Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review of "Pride and Prejudice: the Musical"

Adam and I are lucky to live in a city that has a good local theatre. A few years ago, we got to go see a production of a musical of "Daddy Long Legs" (my favorite epistolatory novel).

This year, we got to go see the primiere of a musical of "Pride and Prejudice".

The novel "Pride and Prejudice" is justly famous. It's beloved, and it's no wonder. The picture it presents not just of romance, but of family life and of friendship, is unparalleled.

I was so excited to go see it in musical form.

And mostly? I was not disappointed.

This was a really fun play. It started with a clever framing device: Jane Austen talking with her sister as she works on developing the novel we now know as "Pride and Prejudice". It's a novel she first wrote as a very young woman, and after having success with "Sense and Sensibility" she reworked it into a proper book.

Austen watching and interacting with her characters is a conceit that plays out well on stage.

So in the musical, Austen and her sister are the narrators of the story, and Elizabeth and Darcy and the rest come in as the characters they're imagining.  Occasionally, it goes meta, and Elizabeth and Austen argue together, and it's pretty funny.

Some of it works, and some of it doesn't. I kind of hated how the musical had Austen framing the novel as a matter of believing in love or not. That's not what "Pride and Prejudice" is about. 

Everyone in the novel believes in love. The problem is that some of them are wrong about what love is.

The most interesting part of the novel is the balance between reason and passion. Wickham and Lydia?  All passion.  Collins and Charlotte?  All reason.

Darcy and Elizabeth? They manage to be reason and passion, both together, all at once, nothing separate.

It's wonderful. THAT is love.

So, I kind of hated how the play had Austen characterize the book's theme: as a choice to believe in love. That's not the point of the novel. Not at all.

BUT, that said, there was still so much to love about the musical.

For instance? There was Mr. Collins' solo.

Oh my goodness. It brought down the house. It was HILARIOUS.

The refrain was:
 "Let us all now thank the Lord/
For Lady Catherine DeBourgh."

And I started cracking up the instant he's sung the first musical phrase, because I recognized the progression: it was exactly the notes we use to sing the Psalms in our church.

And it only got better from there. I was gasping for breath before the end, I was laughing so hard.

And so was the rest of the audience.

Mr. Collins leading the reluctant Bennett family along in his psalm of praise to his patroness? The clear indication that he'd forsaken the service of his Lord for the service of his patroness? 

I don't know if I've ever seen a better parody. It was AMAZING.

And they did other really clever things, especially in the stage craft. 

For instance: they had Austen's sister arguing Charlotte's part. She insists that it make sense for a woman to marry for position and security, and why wouldn't you do that yourself, Jane? and why can't you understand why this is attractive? and even as she's arguing it, Austen's sister walks into the scene in progress and becomes Charlotte, accepting Collins' proposal of marriage.

It's very well-done. I loved it.

Sometimes it seems like musicals I love never make it.  

But I really hope this one does.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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