Last night I saw Jane Austen’s Emma played in the theater! I posted about it yesterday, and had pretty even- level expectations. The evening was lovely, and I made three new friends with the Meetup members I attended with.
I did mention the night in yesterday’s post here. However, some of you will disappointed, (others will be relieved, I’m sure), to know that the “musical” I referenced was in fact not a musical after all. I was laboring under a misapprehension (bonus points for knowing that reference), and in fact ended up seeing something completely different: a regular play. To clarify, there exists a musical version of Emma somewhere- it’s just not what I went to.
During a somewhat comic twist of events, I found out about my error an hour before the show, and I must say that I was a tad bit heartbroken at first. A group of us were discussing the night over dinner, and two of us thought we were going to see a musical. After the option of musical was introduced into the conversation, a horrified organizer was very relieved to discover via smartphone that her original desire to see (not a musical) adaptation of Emma was indeed correct. Another playgoer and I were a bit bummed out, although we were still ready to see Austen on stage.
Personally, I had been mentally preparing myself for weeks for cheesy ridiculousness, potentially ridiculous music, and possible tongue-in-cheek modern commentary geared towards die-hard Austen fans.
Don’t worry. What I saw was actually just as satisfying, if not more so.
In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not sure that a Jane Austen-based musical would be the most brilliant production to witness on stage (or would it)!? I’ll hold out hope that someday I will see the musical version and rate it here for you, but for now, I have the play to summarize.
What we actually saw was the adaptation by Michael Bloom, directed by Victor Pappas, and is simply titled Emma (not Emma, the Musical), at Jones Playhouse in Seattle. It was a production from the School of Drama at the University of Washington, and tickets were very reasonable.
I liked the program, which featured a pink, black and white design, and archery symbolism (an Emma reference made famous in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie adaptation).
The theater itself was a very egalitarian half (or more than half) stadium circle structure, and even though we were not the first in the door for will call seating, we had an amazing view of the performance and the actors on the round stage.
The casting was incredible, and despite some players drifting in and out of the faux English accent, each character was chosen thoughtfully, and brought a unique flavor to the personalities of the likes of Emma, Mr. Knightly, Miss Smith, and Mr. Woodhouse. They actors were extremely expressive in their facial expressions, and although the play stuck close to the original plot, the acting brought a vibrant energy to the storyline. Mrs. Elton was sufficiently obnoxious, and Miss Smith ran around the stage with frivolous teenage excitement.
Excuse the poor quality of some of the pics below. I was taking many from an upward angle most of the time- they were quite high above me, and using my cell phone. I swear I will get a digital camera soon!
I took some pictures of my favorite players to share with you:
They had pretty great costumes for all of the actors, but Mr. Knightly, Mrs. Weston, and Frank Churchill pretty much had the best. They all look completely different in these headshots- the hair and makeup team did a wonderful job too!
This adaptation interestingly showed Emma’s internal thought process (very comical) by dimming the lights during her asides to the audience and herself. Also, the usual ending was challenged a bit by a longer courtship period between Emma and Mr. Knightly, more examples of their life post-declaration of love, as well as a more involved scene between the couple and Mr. Woodhouse when they announce their marriage. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the additions were pulled off.
Even though it was not a musical, I was not sad about a lack of music. Not only were Emma and Jane Fairfax’s characters excellent singers and pianists during the “exhibition” scene in the drawing room, but there was also a “soundtrack” feature enriching the background of the entire play.
All around, I would highly recommend this play, and I heard whispers of the production returning in the summer. So, if you happen to be in Seattle, you may want to check it out!