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“EMMA” When: Through Mar. 6

Where: Old Globe Theatre Tickets: $39-$94 Info: (619) 23-GLOBE Web:

Fall in love with

San Diego Uptown News | Feb. 4-17, 2011 Uptown Games Uptown’s



By Patricia Morris Buckley SDUN Theatre Critic

You don’t have to be a Jane Austen fan to fall in love with the new musical “Emma” at the Old Globe Theatre.

As far as Austen fare goes, “Emma” ranks third after her “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” That’s because “Emma” is a little more predictable and the title character is a little on the shallow side (which is what Austen intended). Still, it’s been given the Hollywood treatment several times, including once with Gwyneth (I-can-do-a-great-English- accent) Paltrow in the title role. And if there’s a perfect Austen to be given the musical treatment, it’s this one. It follows traditional musical form—upper class girl gets boy, girl doesn’t really want boy, girl finds boy she really does love. Love, after all, is just another amusing lark for her.

Emma is a rather spoiled girl who, after helping her governess and friend marry, thinks of herself as a matchmaker. She decides to match the new vicar and selects her lowly born friend Harriet Smith. Trouble is, no one knows Harriet’s parents (very important during the 1800s) and Harriet is already in love with the farmer Robert Martin. But Emma pushes her dream on Harriet, who is later crushed when the vicar proposes to Emma!

Soon her house of romantic

cards begins to tumble and Emma discovers what a mess she’s made of things, especially in her own romantic entanglements. What makes a musical like this work is a strong lead in the female role and the Globe production certainly has that. Patti Murin’s Emma is charming, sweet, a little too sure of herself and quite pretty. Murin also has the pure, sparkling voice not only pleasing to hear, but necessary for a musical where so much of the music is narrative, pushing the story forward without stopping for a pretty tune. While there’s no one else in the

cast that really stand outs above the rest, it’s a very strong group of actors who all have excellent voices. Emma couldn’t keep better company. Director and choreographer

Jeff Calhoun has just the right light touch, never forgetting this is a butterfly of a play, not a grounded caterpillar. He infuses it with hu- mor, heart and a sly, gossip-tinged flavor and the result is divine. There is one other star of the

production and that’s Tobin Ost’s spectacular set, which is a rich green hedge-maze on a slope, surrounded

Mood Indigo Answer key, page 20

Adam Monley as Mr. Knightley and Patti Murin as Emma Woodhouse star in Jane Austen’s “Emma,” directed by Jeff Calhoun with music, lyrics and book by Paul Gordon, at The Old Globe now through Mar. 6. (Photo by Henry DiRocco)

by white columns and an ultra-blue sky. It’s just so pretty to look at that the actors must be a bit jealous. Paul Gordon, who won a 2002

Tony for the music and lyrics of “Jane Eyre,” has provided a witty book, and the music is definitely fun. Because the songs are so narrative, they aren’t that hum- mable. However, certain motifs are delicious to hear again and again (such as Harriet’s pining anthem for Robert Martin).

The only place that has room for

improvement is in the lyrics. There were several trite phrases, such as “the heart wants what it wants” and

“truth is stranger than fiction.” Also, Mr. Knightly sings a song about loving a woman and mentions “skin against skin,” which would be fine except he reprises the song when the said woman is next to him. Remember, this is a time when a lady didn’t even use a man’s first name until they were engaged. But there’s still time for fine- tuning, as this show is sure to have a long life. “Emma,” which premiered in Palo Alto in 2007, is most assuredly moving towards New York. There, many more theatergoers are sure to fall in love with “Emma,” Austen fans or not.u


Answer key, page 20

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