William Shakespeare's comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will unfold next week in La Jolla Playhouse's Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre with professional musicians and students from the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory playing music scored for the show, interspersed with classics by Felix Mendelssohn.
Part of the production's charm is that the musicians will be seated on the stage — a design element mimicking the way that King Theseus, the legendary king of Athens, had court musicians accompany him everywhere.
Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, who is directing the show, suggested that he and composer Mark Bennett bring "Midsummer" to the Playhouse. The pair have worked together in productions such as "Valhalla," "Without Walls" and "The Naked Eye."
"With the world turned upside down, it seemed the right time for this play," Bennett said. "There is so much fantasy in 'Midsummer' and it's assessable to all ages, so the idea to combine professionals and the talent of the Youth Symphony and Conservatory seemed very appropriate.
"One of the fun things is you'll get some pure Mendelssohn, like 'The Wedding March,' and then Mendelssohn that's framed in a different harmonic setting with my compositional ideas, and pieces of both of our works side by side like the song the first fairy sings."
The play tells the story of Hermia (Amelia Campbell), a young girl who has found true love but is betrothed by her father to Demetrius (Sean Mahon). In this rendition, it's fitted into an amusing world that invites magic as a visitor and finds fairies a constant flirt.
And when Hermia deserts her fiance to flee with her true love, Lysander (Tim Hopper), a heartfelt story and magical world collide.
Other cast members include J. Smith-Cameron (Helena), Martin Moran (Puck), Jonathan McMurtry (Egeus), Maggie Carney (Peter Quince), Matthew Patrick Davis (Tom Snout/Wall), Zach Harrison (Starveling/Moonshine), Hugo Medina (Snug/Lion), Daniel Oreskes (Theseus/Oberon), Chris Reed (Flute/Thisbe) and Lucas Caleb Rooney (Nick Bottom).
Bennett said he found inspiration from early peeks at the show's whimsical set design plans and costumes.
"The idea of seeing images of that upside-down chandelier completely informed the way I took Mendelssohn's themes and literally put them upside down to usher in the transformation into that world."
Bennett has ideas on why this play is still very popular.
"It's found a way to combine serious emotions with magic. There's something extremely satisfying about experiencing all of that together. The audience feels for these lovers when they're spurned or can't be paired the way they want to be. There's just pure delight in the work and magic of this piece."
IF YOU GO
'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
- When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundaysand 7 p.m. Sundays, July 20-Aug. 22
- Where: La Jolla Playhouse's Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, UCSD campus
- Tickets: $31-66; (858) 550-1010, www.lajollaplayhouse.org