Brown & Abrams Update Austen’s Country Club Rom-Com
by Hamilton Nguyen
“Pride and Prejudice, The Musical” reminds us that arrogance and prejudice infect us all, regardless of character or class. After two hundred years, we still see a viral lack of empathy all around us: Look how we treat the unhoused, the mentally ill, and the poor.
With dazzling dances, wonderful wit, and surprising songs, Rita Abrams magically brings the Romantic English novel into modern focus.
From the careful considerations of Mr. Bennet (Geoffrey Colton) to the convoluted conspiracies of Mrs. Bennet (Jill Wagoner), we are treated to a battle between classical values and romantic impulses. The Bennet family must climb up this rigid social ladder—or they could be out in the street!
Like an unexpected summer shower, the actors suddenly click their heels and raise their voices to slip into lyrics and dance. Although the songs evoke laughter, they sometimes go a bit long. But Austen’s witty, romantic dialogue saves the day, surprising and tickling our wits.
One of five Bennet sisters, fiery Lizzy (captivating Lily Jackson) flashes her disdain for dashing Darcy (charming Evan Held). She rejects his request for a dance by volleying back his own words: “I believe you deserve someone not tolerable, but agreeable. Good day!” Between Darcy’s disapproving glances and Lizzy’s quick assumptions, their courtship reveals how quick judgements lead to dangerous consequences.
Lizzy’s sister, meek Jane Bennet (Amy Dietz) and shy Charles Bingley (Justin Hernandez) struggle to confess their love for each other. Their giddiness recalls teenage infatuation, as they sing “Changing World.”
Pompous, menacing Lady Catherine (impressive Alexis Lane Jensen) in a comical black and turquoise gown, enters in an ominous black hood. She evokes a Sith Lord or medieval executioner, foreshadowing her attack on the Bennets.
Lady C’s pedigree allows her to abuse them all. Are we still ruled by her type—the Koch brothers, the Bushes, the Kardashians?
But Lizzy proves that even prejudice can evolve. Each Bennet sister seizes her moment to disrupt the rules. The musical gives women a chance to grab their slim opportunities. Off in the corner, even naïve Mary Bennet (subtle Raysheina deLeon-Ruhs) gasps and smiles at her mother’s marriage schemes.
Impetuous Lydia Bennet (Alexandra Fry) grabs her moment with a dramatic announcement of her elopement with wicked George Wickham (Heren Patel). Lydia rebels against her mum, exposing the twisted cycle of women’s oppression.
In the finale, Kitty Bennet (Sofia Barker) bewitches us with her lovely voice, singing “I Wish You Joy.” Kitty’s song shows that even the youngest can spread joy. Each song builds upon the last in a memorable medley of show tunes.
“Pride and Prejudice, The Musical” is much more than “agreeable.” It’s a must see!
“Pride and Prejudice, The Musical” – adapted from Jane Austen’s novel by Josie Brown, music & lyrics by Rita Abrams, directed by Phoebe Moyer, orchestrations by Wayne Green & Jack Prendergast, at Ross Valley Players, Ross, California. Info: RossValleyPlayers.com – to April 16, 2023.
Cast: Justin Hernandez, Geoffrey Colton, Evan Held, Elenor Irene Paul, Jill Wagoner, Alexandra Fry, Sofia Barker, Lily Jackson, Amy Dietz, Raysheina deLeon-Ruhs, Nicole Thordsen, Heren Patel, Greg Brockbank, Marsha van Broek, Carrie Fisher-Coppola, Charles Evans, Landers Markwick, and Alexis Lane Jensen.
Banner photo: Jill Wagoner, Amy Dietz, Lily Jackson, Raysheina deLeon-Ruhs, Sofia Barker, & Alexandra Fry. Photos: Robin Jackson