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Paul Gordon‘s musical comedy adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had its virtual opening night on StreamingMusicals.com Friday, 10 April 2020, during the Coronavirus Lockdown.
Audiences eagerly tuned in to the show at 6:30 p.m. EST on different platforms including Facebook and YouTube. The excitement was palatable in the live chats with folks from Brazil to France to America in the chat.
So how did it all go down?
At 6:30 p.m. (perhaps even a little earlier) I joined the masses online and we were greeted by the excited three moderators – Beth Leavel, Laura Osnes and another lady I could not place – who seemed to tank with the audience who were begging for the show to begin. I saw comments such as:
“Can we just watch the show? Do you really think we don’t know about Jane Austen? Why else would we be here?”
I guess the awkwardness was primarily because Laura Osnes decided to lecture the audience on Jane Austen’s history and other adaptations.
Thankfully after 16 or so minutes of the moderators trying to entertain us, the show began! And what a beautiful show!
Without giving away too much, I wanted to share my top 3 reasons for why you need to buy or rent the musical on streamingmusicals.com.
#1. The Hilarious Book
Paul Gordon is known for his comedies such as Emma. He does not disappoint here either. He has written a hilarious and at often times dry-witted book with music to echo the show’s sentiment.
#2. The Strong Cast
MARY MATTISON (Elizabeth Bennet) did a great job serving both as a leading lady and narrator. She is a young, feisty, independent, wry and modern version of Lizzie. Where she really excels is in her comedic delivery of Gordon’s lines both spoken and sung. One of the online audience’s favorite moments had to be when she delivered the aside “That felt fantastic!” after telling Wickham off. Mattison truly did a great job helming the show.
Her leading man, JUSTIN MORTELLITI (Mr. Darcy), looks like I’d imagine Sam Claflin would in regency breaches. And has a rich tenor voice that excels at the rock enthused anthems he is given.
Supporting actors are all strong too including the beautiful (and pregnant) SHARON RIETKERK (Jane Bennet) who is sympathetic and perfectly delivers the show’s most beloved song, TRAVIS LELAND (Mr. Bingley) is everything you’d expect from Jane’s suitor.
Meanwhile, at the Bennet home, CHRISTOPHER VETTEL is a strong and likable Mr. Bennet and especially has great moments during the second act with CHANEL TILGHMAN (Kitty Bennet), MELISSA WOLFKLAIN (Mary Bennet) is a favorite with her deadpan scene change announcements and HEATHER ORTH (Mrs. Bennet) is not a victim of her nerves quite so much as in previous incarnations.
MONIQUE HAFEN ADAMS (Caroline Bingley) may have had a small role but hilariously exudes sarcasm and condescension whenever addressing the Bennet sisters, LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE shows her strength by doubling in two very different roles of Lady Catherine and Aunt Gardiner, TAYLOR CROUSORE is superficially charming as Wickham and BRIAN HERNDON (Mr. Collins/Uncle Gardiner) is hilarious in his interactions with Elizabeth as her unwanted suitor.
#3. The Memorable Musical Numbers
Unlike the one musical that made Paul Gordon a household name – his lush and romantic Jane Eyre, this musical has hits and misses more in keeping with his comedic Emma. [Edited: However, on watching the show’s free encore performance on YouTube, I am beginning to appreciate the music more and more especially during the second act when we get more classical ballads.]
A few favorite songs [excuses if I misquote a song title since no song list was provided]:
Darcy’s first song “The World We Live In” recommends him to the audience as sympathetic from the get-go. [In fact, this Darcy is much more sympathetic than previous incarnations making it harder to understand where Elizabeth’s disdain comes from.]
Jane’s touching lament “A Man of My Acquaintance” after Bingley leaves Netherfield is the show’s highlight. The online audience was very grateful for her Act Two reprise.
Elizabeth Bennet’s “That’s Not the Man That I Know” when she first hears about how benevolent Mr. Darcy is perceived at Pemberley. At first, it starts off with a pop gaiety but transitions into a beautiful ballad.
Darcy’s second act “Because of You” is a great piece demonstrating vulnerability on the part of Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth’s anthem “He Sees My Disgrace” after Darcy leaves when she announces Lydia’s fall from grace.
Some of the show’s funniest numbers deserving of mention were: Caroline Bingley’s brief letter song (to Jane), Lizzie’s rejection of Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine’s duet with Elizabeth in Act One (with a reprise featuring Elizabeth in Act Two).
Fans of Jane Austen. Fans of Pride and Prejudice. Fans of Paul Gordon’s Emma. You will love this musical. The cast is strong. The book is hilarious. The music (especially in the 2nd act) is gorgeous and worthy of a soundtrack.
I just wish costuming had been perfected, and that Gordon gave both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy a song for their proposals similar to Bernard J. Taylor‘s Pride and Prejudice that I grew up listening to in the 90s.
Where to Buy or Rent Pride and Prejudice:
Running Time: 120 minutes
The Joyous Living’s Rating: PG, with swearing and thematic elements
$19.99 to Buy / $4.99 to Rent