IAM Theatre Company is now presenting a National Premiere of Pride and Prejudice-The Musical at Fort Mason through October 9th, 2016. This brilliant production is based on Jane Austen’s famous novel and features music and lyrics by Emmy Award-Winning Song Writer Rita Abrams, with San Francisco Author-Librettist Josie Brown. The show is superbly directed by Lexie Papedo Gasparini.
According to Michael Krasny (host of KQED-SF-NPR’s Forum and author of Off Mike: A Memoire of Talk Radio And Literary Life), “Emmy Award-Winning Song Writer Rita Abrams has managed to bring her considerable powers to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in a way that brings that classic work alive, and keeps us thoroughly engaged as we listen to the catchy and compelling lyrics embodied her delightful and wonderfully enchanting melodies. The songs are a triumph of inventiveness and skill, and display the abundant talent of this rich and original gifted songwriter.”
Dressed in 19th Century costumes cleverly designed by Kathy Deichen (who also plays Mrs. Bennet in this production) and Suzan Plath, the production begins with 12 talented actors singing “Welcome to the Neighborhood” to wealthy newcomers.
Now, we get to the story itself. This critic has strong admiration for the Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice novel, which is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five unmarried daughters. Mrs. Bennet (a fluttery Kathy Deichen) is complaining to (stuffy) Mr. Bennet (played well by Geoffrey Colton) that it is so hard to marry one daughter well, let alone 5 of them. The song “It’s a Truth” further emphasizes the situation – especially the pressures on wealthy single men to marry – and is sung by wealthy (snobbish) gentleman Fitzwilliam Darcy (David Crane), his wealthy best-friend Charles Bingley (Kodo Elder-Groebe), and Bingley’s sister Caroline (Kim Long). In fact, Darcy is the perfect husband-candidate for second daughter, the sensible Elizabeth (Brittany Law, who gives a very convincing performance); however, she takes an instant dislike to him because she thinks he’s “haughty.” In the end, Darcy drops his arrogant ways, and they are reunited when he proposes to Elizabeth.
Next are the stories of the other daughters. Their marriage-matches are dramatic, yet successful – especially that of the youngest, gossipy Lydia (played by the credible and talented 16-year-old Brigid O’Brien) who runs away with Officer George Wickham (Fernando Siu) and scandalizes the Bennet family at a time when they want their name to be held in highest esteem in order to attract rich mates for their girls.
Wonderful supporting performances are given by Sandi Rubay as Lady Catherine DeBourgh as Darcy’s aristocratic Aunt and Chris Maltby as the clergyman Mr. Collins whose animated singing and dancing bring roars of laughter from the audience. Perfectly cast as the other sisters are the oldest – Jane (Lizzie Moss), middle-sister Mary (Elena Schoen), and fourth sister Kitty (Hannah Leonard), as well as those who were cast as their friend Charlotte Lucas (Juliette Heller), Lady Lucas (Kelle Gasparini), and Denny (Jesse Northen).
Lexie Papedo Gasparini skillfully directs this delightful cast, especially with the many scene changes, and the crowd-scenes worked quite well, with the help of Choreographer Nicole Helfer. Jordan Plath’s set is series of flats and props on the presidium stage. It adds to the flavor of the play. The Music Conductor is Andrew Klein; Rita Abrams herself is the accompanist; Mike Evans is on drums, and Jeff Sherman is on the bass.
This critic was so impressed that she hopes Rita Abrams can find a new venue to continue this fabulous production beyond October 9th.
Pride and Prejudice-The Musical began September 23rd and runs through October 9, 2016, at the Southside Theater Fort Mason Center, Building D2, Marina Boulevard, San Francisco. For tickets visit www.iamtheatre.org.
Flora Lynn Isaacson