TheatreWorks Celebrates 200 years of Jane Austen's EMMA with Musical Adaptation this December
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley celebrates the holidays - and the 200th anniversary of the novel's publication - with a limited return engagement of Jane Austen's Emma, the musical adaption which originated at TheatreWorks and became the most popular show in the company's 46 year history. This effervescent musical brings a 19th century masterpiece to joyous life on stage with a witty book and score by Paul Gordon, the Tony Award-nominated composer of Broadway's Jane Eyre, and the most recent Daddy Long Legs. This revival will be directed by Robert Kelley with performances December 2 - January 2 (press opening: December 5) at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. For tickets ($19-$80) and information the public may visit www.TheatreWorks.org or call (650) 463-1960.
Bringing one of literature's most delightful heroines to the stage, Jane Austen's Emma was originally developed at TheatreWorks in 2006, as part of the company's New Works Festival. It was presented on the mainstage to open TheatreWorks' following season, in August 2007, as the company's 50th World Premiere musical. The show was an instant hit with audiences and critics, smashed box office records, was attended by more patrons than any previous production, and still holds the record as the most-attended production in TheatreWorks' 46 year history. It has gone on to be performed at major theatres across the country.
The original production of Jane Austen's Emma was received warmly by critics. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "In mounting its 50th World Premiere, TheatreWorks demonstrates once again why this Peninsula company is such a hospitable home for new work," calling the production "first rate . . . a buoyant, very well-made new musical." The San Jose Mercury News called Emma "everything a musical should be," while The Oakland Tribune concurred that Emma "hits all the right notes." Variety also gave the show high marks, describing the musical as "a charmer."
Jane Austen's Emma tells the story of Emma Woodhouse, a 19th century pampered daughter of landed gentry, endowed with wealth, good looks, and prestige, who prides herself on her matchmaking skills. Having engineered one successful marriage, she turns her attention towards making a match for her new protégé. Despite her obsession with romance, Emma is clueless to her own feelings and her well-intentioned efforts often misfire, leading to a whirlwind of comic complications and, of course, true love.
Paul Gordon was nominated in 2000 for a Tony Award for composing the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Jane Eyre with Tony award-winner John Caird. Gordon's other credits include writing music and lyrics for the contemporary pop opera Greetings From Venice Beach, the musical Daddy Long Legs with John Caird, and The Magnificent Ambersons with Jay Gruska. He has written for, and collaborated with, numerous recording artists, including Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Alanis Morissette, Smokey Robinson, and Dionne Warwick, has several hit songs to his credit, and is the recipient of nine ASCAP awards for song-writing. Additionally, Gordon co-wrote the theme to the hit television series "Ally McBeal," with Vonda Shepard.
TheatreWorks has assembled a stellar cast for Emma that includes several familiar favorites returning to reprise their original roles. TheatreWorks veteran Lianne Marie Dobbs (reprising the role of Emma) was featured in the company's World Premiere productions of A Little Princess and My Ántonia, as well as productions of A Little Night Music, Ragtime, and Jane Eyre. Her other credits include the 1st national tour of White Christmas, the Repertory of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse productions of Emma, and the off-Broadway production of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, among many others. In the Bay Area she has performed with American Conservatory Theatre, Broadway By the Bay, 42nd Street Moon, and Center Rep.
Timothy Gulan (reprising the role of Mr. Knightly) returns to TheatreWorks having most recently performed on Broadway in Sting's The Last Ship. His other credits include The Lion King, The Frogs, Blood Brothers, Picasso at the Lapin Agile on Broadway, and Broadway tours of Le Misérables 25th Anniversary, South Pacific, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Some Like It Hot. His many television and film appearances include "Ice Age," "Boardwalk Empire," and "The Producers."
Brian Herndon (reprising the role of Mr. Elton) has appeared many times at TheatreWorks including most recently in The Man in the Ceiling at the 2015 New Works Festival, as well as in Being Earnest, The Elephant Man, The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue, and the World Premiere of A Little Princess.
