Jane Austen Musicals // A Guest Post by Emma Jane!


I'm very honoured indeed to grace my blog with a well-written post by my very best of friends, Emma. She's has a name to be jealous of. Emma. And Jane. I mean. It doesn't get more Jane Austen-like than THAT. :-) You can find Emma's blog here. (It's my favourite. Just saying.)

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 Hello, friends! *waves*  It’s me, your local musical theatre expert, a.k.a Naomi’s nutty best friend, a.k.a. Emma Jane. Big thank-you to Naomi for letting me guest post! You’re a darling. :-)

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    Jane Austen’s legacy has lived on for over two hundred years, invading modern pop culture even now. Her books are still as popular as ever (among intelligent people, that is) and they still crank out movie adaptations of her works about every five years (which continue to spark controversy, sarcasm and snarky debate among her rabid fans, of which there are many). You can buy Jane Austen’s face on everything from tote bags and refrigerator magnets to Christmas tree ornaments, coffee mugs, pretty much anything you can think of. Point made -- Jane Austen is out there, everywhere. That’s why it’s hardly surprising that Jane Austen’s timeless stories have made their way into the glittering world of Musical Theatre.

    (You know what I always say -- if you look hard enough, you can find a musical version of anything. This theory was made law upon the discovery that there’s a musical of Secondhand Lions. JUST NO. Sometimes people are a little too creative for their own good.)
     
    When I decided to write about JA musicals for a guest post, the only one I really knew anything about was the Pride and Prejudice written by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs, and that’s because Laura Osnes starred as Lizzy in the opening production. ;-) (I’m a very devoted Laura fan, by the way.) When I started looking into the show more, I found that there are actually about four or five P&P musicals! Whew. And believe it or not, there have been musicals written for every one of Jane Austen’s six major novels. None of them have made a very big splash on Broadway -- most of them never made it to Broadway -- but they’re out there, just the same!

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        Pride and Prejudice remains the most widely-known of Jane Austen’s novels, and so it’s fitting that the musical is the most popular as well. A general Google search revealed that there are about five different musical versions, but who knows how many there really are. There aren’t many videos of any version to be found on Youtube, but it looks like the most famous is the concert version from 2008 with Laura Osnes, and since I’m not about to pay any attention to any version that doesn’t have Laura Osnes in it, that’s the one I’m going to focus on. ;-P

    Pride and Prejudice: A Musical Play opened October 21, 2008 in Rochester, NY. (Fun fact: Rochester is only about three hours from where I live. I COULD HAVE GONE TO SEE IT. Although I doubt my nine-year-old self would have particularly enjoyed it…) It was a concert, and not a fully-staged production, which I take to mean from the less than abundant photographic evidence existing that it was basically just a bunch of people in costume singing on the stage while an orchestra played in the background. (Picture the Les Miz anniversary concerts.) Laura Osnes played Elizabeth Bennet, and Colin Donnell played Mr. Darcy.

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    From what I’ve gathered, the character of Jane Austen narrates a lot of the show, with the other characters voicing their thoughts to themselves (Tevye-from-Fiddler-on-the-Roof-style). On the recordings I’ve listened to, I reaaaaally do not like the Jane Austen lady -- she seems much too abbrasive and her voice is lower than I would imagine Jane Austen’s. Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell are both excellent singers and while they’re not ideal  as Lizzy and Darcy, they seem to play the parts well.
     Most of the music is so-so -- nothing extremely brilliant. I could make the remark that a lot of the songs follow the same general tune. ;-P  There are a few very beautiful melodies throughout, though, including my favorite -- “Had I Been In Love”, which Lizzy sings after realizing  how blind she’s been about Darcy all this time.

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   As far as an adaptation of the book, I can’t really say how close the musical sticks because I have the disadvantage of not having seen the whole show. ;-/ For the most part the music seems to reflect fittingly the different aspects of the story, the characters’ perspectives and feelings, though I think they could have taken better advantage of Jane Austen’s classic wit. Parts of the music are a little too silly, if you ask me. There are some songs in the show I can’t even listen to because they’re so -- how shall I say it? -- gaggy, if you will. (Like the one Mrs. Bennet sings about her nerves, and Lydia’s swooning over redcoats. That’s just too much for me.) However, there’s a very romantic feel to the music, which I like. It makes you sigh and go, “Ahhh….isn’t that pretty?”

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    As a musical, it’s not particularly epic, and it’s not musically stunning, but it’s a sweet little show with some pretty tunes that would be enjoyable to watch. You can find the whole soundtrack here. ‘The Portrait Song’, ‘He Thinks/She Thinks’, and ‘Had I Been In Love’ are my favorites. :-)



The other Jane Austen musicals are very little-known, and not many videos of them exist. But here are some pictures, to give you a little idea…

Sense and Sensibility

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    The proposal…..awwwwwww. :-)

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 Emma

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I don’t know about you, but that looks pretty weird to me!

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I think a musical of a Jane Austen book could be a good idea, but I’d rather just stick to the movies. 
What do you think? 
Did you know Jane Austen’s books have been made into musicals? 
Have you seen any?

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Thank you, Emma, for a lovely post!

13 comments:

  1. I'm going comment on this as if it were on your blog. :-P

    You're welcoooome. :-) Thank YOU for WRITING. :-D I know, sometimes people are a bit TOO creative. But I love the idea of Jane Austen musicals. If they are done well. :-D REALLY?! FOUR OR FIVE Musical versions? Why are none of them REALLY famous? I love the look of Laura Osnes as Lizzy. She has the sassy eye-twinkle. :-) And Mr Darcy (played by another Colin, haha) looks a bit like Fisher in Lark Rise. By the way. :-P

    YOU COULD HAVE GONE TO SEE IT. Ahhhh. Ohh, it was a concert. Oh. *tones down* Oh.

