Perils of romance come to the stage in new musical ‘Emma’ at The Old Globe in Balboa Park
By Diana Saenger
While British author Jane Austen’s many fans have enjoyed her romance novels since the 1800s, even she would probably find it hard to believe her stories are still relevant and being adapted as musicals for the stage. “Jane Austen’s Emma: A Musical Romantic Comedy” comes to the Old Globe Theatre Jan. 15-March 6.
“Emma” is a timeless and charming love story about a matchmaker whose lack of romantic experience eventually makes her unsuitable to handle the situations that arise. Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon (“Jane Eyre,” “Daddy Long Legs”) created the book, lyrics and music for this adaptation.
Said director and Tony Award-nominee Jeff Calhoun of the production, “Paul has a gift for creating just the right music for his shows and he captures the feel of the era of “Emma” without making it feel old-fashioned.”
Gordon’s musical score was one of the reasons Calhoun felt this play was right for him to direct. That and the fact that Lou Spisto brought Gordon and Calhoun together when he decided to produce Emma at The Globe.
“The beautiful score was a big enticement, but it was also a chance to do something different,” Calhoun said. “I’ve never done a show like this, especially something Jane Austen-based, but it’s been fun to dive into a new world.”
Calhoun said he had no problem deciding who would play Emma Woodhouse in the production. He worked with Patti Murin (“Xanadu,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Hairspray”) on “High School Musical” and admired her work.
“She’s taking on the biggest and most challenging role she’s had so far and to match this material with talent like hers is very exciting.”
Other cast members include Adam Monley (“The Phantom of the Opera”) as Mr. Knightley; Amanda Naughton (Globe’s “Lost in Yonkers,” “The Constant Wife”) as Mrs. Weston; Don Noble (“Mamma Mia!”) as Mr. Weston; Frank Churchill as Will Reynolds, Kelly Hutchinson as Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Elton, Suzanne Grodner as Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax as Allison Spratt Pearce, Adam Daveline as Robert Martin and Brian Herndon as Mr. Elton.
The team includes music supervisor Brad Haak, scenic designer Tobin Ost, costume designer Denitsa Bliznakova, lighting by Michael Gilliam, music director Laura Bergquist, and voice and dialect coach Robert Barry Fleming.
Calhoun said he hopes the play will attract the women and Austenites who love the story, but also their husbands and boyfriends so they, too, will understand and enjoy it.
“Overall it’s still about human relationships. Austen is a master at recreating herself, and at the same time, in destroying everyone’s lives and then people have to put them back together. Jane Austen was ahead of her time, and we’re still enjoying her work.”
If you go
What: “Jane Austen’s Emma: A Musical Romantic Comedy”
Performances: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays to March 6
Where: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Tickets: $39-$94 (619) 23-GLOBE or TheOldGlobe.org
Free post-show forums: Feb. 1 and 9, discuss the play with cast and crew
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