Lee Ann Larkin (Harriet) joins the cast as a newcomer to TheatreWorks. She has appeared on Broadway in A Little Night Music and Gypsy, in the National Tour of Disney's On the Record, as well as in The Alliance Theatre and The Ahmanson Theatre's productions of Harmony, the Kennedy Center's Ragtime, New York City Center's Gypsy, and Capital City Theatre's Violet, among others.
Richert Easley (Mr. Woodhouse) also makes his debut at TheatreWorks however he is very familiar with the role, having played Mr. Woodhouse at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Arizona Theatre Company, and The Old Globe in San Diego. His other credits include the Radio City Music Hall production and national tour of Porgy and Bess and Oh! Calcutta!, as well as on screen in the Canadian cult classic "Outrageous" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent."
Lauren Cohn (Miss Bates) joins TheatreWorks after completing a nearly three-year run as Rosie in Mamma Mia! on Broadway earlier this year. She is a 2011 Helen Hayes Award Nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical, for her work in the world premiere of Glimpses of the Moon at MetroStage. Her film and television credits include appearances in "Desperate Housewives," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "Catch Me If You Can," "Legally Blonde 2," and many more.
Travis Leland (Frank Churchill) most recently starred in Norman Rockwell's America at the 2014 New Works Festival. He has appeared with Cabrillo Music Theatre, Musical Theatre West, the Geffen Playhouse, and Odyssey Theater, among others.
Sharon Rietkerk (Jane Fairfax) has been seen in many Bay Area theatre productions including Little Me (42nd Street Moon), The Sound of Music (Berkeley Playhouse), A Minister's Wife (San Jose Rep), Rumors (Center REPertory), and many others. TheatreWorks' audiences will remember Rietkerk from Triangle, Marry Me a Little, Little Women, and The Secret Garden.
Rounding out the cast are Michelle Drexler, Alyssa Bryanne Esquilin, Rebecca Euchler, Richard Frederick, Brigitte Losey, Nick Nakashima, Neiry Rojo, and Lee Anne Payne.
Robert Kelley (Director) is TheatreWorks' Founder and Artistic Director and has served as artistic head of the company since its inception in 1970. He has directed more than 170 TheatreWorks productions, including many world and regional premieres. In 2003 he was honored with the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Paine Knickerbocker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He received BATCC Awards for Outstanding Direction for his productions of Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures, Rags, Sweeney Todd, Another Midsummer Night, Sunday in the Park with George, Jane Eyre, and Caroline, or Change. He recently directed The Country House, Fallen Angels, Sweeney Todd, Marry Me a Little, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Once on This Island.
The novel Emma was first published in December 1815. Before she began the novel, Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the opening sentence she describes the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich" and goes on to introduce a young lady who is self-satisfied, spoiled, headstrong, and more - yet still engages the reader's sympathy. Austen herself lived on the lower edges of the landed gentry and was largely self-educated, but became one of the most widely-read writers in English literature. She wrote a total of six novels, lauded for realism, biting irony, and social commentary. Four were published during her life: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Austen's works brought her little personal renown, however, because they were published anonymously. Two additional novels were published posthumously in 1918 (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.) Although romance is featured in all her novels, she never married.
With some 100,000 patrons per year, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has captured a national reputation for artistic innovation and integrity, often presenting Bay Area theatregoers with their first look at acclaimed musicals, comedies, and dramas, directed by award-winning local and guest directors, and performed by professional actors cast locally and from across the country. A home for artists developing new works, it was at TheatreWorks that Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award-winning musical that played on Broadway for three years before embarking on a 19 month national tour, was first workshopped and received its world premiere. It is currently enjoying an extended run on London's West End, where it recently captured two Olivier Awards.
Performances are at: Lucie Stern Theatre (1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301)
Tickets: $19 (30 and under) - $80; savings available for educators, seniors, and patrons 30 and under. A $6 per ticket convenience fee will be assessed for online and telephone orders.
Pricing subject to change.