Jane Austen takes Eastman Theatre

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single novel in possession of a large readership must be in want of a musical adaptation. However little known the feelings or views of the author, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of lyricists, composers, and filmmakers, that it is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their agents. Last night, about 3,000 Rochesterians attended a concert performance of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I was among them, and I’m happy to report that the musical achieves the dynamism of the book. The pace and the singing were most excellent.   

The show’s greatest strength is in the lyrical, often operatic writing and well-crafted orchestration. What might be saccharine brushes tenderness, especially in duets and ensemble pieces. (For the truth of every thing here related, I can appeal to the testimony of RPO President Charlie Owens, who, during intermission, expressed his admiration for the deft orchestration.)

 

Donna Lynne Champlin shone as authoress Jane Austen, whose impish, creative onstage actions propels her characters into their roles and decision-making. By putting her onstage, the show’s writers demonstrated how characters come to life and how they change and grow with their creator. Champlin stepped into the role with vibrancy and flair. People laughed.

I saw writer and die-hard Austenite Edith Lank during intermission. 

“Jane Austen wrote these lines 200 years ago," she said.  "Isn’t it wonderful to hear people still laughing at them?”

The show also nailed the dynamic process that unfolds in the hearts of the characters. (This doesn’t happen in the dreadful film adaptation starring Kiera Knightley.) In the new musical, Darcy and Elizabeth recognize their faults and change for the better.

More than a year ago, producer Lori Bajorek and writers Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs appeared on 1370 Connection Arts Friday to talk about the process of getting a homegrown musical to Broadway. They are much closer now. I look forward to seeing the show hit Broadway in November of 2009. Every disposition on the ground is good.

 

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