Review of Pride and Prejudice – The Musical
Music and Lyrics by Rita Abrams
Book by Josie Brown
Directed by Lexie Papedo Gasparini
Musical Direction by Rita Abrams
Choreography by Nicole Helfer
For tickets / schedule :
The Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA
IAM Theatre Company
RUN: September 23 – October 9, 2016
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars
(October 1, 2016)
Pride and Prejudice captures the imagination and offers a hopeful outlook on the eternal quest to find a perfect partner. It has been adapted in many incarnations, from the modern vlog The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that took the internet by storm in 2012 to the iconic Colin Firth miniseries, faithfully adapting book to screen. This lighthearted romp into Regency England features jaunty tunes, lyric packed songs reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan, and an enthusiastic cast. Streamlined set backdrops roll in and out, transforming the stage between manor houses and country lanes, augmented by lovely pieces of vintage furniture.
The first act falters, hampered by weak opportunities for significant encounters between characters, but catapults forward to a heartwarming conclusion, thanks to heightened drama and intimate interchanges in the second act. Darcy’s (David Crane) The One I Could Have Been With You brings out his deep tenderness for Elizabeth (Brittany Law) which was not evident in their ferocious argument during his proposal, which is closer to the violent response from Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, rather than the coldly polite gentry of Jane Austen’s era. There are anachronisms galore, which can be overlooked due to the high caliber of singing throughout the cast.
Lizzy Moss (Jane Bennet) embodies a sweet, shy woman who feels acutely without demonstrating it in overblown displays of affection—the ideal Jane. Her Charles Bingley (Kodo Elder-Groebe) is equally good natured with a beaming smile and welcoming demeanor, leading to a charming proposal that received a sigh of contentment from the audience. Kathy Deichen’s Mrs. Bennet, while inconsistent with her English accent, is a powerful presence and formidable singer. Geoffrey Colton as Mr. Bennet stole the evening with his comic asides, stalwart expression, and poised performance. Unlike the novel, obsequious Mr. Collins (Chris Maltby) appears throughout, lending amusing reactions to the main action.
The strength of this production is Lexie Papedo Gasparini’s stage direction. Despite a large cast, the background is always active with mini vignettes between characters, and enough movement to avoid the trap of standing about reciting dialog back and forth. Pride and Prejudice is fluid, with spirited, if occasionally over dramatized, acting. When using the flow of Jane Austen’s wit, Josie Brown’s book is excellent; the music is not as consistent, with delightful standouts such as Five Daughters and In My Imagination interspersed with oddly coarse language that pleases a modern audience, but jolts the story out of its historical setting.
Pride and Prejudice – The Musical is an exceptional evening of song and romance, capturing the playfulness of Jane Austen’s story while reimagining it as a lively musical. While there are moments that will cause a purist to cringe, overall it is an enjoyable production. To borrow a Regency phrase, it is excessively diverting.