Thursday, December 19, 2019

Pride and Prejudice ☼ ☼ ☼

Wonderful holiday fare, Theatreworks' new production of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is breaking box-office records in Palo Alto. It is easy to see why -- many of us long for a simple love story with upbeat music. Life is uncomplicated. Love consists of a flirtation followed by a kiss, which leads to eternal bliss. Or servitude, depending on who's asking.

This is Mary Mattinson's show. Playing Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter with backbone and spunk, the story spins through her non-courtship of the handsome and perhaps-not-evil Mr. Darcy (Justin Mortelliti). Charisma is not his strong suit but he's got lots of loot.

Love has spurned Elizabeth's elder sister, the properly calm and reserved Jane (Sharon Rietkerk), but this will not last if Elizabeth has anything to do with it. Heather Orth is her usual charming and in-control self as mother of five unmarried daughters, while her husband, Mr. Bennet (Christopher Vettel) appears to do nothing at all but smoke his pipe and read the newspaper.

As it had to be in a society where women were not allowed to inherit property, money talks. Mr. Darcy seems to have the most. The Bennets live royally, but, by comparison to the Darcy and de Bourgh crowd, are paupers. Prospects can be slim for beautiful, intelligent daughters from families without the promise of huge dowries.

A special mention must be given to Brian Herndon who gives Parson Collins that slimy breath of rotting cheese that he deserves. Equally entertaining are Lucinda Hitchcock Cone as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Monique Hafen Adams who can play anything -- this time she is the haughty aristocrat Caroline Bingley.

They're all aristocrats but these, thanks to Jane Austen and Paul Gordon, speak lovely dialogue and sing nice songs. They do seem to get their knickers in a twist about relatively small issues, but they do it in a delightful way.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "Pride and Prejudice" Three Stars. The women are cast beautifully but we were less intrigued by the men. They certainly fall in love easily, though. Audiences love it when aristocrats smooch.

"Pride and Prejudice"
The Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
EXTENDED through Jan. 4, 2020

Friday, December 6, 2019

"Groundhog Day, The Musical" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

For those of us who have seen "Groundhog Day," the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, at least twenty times, "Groundhog Day, The Musical" has special traction. Danny Rubin co-wrote the original screenplay and his book for the musical brings us many of the heartwarming moments from the film, especially as concerns Ryan Drummond, who plays weatherman Phil Connors, the Bill Murray character. We wondered if Drummond, whom we have seen in many different roles over the years, could pull off Murray's loveable grump. We are happy to say he does so, and then some. Plus, he is a gifted singer.

Rinabeth Apostol is very entertaining as his co-producer and eventual love interest. She is a star in the making. We also loved the supporting crowd of Punxsutawnians, especially the always entertaining Michael Gene Sullivan.

The songs by Tim Minchin are clever and advance the story. They work within the style of musical theater writing that seems to be today's standard, where the story counts and the songs are there for little but filagree. A fine band anchored by Dave Dobrusky pumps out rhythmical tunes which keep us pulling for boy to get girl.

Special applause for the staging of this show -- a series of revolving baffles and moving turntable that continually bring us back to the morning of Feb. 2. The show is a delight to watch.

Of course there is also a deeper subtext here -- what would you do if you knew that whatever you did on one day would be erased as soon as you awakened the next morning?  Me, I'd move directly to the Hot Fudge Sunday Bar.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants THREE STARS with a BANGLE OF PRAISE to "Groundhog Day, the Musical." We love the story, casting and directing by Susi Damilano. The Bangle is for that hysterical hospital scene. A few breakout songs could help make this show a standard.

"Groundhog Day, the Musical" 
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street (2d floor of Kensington Floor Hotel)
San Francisco
Through January 18