Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’
JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA: Musical. Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen. Music, lyrics and book by Paul Gordon. Directed by Robert Kelley. TheatreWorks, Lucie Stern Theatre,1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA. Call (650) 903-6000 or visit www.theatreworks.org. August 22 – September 16, 2007.
JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA better than before at TheatreWorks. Rating:
In 2007 TheatreWorks produced the musical version of Jane Austen’s Emma with book and lyrics by the award winning Paul Gordon. It became the best grossing hit that this Silicon Valley group had ever mounted. It starred Lianne Marie Dobbs as Emma and she went on to play that role at the St. Louis Repertory and Cincinnati Playhouse. Also in the original cast was Ttimothy Gulan as Mr.Knightly, Brian Herndon as Mr. Elton and Nick Nakashima as Mr. Robert Martin. These four actors have been brought back for this slightly revised version of the musical again under the direction of Robert Kelly with a re-staging on a gorgeous Joe Ragey set with brilliant 19th costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt. Opening night was received with a standing ovation.
For some, Jane Austen’s novels are sacrosanct and any deviations from a Masterpiece Theater TV type of leisurely-paced presentations (often soporific) of 19th century English mores are considered heresy. However, the talented Paul Godon uses Austen’s own words in his lyrics and allows Emma to break the fourth wall with recitative and dialog keeping Austen’s intent and charm. The story does become a bit convoluted and the first act seems a bit long. The second act erases any ennui and the show ends on a high note making it a perfect vehicle for Holiday theatre especially since the famous Ball Scene has now been staged as a Christmas Ball.
The story of Emma, a young affluent member of English country gentry, who fancies herself as a perfect matchmaker after successfully arranging a marriage for her governess (Lee Ann Payne) to widower Mr. Weston (Richard Frederick) unfolds as she disastrously meddles with the love lives of her best friend Harriet Smith (Leigh Ann Larkin) and Mr. Robert Martin (Nick Nakashima) while being unaware that Mr. Knightly (Timothy Gulan), her brother-in-law, is completely smitten by her. Attempts to encourage Reverend Mr. Elton (Brian Herndon) to marry Harriet have unexpected consequences just as her misguided assumption that the dashing Frank Churchill (Travis Leland) is destined to be her husband not knowing that he is secretly engaged to beautiful, talented Jane Fairfax (Sharon Rietkerk).
Paul Gordon has fashioned an opera-like musical with solos, duets, trios and ensembles that are pleasing to the ear as they carry the plot forward. His protagonist Emma, who is constantly on stage and as played by Lianne Marie Dobbs is a charming yet frustrating bundle of energy with a vocal range that conveys that dichotomy. The musicians in the original staging were on a gazebo platform rear center stage. For this re-mounting Conductor/pianist William Liberatore is accompanied by violin, cello and English horn from the pit and is superb accompaniment for the lyrics and acting.
Leigh Ann Larkin, as Harriet, uses her talented vocal range to express joy, sadness and love with equal ability as her performance carries much of the humor. She is aided in her role as humorist by avuncular Mr. Woodhouse (Richert Easley), farmer bumpkin Mr. George Martin (Nick Nakashima) and shrill voiced busy-body Mr. Elton (Brian Herndon). Timothy Gulan and Travis Leland both have physical attributes and captivating voices needed to project Gordon’s lyrics completely in sync with their characterizations.
TheatreWorks demonstrate their ability to develop quality new works. The total production team has again generated a winner that is superbly mounted under the expert direction of Robert Kelley who is aided and abetted by a charming fluid set design (Joe Ragey) with moveable fireplaces, sofas, windows, doors and even a cleverly depicted green strawberry field. As in other TheatreWorks productions, atmospheric lighting (Steven B. Mannshardt) complements Ragey’s set and marvelous 19th century costumes by the ingenious Fumiko Bielefeldt. All this creates a “should see” musical with a running time of two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.
CAST: Lianne Marie Dobbs (reprising the role of Emma); Timothy Gulan (reprising the role of Mr. Knightly); Brian Herndon (reprising the role of Mr. Elton); Lee Ann Larkin (Harriet); Richert Easley (Mr. Woodhouse); Richert Easley (Mr. Woodhouse); Lauren Cohn (Miss Bates); Travis Leland (Frank Churchill); Sharon Rietkerk (Jane Fairfax); Ensemble, Michelle Drexler, Alyssa Bryanne Esquilin, Rebecca Euchler, Richard Frederick, Brigitte Losey, Nick Nakashima, Neiry Rojo, and Lee Anne Payne.
ARTISTIC STAFF: Musical Direction by William Liberatore; Scenic Designer, Joe Ragey; Costume Designer,Fumiko Bielefeldt; Lighting Designer,Steven B. Mannshardt; Sound Designer,Jeff Mockus;Stage Manager,Randall K. Lum;Assistant Stage Manager,Emily Anderson Wolf.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.TheatreWorldInternetMagazine.com.