Shakespeare will mix it up on the dance floor with the Bee Gees when Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program opens "Much Ado About Nothing" on Thursday, March 8.

The story hasn't changed, only the setting. Benedick and Beatrice will play out their love-hate relationship beneath a mirror ball, and when Claudio leaves Hero at the altar, Donna Summer will be belting out "Bad Girls" in the background.

But is Hero really a bad girl? Rumor has it that she's been unfaithful to Claudio. But even among the strobe lights, there is doubt.

So Benedick and Beatrice will have to straighten things out, which won't be easy, because they hate each other. Or do they?

"'This is one of Shakespeare's funniest plays," says Varland Owens, 17, who plays Beatrice. "'The Taming of the Shrew' is my favorite, but this comes in at a close second."

"Much Ado About Nothing" marks Owens' final production in the Young Actors Program. The St. Joseph's Academy senior is a regular in the program's Shakespeare productions.

"This is her last, and we're going to miss her," says director Jack Lampert, who also is the theater's director of education. "But we're all having fun with this disco theme, which is a great setting for a comedy."

There definitely will be color lights and mirror balls in Messina when this story of mistaken identities, love lost and found and disparaged honor plays out on the Studio Theatre stage.

The story opens as soldiers are returning from a successful battle. One soldier, Claudio, played by Warren Metrailer, 17, is smitten upon seeing Hero, played by Makaylee Secrest.

Claudio tells his friend Benedick, played by Isaac Landry, 18, that he's in love with Hero, but Benedick immediately tries to discourage Claudio.

Benedick means no harm, but he doesn't believe in marriage. Or says he doesn't. He has feelings for Beatrice, yet he can't stand her. 

"I see a lot of myself in Benedick," Landry says. "He's a goofy guy who makes you mad by being stupid. But he's also a nice guy who tries to do the right thing."

As for his nemesis, Beatrice, Owens describes her as headstrong.

"She's ahead of her time," Owens says. "But she loves her cousin, Hero, so much that when Hero falls, she falls, too. Yet Beatrice is not afraid."

And speaking of Hero, Secrest has entered new territory with this character.

"I'm not used to playing sweet and innocent characters, so this is a challenge for me," Secrest says. "She loses her family, and she's influenced by everyone else's actions. She and I are complete opposites."

But she's the perfect match for Claudio, who is guided by his emotions.

"He doesn't think a lot," Metrailer says. "He lets his emotions lead him, and he rushes into things."

But Shakespeare guarantees a happy ending to this story, with both couples dancing on the disco floor.


Much Ado About Nothing

A Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program's production

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. March 8-10; 2 p.m. March 11.

WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge's Studio Theatre, 7155 Florida Blvd.

TICKETS/INFO: $20. (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.