William Shakespeare’s epic tales of comedy, romance and tragedy will be reinvigorated with a jazzy twist at “Shakespeare Swings!”— a cabaret-style production premiering next week at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2015 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The English playwright’s masterpieces have been translated into many languages, but the arrangements of UCF’s Flying Horse Big Band with vocals coordinated by the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre reinforces that music is the universal language.

“Shakespeare Swings!” will give the bard’s time-tested lyrics and sonnets a new sound at 8 p.m. April 11 as part of UCF’s free April 10-15 arts festival. The weeklong event of artistic presentations by university students, faculty members and partners will showcase studio art, music, theatre, dance, gaming, animation, photography and film in one venue for the first time.

The Flying Horse Big Band, formerly the UCF Jazz Ensemble I, is composed of students from the university’s jazz studies program under director Jeff Rupert. Rupert, whose range of talents includes saxophonist, composer, record producer and recording artist, said it was a great opportunity to bring together the mash-up with the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre.  

“Our collaborative production of jazz-music-meets-Shakespeare came together naturally because many composers and musicals already embody Shakespeare and/or are inspired by Shakespeare’s works,” Rupert said.  “In our performance of ‘Such Sweet Thunder’ for UCF Celebrates the Arts, as it relates to the famed balcony scene of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the tenor saxophone will represent Romeo and the alto saxophone will represent Juliet.”

When UCF announced the arts festival, community partners were asked to help develop some collaborative ideas.

“I had been dreaming of doing some sort of Shakespeare cabaret production to showcase the love songs of Shakespeare,” said Jim Helsinger, artistic director at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, which has been a UCF partner for 26 years. Helsinger credits Jeff Moore, chair of the UCF Music Department, with suggesting a Shakespeare program with the UCF jazz studies program. 

The world-premiere revue will hit a high note with a variety of original compositions, swing music and Broadway standards.

“With much of Shakespeare we have the lyrics but not the music so our performance will have new interpretations, such as for ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘The Wind and The Rain’ from ‘Twelfth Night,’” said Helsinger.

Rupert said developing the program was a fun project for the jazz students.

“The band even helped to come up with the title of ‘Shakespeare Swings!,’”  he said.

The singers for the show will be local performers Michael Andrew and Andrea Canny, with guest artist Sisaundra Lewis, a fan favorite on the sixth season of NBC’s “The Voice.”

“Shakespeare Swings!” is one of several musical collaborations planned for UCF and select partners during UCF Celebrates the Arts. Some other partnerships include UCF Choirs providing vocals for the Orlando Repertory Theatre’s production of “Civil War Voices,” which uses diaries and letters to tell the true stories of people who lived through the war, and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsal for “Tosca” with an instructional class for voice students.

All events to UCF Celebrates the Arts 2015 are free, but tickets are required for many of the programs, including the performance of “Shakespeare Swings!”  The April 10-15 festival will feature studio art, music, theatre, dance, gaming, animation, photography and film at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando.  Visit http://arts.cah.ucf.edu/ for more information, tickets and updated scheduling.