Friday, December 11, 2015

"Emma" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

There are icicles in Phoenix and look out for flying pigs. We thought it would take that long before we could again have the divine opportunity to leave a theater humming the songs from a musical -- and then still be humming them the next day! Thank you Mr. Paul Gordon.

Also, curse you Mr. Paul Gordon! Earworms!  "Mr. Robert Martin" will not leave us alone, to say nothing of the lovely "Emma." This is a price we are willing to pay.

Reworked for the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen's "Emma," Gordon originally premiered the show with Theatreworks in 2007. It became one of the the most successful shows in Theatreworks' history, and is now back for a reprise which, if anything, has only added luster.

Theatreworks favorite Lianne Marie Dobbs returns to play Emma, our heroine with better intentions here than in Austen's original story. We find her a Regency-era Luci Ricardo, bumbling in all her attempts to be a good matchmaker. Her Ethel Mertz is the wonderful Leigh Ann Larkin, making her Theatreworks debut as Harriet Smith. A gifted physical comic, she goes from down in the dumps to infectiously happy with the shrug of a shoulder. Her song "Humiliation" is one of the high parts of the show, and its reprise is show-stopping.

An equal to Miss Dobbs's Emma is Timothy Gulan as Mr. Knightley, Emma's brother in law, rival and, eventually, well, you can guess. Gulan is also reprising his role from the original 2007 production.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Emma" Four Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The show could scarcely be better, despite a somewhat slow beginning. Paul Gordon is a treasure. We loved his "Being Earnest," also here at Theatreworks, in 2013. Hopefully, when he runs out of English stories to adapt he can start in on ours. 

We award the BANGLE for the musicality of this show, as epitomized by the lovely set piece when Emma plays and sings adequately at the piano but is then replaced by Miss Fairfax, played by Sharon Rietkerk. Sharon Rietkerk can REALLY sing. Of course, William Liberatore is actually playing the piano in the pit, so let us send out a Jolly Ho Ho to him, as well as a sizable chunk of the Bangle.

Luci Stern Theatre
500 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Through January 2

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