EDMONTON -- Theatre companies often like to challenge their audiences with productions that seem, on the surface, to be unconventional material. So it is with the Citadel Theatre’s current presentation of William Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It.’

This adaptation is set in 1960’s Vancouver, with its story supported by a soundtrack of 25 Beatles songs.

Director Daryl Cloran said the union of two seemingly disparate art forms made more sense the deeper he got into the project.

’As You like It’ is so much about love in its many ways, and so much of the Beatles’ music is about love”, he told CTV News Edmonton.

“I pulled out some monologues and just replaced them with songs and it’s like they were written for the play!”

Actor Lindsey Angell, cast as the protagonist Rosalind, knows from audience reaction, this union of song and story is very well received.

“I think it’s a grand surprise have in your back pocket”, she exclaimed.

“You hear an audible gasp sometimes when people go “Oh that is the song that character would sing if they weren’t going to go into that speech.” They would sing ‘Let It Be,’ or they would sing ‘Hide Your Love Away.’ It really lends itself to the text, this genre and specifically the Beatles’ anthology.”

Inspiration for a modern time frame of the classic work was found two years ago in Vancouver when Cloran adapted the play for the Bard On The Beach Festival.

The former counterculture neighbourhood of Kitsilano and the Okanagan figure prominently in this new look at The Bard’s romantic comedy.

Further adding to the interesting cultural mix, professional wrestling is a key component to the story.

A wrestling match in the original play left the director grappling with how to incorporate it into this version, until he explored what pugilistic entertainment was on offer fifty years ago in the coastal city.

“Vancouver had a real burgeoning wrestling scene there, like kind of the precursor to the WWF wrestling we know now”, Cloran said.

“So we put that in the play and it worked so well that we decided to add a whole wrestling pre-show. So if you come to the show fifteen minutes early, before the show officially starts, we do fifteen minutes of full-out wrestling competition!”

If this production seems to be a Mulligan’s stew of entertainment, actor Lindsay Angell claims it all comes together to reinforce endearing and timeless principles.

“All we need is love”, she asserted enthusiastically. “I need that kind of a message now and I think a lot of theatre goers are hungry for a play that surprises them but still delivers beauty and love and doesn’t take them somewhere dark, necessarily.”

‘As You Like It’ runs at the Citadel Theatre until March 15. Information on show times and tickets can be found on their website.