The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings






Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Henry VIII

Be to yourself as you would to your friend. — Duke of Norfolk

Henry VIII
David Fourbert and Jessica Wortham (Photo: Jerry Dalia)
It has been twenty-nine years since the last production I saw of Henry VIII. It was here at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey (then called New Jersey Shakespeare Festival), under the direction of its founder the late Paul Barry. Current Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte has entrusted this rarity to director Paul Mullins and should be pleased with the result.

Forewarned that William Shakespeare's least appreciated and least likely to be produced play Henry VIII was also the recipient of some judicious pruning didn't alarm me. As I wasn't nearly as familiar with the text as compared to the rest of the canon, no alarm bell went off to suggest that possibly some really good stuff was not to be shared with those who love the history plays, this being the last of them and the one presumably responsible for the destruction of the Globe Theater.

As for that other remark once made by some scholar — "If all the plays attributed to Shakespeare were not, in fact, written by him they were at least written by someone just as good." — I am obliged to add: If the current Shakespeare Theatre production of Henry VIII doesn't end up on your must see list then you are likely going to miss one of the highlights of the New Jersey theatre season.

Henry VIII may not be considered top drawer Shakespeare, but director Paul Mullins has pulled out all the stops to make sure that the play's most powerful and most poignant scenes stand out prominently and decisively within a chronicle that has been accused of being unwieldy.

Mullins has exerted the kind of directorial muscle that has succeeded in making this play, mostly comprised of ceremonial whining and woeing into a genuinely compelling drama. With the cuts, it is a grand and gripping entertainment, filled with impassioned speechifying and fueled by invigorating conspiratorial deceits.

While history tells us that a shot from a canon in the revelry scene is supposed to have caused the burning down of the Globe in 1613, there are bursts of dramatic fire coming regularly and with fervor from the key actors as they marshal their way through the regality, the pageantry and, of course, the plot. The play's finale, the birth of Elizabeth, is touching, but it is also breathtaking thanks to the sumptuous costumes designed by Hugh Hanson. The costumes may be eye-filling treat, but I suspect you will be keeping a close watch on the hedonistic, irrational King Henry, as played with a devilish glint in his roving eye by the excellent David Fouber.

A kind of marriage-go-round as Henry strays from the tender and fearless nobility that marks Queen Katherine into the arms of her lovely gentle and younger maid of honor Anne Bullen (well-acted by a beautiful Katie Wieland). The play is also dominated by more final farewells than even Sarah Bernhardt ever thought of giving. The most powerful and poignantly come from Thomas Michael Hammond, as the gentle Duke of Buckingham, Philip Goodwin as the arrogant, duplicitous Cardinal Wolsey and a sublime Jessica Wortham, as the loyal and steadfast to the last Katherine.

The handsome unit setting designed by Charlie Calvert is enhanced by the atmospheric lighting by Michael Giannitti, the effective sound by Steven L. Beckel and the lively choreography by Gerry McIntyre. It gives credence to the importance of artistic collaboration, a time-honored aspect of theater, something that Shakespeare, with or without the help of John Fletcher (as it is conjectured about this play) knew quite well as a man of the theater.

Henry VIII by William Shakespeare
Directed by Paul Mullins

Cast: Thomas Michael Hammond (Duke of Buckingham, Griffith), Matt Sullivan (Duke of Norfolk), Damian Balder (Duke of Suffolk), Philip Goodwin (Cardinal Wolsey), Joseph Hamel (Stephen Gardiner), Matthew Simpson (Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Campeius), Alexander Korman (Sir Thomas Lovell), David Foubert (King Henry VIII), Michael Early (Lord Chamberlain), Eric Hoffmann (Lord Sands), Jessica Wortham (Queen Katherine), Clark Scott Carmichael (Surveyor to Buckingham, Thomas Cranmer), Katie Wieland (Anne Bullen), Blythe Coons (Prudence), Elisabeth Willis (Patience)
Scenic Designer: Charlie Calvert
Costume Designer: Hugh Hanson
Lighting Designer: Michael Giannitti
Sound Designer: Steven L. Beckel
Choreographer: Gerry McIntyre
Production Stage Manager: Kathy Snyder
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ, located on the campus of Drew University
(973) 408 - 5600
Tickets: start at $32.00, student rush $15.00
Performances: Tuesday, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 10/15/14 Opened 10/18/14 Ends 11/09/14
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/18/14
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Henry VIII
  • I disagree with the review of Henry VIII
  • The review made me eager to see Henry VIII
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

>Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email and state if you'd like your comments published in our letters section. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company


©Copyright 2014, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from