    I don't think Jane Austen musicals will ever be BIG hits. Because they are better when just done as movies. :-) Let's stick to the movies. Although I still like the idea of JA musicals. Just, it sounds super fun. :-D (Lydia looks awful, though. Sorry. *Snort*) And oh, I love the video clip you put up. (Well, I put it up, but you told me to. Heehee.)

    Thank you for writing this, Emma Jane!!! :-)

    ~ Naomi

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  2. Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea there were so many Austen musicals around. Very cool.

    I would love to see a Rogers and Hammerstein style of musical for Austen's stories -- I think NA would be especially well suited to their blend of serious and cheerful.

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  3. YAY! A guest post by Emma! Wow, I didn't know they made musicals out of the JA novels. I must say though that I agree, Lizzy looks rather TOO silly in that picture of the redcoats.

    It just occurred to me that it must be hard to do a musical of a novel correctly because they would have to be extra careful to get the tone of the story right because they would have MUSIC. But it's an interesting idea . . . I think I like the movies better too :)

    No that's not my idea of Emma and Mr. Knightley either. Besides I don't think Emma would wear such a dress or Mr. Knightley such a waistcoat. Purple and yellow, I mean to say! It's MR. KNIGHTLEY we're talking about people :P

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  4. Naomi, you're welcome! Haha, I know, it's funny that this Mr. Darcy is also Colin. ;-P I really like his voice, but his hair...needs help. Yes, Lydia does look awful. I can't even listen to the song she sings about the officers. *gags*

    Hamlette -- Wow, that would be really awesome, blending R&H with Jane Austen! I think of all her stories NA would make the best musical.

    Rosie, that's not Lizzy in the picture with the redcoats! It's Lydia. Yes, I think it would be very hard to translate such well-know and loved books into musicals -- you'd have to be very careful to get it right! The fact that none of these musicals have become very popular makes me think that most people have decided they prefer they prefer the movies.

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  5. WHAT?! That's Lydia? She *splutters* well I don't want to offend anyone, but she doesn't look at all like my idea of Lydia. Goodness. I thought it was Lizzy because she looked older :P

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  6. Very interesting, Emma. I'd never really thought about Jane Austen's stories being made into musicals! I guess it makes sense, though, seeing how popular they are.

    Haha! I agree. A musical is probably a good enough idea, but I think I'll just stick with the movies myself. :)

    ~Miss March

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  7. I love musicals, I really do--but I somehow feel like that wouldn't "work" for Jane Austen. I mean, really, her characters (for the most part) aren't the kind of people whom you can easily imagine bursting into song . . . and that's what you need for a musical, characters who actually love to sing.

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    1. Jessica, that's how I feel -- Jane Austen's characters just aren't typically the sort of people you can imagine bursting into song about their feelings.

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  8. Jane Austen novels aren't the most musical-epic sort of books...but it would be nice to see one!

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  9. The first thing I saw when this popped up was the words "Guest Post by Emma Jane" and I squealed happily! Then I saw "Jane Austen MUSICALS" and giggled. That is SO you, Emma. ;-P I'm not surprised at all, hehe. Except for the fact that I hadn't even considered the possibility of there being Jane Austen musicals before. (Well, you HAD told me before there was a musical on basically everything, but I had forgotten about Jane Austen at the time....) Laura looks kinda familiar. I wonder if I've seen her before....may I ask why you said you were a big fan? (Just to say if I HAVE seen her before, from something.) I'm just listening to the video now.....oh, she sings very nicely. :-) But I don't like "Jane Austen". :-P She sounds.....ugh. *shudders* His voice sounds familiar....almost like...Ramin Karmiloo. :-P Maybe it's just because they're both theatrical people.
    Aww, that S&S proposal scene looks so sweet. :-)
    But yeah, "Emma" does look....strange. ;-P I mean, a comedy? Seriously? Also, that last picture, those girls on the sides look familiar. (I think I have a problem with thinking EVERYBODY looks familiar, ha.)
    Nope, I haven't seen any! To be honest, I don't think I'll bother for the moment.....I'll stick with Les Miserables, thankyouverymuch. Oh, and NEWSIES. :-D
    ~Miss Meg

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    1. Heehee. :-D No, it's not surprising!

      Laura Osnes is my favorite Broadway star. She's been in sooooo many shows -- Grease, South Pacific, Cinderella, and Bonnie and Clyde, one of my favorites. I wouldn't have picked her for Lizzy, but since I love her so much, I don't mind. ;-) Oh, I don't like the Jane Austen lady either -- she sounds much too raspy and abrasive, I think.

      Yes, stick with Les Miz...AND NEWSIES!!!! *Emma goes off singing King of New York*

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  10. Miss Meg, You love NEWSIES TOO?!!! Yayyyy. :-)

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  11. I agree with Naomi--very well-written indeed:)

    I think I knew about the Laura Osnes one (would you believe that I have yet to actually YouTube her in order to hear her voice?! I did look her up, though, and according to Wikipedia, she's a Christian! I'm sure you already knew that, but it just makes me happy that she's a Christian in the musical theatre world:D), but I hadn't heard of the others.

    You're right, the Emma does look very odd to me. I don't mean to criticize, but that picture of the kiss. Um. What.

    Haha, yes, the Secondhand Lions musical. I haven't watched it, but I saw pictures, and I was kind of like, "Whaaaaaat? Why are Hub and Garth doing a hoedown? This doesn't make sense..."

    Thanks for the fun, informative post!:D

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