It turns out that the reason for the packed house was a group: a reunion of participants from James Madison University's Semester in London Program, and they were clearly having a good time. In fact, there was so much energy in the theater that it was difficult to hear the pre-show music, which was too bad, but I suppose the actors appreciated the buzz in the audience even if no one could hear the songs.
But what a wonderful show it was. Again. The entire cast is terrific, but the main reason I wanted to see this production a second time is the fantastic job that James Keegan and Luke Eddy do as Falstaff and Prince Hal. They didn't write the amazing dialogue, of course, but they speak the beautiful (well, not always beautiful--these are some of Shakespeare's best and most disgusting insults) lines with such warmth and affection toward each other that it's impossible not to love them both. In fact, at the height of their banter, when they are acting out the likely scene in which King Henry will lecture Prince Hal about his companions, I choked up a little. Falstaff says:
No, my good lord; banish Peto,
banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant,
being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
thy Harry's company, banish not him thy Harry's
company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.
To which Hal replies:
I do, I will.
And in that moment, Hal isn't speaking as the present King--he realizes that he is going to have to grow up and take responsibility for governance, even if it means banishing his friend. It doesn't look like much on paper, but it's an amazing moment on stage, thanks to Keegan and Eddy. Worth the price of admission.