BWW Review: MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at the Ottawa Little Theatre is a Cozy Christmas Comedy
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley reunites Jane Austen fans with many of the characters from the author's most celebrated work, Pride and Prejudice. Mary (Ciana Van Dusen) and Jane (Chelsey Prince) join Elizabeth (Katie Torresan) and Mr. Darcy (Kurt Shantz) over the Christmas holiday at the Pemberley estate about two years after the events of the novel. A heavily pregnant Jane arrives at Pemberley with Mr. Bingley (Christian Giansante) and the still-single Mary accompanies them. Lydia (Emily White) arrives separately. About thirty seconds after she arrives, Mary discovers the library and is immediately engrossed in a book of maps.
A new character, Arthur de Bourgh (Dave Coleman), has also been invited to spend the holidays at Pemberley. Arthur is Darcy's distant cousin and has recently inherited The Late Catherine de Bourgh's estate. When Arthur arrives, he and Mary feel an instant connection through their mutual interests, but misunderstandings and other circumstances soon arise to complicate matters.
When Darcy and Bingley leave the Bennet sisters to catch up, the audience is treated to some gossip involving other characters from the novel. The script, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, is written in true Austen fashion and almost feels as though it could be an extension of the author's original work. There are some racier lines that would make a Regency maiden blush but will make a modern audience laugh.
Although the show is billed as a romantic comedy, only an audience familiar with Austen's work will understand the many references to characters and events from the novel.
Some of the acting was stellar, but a number of the actors appeared to have difficulty with the British accent and it seemed as though their lines were forced. This detracted from the overall flow of the story. However, Shantz was the perfect Mr. Darcy, exuding the right combination of sarcasm, indifference, and affection for Lizzy. Coleman, in the part of Arthur de Bourgh, gave a brilliant performance; though it could be argued that his role was the easiest since, as a new character, the audience had no expectations. Giansante gave a fine performance as Mr. Bingley, but he came off as a rather silly man. Even though Darcy was clearly the more intellectual of the two friends in the novel, I don't recall Mr. Bingley being a complete dolt, so this portrayal struck me as a little odd. I don't know if this was the result of the script or the direction. Morgan Ring was wonderful in the much smaller role of Anne de Bourgh.
All in all, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is recommended for an enjoyable night at the theatre this holiday season. It is a fun, witty show that will be especially appreciated by Austen fans wishing reunite with characters that feel like old friends. Performances run through December 14, 2019 at the Ottawa Little Theatre. For more information, go to http://www.ottawalittletheatre.com/miss-bennet-christmas-at-pemberley.