  3. ^ Playbill 2005 Bio Cast Listaccessed 07/14/2023
  4. ^ Two Gentlemen of Verona - Original London Cast, 1973
  5. ^ Inside Two Gents by Scott Miller
  6. ^ Two Gentlemen of Verona Internet Broadway Database, accessed January 16, 2009
  7. ^ Kenrick, John. "History of The Musical Stage, The 1970s: Part I", The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film, accessed January 16, 2009/
  8. ^ Green, Stanley. The World of Musical Comedy, p. 348 (1984) ISBN 0-306-80207-4
  9. ^ Tony Awards official site Archived 2007-06-15 at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 16, 2009
  10. ^ "Various - Two Gentlemen Of Verona: A Grand New Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)". Discogs. 1971. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  11. ^ "Various - Two Gentlemen Of Verona: A Grand New Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  12. ^ "AusStage - Two Gentleman of Verona". Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  13. ^ Over the Footlights listing of 1973 West End musicals
  14. ^ Klein, Alvin. "A Most Fitting Maiden Voyage into Musicals", The New York Times, June 2, 1996
  15. ^ "'Two Gentlemen of Verona' 2005" Internet Off-Broadway Database, accessed April 3, 2022
  16. ^ Barnes, Clive (December 2, 1971). "Stage: 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  17. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Shakespeare in the Park Review; Enter 'Two Gentlemen' For a Sexy Sip of Sangría", The New York Times, August 29, 2005