“Pride and Prejudice: the Musical” Review – TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern

A day strolling through Meryton in the World Premiere Musical “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley December 4, 2019 – January 4, 2020 at the Lucie Stern Theatre. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Henry Etzkowitz and Alice Zhou

The romantic entanglements of class differences are a perennial topic. Shaw moved down the social scale to depict a lower-class flower girl and an academic  in Pygmalion that Lerner and Loewe transmuted into My Fair Lady. Paul Gordon brings Jane Austen’s classic themes of  love , money, status, character, the  interacting variables of early 19th century matrimonial minuet, and beyond to life in vivid lyrics in a musical version of her novel Pride and Prejudice.

Mary (Melissa WolfKlain), Elizabeth (Mary Mattison), Mrs. Bennet (Heather Orth), Kitty (Chanel Tilghman), and Lydia (Tara Kostmayer) read a letter from Netherfield in the World Premiere Musical “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley December 4, 2019 – January 4, 2020 at the Lucie Stern Theatre.
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Joe Ragey, Scenic Designer, provides  an innovative stage setting, combining three modern big screens and traditional stage settings. The two side screens and a background screen not only project live scene pictures, but also speed up the pace of stage scene change, making viewers feel more engaged

Proto- Feminism:

Five daughters to find a future for in an era when marriage was the only respectable occupation for young women. And the deed should preferably be done by 23  years of age if the label of “old maid” would not start to begin to stick. Such is the early 18th century and beyond  predicament that Jane Austen portrayed in her classic novel brought to the musical stage in Silicon Valley TheatreWorks stellar production at Palo Alto’s Lucie Stern Theatre. 

Charlotte (Dani Marcus) shares her thoughts about happiness in marriage with her friend Elizabeth (Mary Mattison) in the World Premiere Musical “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley December 4, 2019 – January 4, 2020 at the Lucie Stern Theatre. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Is happiness in marriage the point of the enterprise, or even the possibility at issue? Or is simple economic sustainability sufficient criteria of success. Different sisters have varying views and requirements. Potential suitors with different ideas and possibilities are played off against each other. The idea that first impressions can be mistaken and then revised, is the red line of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s relationship, as Elizabeth ponders “What kind of Man“ is seeking her troth.

The guests at Netherfield dance the night away in the World Premiere Musical “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley December 4, 2019 – January 4, 2020 at the Lucie Stern Theatre. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

The great class differences between gentry and their superiors provide the dynamics to set the plot in motion, with an upper-class presumption that any woman would be seeking their favor.  By disrupting societal expectations, Elizabeth is a proto feminist who speaks for her intrinsic value and interests. Realignment on her terms provides a radical conclusion, opening up a space for romantic love based on individual choices, prefiguring Harriet Martineau and John Stuart Mill enunciating such liberal  principles theoretically, later in the century.

The Bennet sisters (l to r: Sharon Rietkerk, Mary Mattison, Melissa WolfKlain, Chanel Tilghman, and Tara Kostmayer) are called upon by a pompous potential suitor Mr. Collins (Brian Herndon), Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Kudos to the performers:

The five daughters have different personalities, reflected in their voices. Mary Mattison (Elizabeth Bennet) has an innocent and beautiful voice, clear and clear, especially in the treble. Her performance is naturally vivid and just right, highlighting the image of a beautiful, intelligent and wise girl. Sharon Rietkerk (Jane Bennet) has a sweet, mellow voice, which sets off her gentle and charming demeanor.

Justin Mortelliti’s performance as Mr. Darcy, changing from pride and condescension to love is impressive. Mr. Bennett, the good-humored father, wryly realized by Christopher Vettel, maintains his poise and faith in the good judgement of his offspring, occasionally  raising his head from his newspaper. Mrs. Bennet, performed by Heather Orth, gives  a lively performance as a mother of five daughters. Her evocation is humorous and full of energy. Another iimpressive performance, Lady Catherine by Lucinda Hitchcock Cone, powerful, majestic, aristocratic temperament, demonstrated by actions and words.

Bottom Line:

A delightful proto-feminist interpretation  of Austen’s classic, well worth seeing. Everyone worked hard to make such a perspicacious musical possible. Based on a recent reading of Martha Gellhorn’s biography, the intrepid 20th century female journalist and author, we wish to nominate her life  and relationships for musical, even operatic treatment, in a future Theatreworks update on women’s  experience.

Darcy (Justin Mortelliti) and Elizabeth (Mary Mattison) embrace, Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

Theatreworks is regional theatre at its height, regularly projected on to the international scene in London’s West End and elsewhere. Classic Silicon Valley firms  and their founders, like  Hewlett Packard, Wilson, Soncini and Applied Materials are noted as supporters but a newer generation are noteworthy by their absence. But surely they will remedy that deficit by next year’s fund-raising drive!

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