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'Jane Austen's Emma -- A Musical Romantic Comedy' playing at Old Globe Maria Patrice Amon | Sat, Feb 26 2011 12:20 AM

The Old Globe's new musical "Jane Austen’s Emma – A Musical Romantic Comedy" takes conventional source material and sets it to song and spectacle. "Emma" has a longstanding history of adaptation, with varying degrees of faithfulness, across cultures and media in films, alternative novels, and now the glittering stage.

Emma is a youthful matchmaker whose schemes backfire in her face. She is a good-hearted young woman, too naive to realize the failure of her own hubris.  She chastises Mr. Knightly for not recognizing that he has never been in love and therefore could never give love advice; yet she simultaneously fails to realize that she herself has never been in love and should probably leave well-enough alone.

Emma judgmentally keeps her new friend Harriet Smith away from the love of her life because Emma prides social standing above kindness. Harriet blindly follows the advice of her recent friend to her long-enduring despair. Audiences will be happily impressed when Harriet finally turns on Emma's snobby disapproval and claims her own love.

Directed by Jeff Calhoun, "Jane Austen’s Emma" follows the novel with a visually inventive staging. The stage is focused on a massive angled three-dimensional garden labyrinth. Characters magically appear between and around the tall hedges. Most spectacular is the use of a rotating stage for scene changes. The massive rotating turntable spins as a symbol of the unseen labor necessary to establish Emma's posh world of leisure. Lawn chairs, statues, dining room tables and entire city backdrops weightlessly rotate onto the stage without giving a single hint of the masses of unnamed labor necessary to create such a world.

With book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, the score lacks compositional depth. True to the Georgian-Regency England style, the piano is emphasized across nearly every song. Yet, this uniformity creates a lack of depth with each song sounding like a near variation on the previous one.

The women of the cast shine. Patti Murin's bubbly optimism imbues Emma Woodhouse with champagne effervescence to match her blonde ringlets. Dani Marcus, Kelly Hutchinson and Suzanne Grodner each add to the frothy humor in supporting roles.

"Jane Austen’s Emma – A Musical Romantic Comedy" is playing at the Old Globe Theatre through March 6 with shows Tuesday through Sunday with weekend matinees. Tickets are available between $39 and $94 and can be purchased at the Old Globe box office at (619)23-GLOBE, and at www.TheOldGlobe.org.

Entertainment calendar
Ruth Chapman Performing Arts Center
(Eastlake High School campus)

25: Junior Optimists dance benefit show, 7 p.m.
26: Dance show, 7 p.m.


2: Sweetwater district show choir festival, 6:30 p.m.
3: Eastlake High School band dinner concert, 6:30 p.m.
4: Music Machine presents "Legacy" show choir fest, TBA
5: Sound Unlimited presents "For Ladies Only" show choir fest, TBA
15: Bonita Historical Society benefit concert, 7 p.m.

CYT sets March run for ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Christian Youth Theater’s after-school theater arts program will present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” March 4,5,11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and March 5,6, 12 nd 13 at 2 p.m. at Mater Dei Catholic High School. Call 588-0206 for information.

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