Review: “Pride & Prejudice, The Musical” in Ross

Fans of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice have had a plethora of adaptations of the 19th century novel from which to choose, from the trio of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon theatrical extensions of the story to the recent gay-themed film Fire Island, which transported reasonable facsimiles of Austen’s characters from Hertfordshire, England to the gay mecca off of Long Island, New York.

There are at least three musical adaptations as well including one with Marin County roots. Pride & Prejudice, The Musical with music and lyrics by long-time Marin County resident Rita Abrams makes its North Bay debut in Ross. The Phoebe Moyer-directed Ross Valley Players production runs through Apr. 16.

Josie Brown’s book of the show sticks pretty faithfully to the Austen original. The Bennet house is all aflutter as Mrs. Bennet (Jill Wagoner) sets about finding suitable (read that ‘rich’) husbands for her five daughters. Visiting squire Charles Bingley (Justin Hernandez) has his eyes on eldest Bennet daughter Jane (Amy Dietz) while his companion Fitzwilliam Darcy (Evan Held) finds himself put off by and then strangely attracted to second-eldest daughter Elizabeth (Lily Jackson).

Lily Jackson, Evan Held

An unwelcome proposal by a distant cousin (Charles Evans) and youngest sibling Lydia (Alexandra Fry) running off with a gentleman of questionable character (Heren Patel) further complicate things for the Bennets, but all will, of course, work out in the end.

Director Moyer has a solid ensemble at work here, starting with Geoffrey Colton as the Bennet patriarch and Wagoner as his wife. Both bring gravitas and humor to their characters. Hernandez, Held, Dietz, and Jackson are well cast and possess fine singing voices.

Abrams’s clever and affecting songs – performed to music tracks – are a welcome addition though a couple felt tonally out of place as did some odd choreography. The costume and lighting designs (by Adriana Gutierrez and Frank Sarubbi) brought a great sense of time and place to the show.

With a running time of close to three hours, the show lost steam as the evening progressed. “Staged” set changes added time to an already lengthy show and the audience, at first receptive, soon grew weary of the process. The show also lurched into first gear whenever the character of Mr. Collins appeared.

Despite these issues, there’s a lot of good work being done here. Austen-philes would do well to consider a trip to Ross to quench their Bennet thirst. 

‘Pride & Prejudice, The Musical’ runs Thurs – Sun through Apr. 16 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Thurs, 7:30; Fri & Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 2 pm. $15-$35. 415.383.1100. Masking required.

Photos by Robin Jackson

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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