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.)
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. :-)
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!
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.
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.
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?”
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
The proposal…..awwwwwww. :-)
I don’t know about you, but that looks pretty weird to me!
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?
Thank you, Emma, for a lovely post!