Pride & Prejudice: A New Musical

So I was on instagram, like always these days, and someone shared in their stories that Streaming Musicals was going to do a free live streaming film premiere of the new production of Pride and Prejudice: A New Musical. 

Or watch it!

I had seen it shared on facebook, I even shared it myself, but hadn’t really decided if I was going to watch it or not. However, after seeing everyone sharing about how much they enjoyed the virtual tea conference that occurred the day before, and that I couldn’t go to as I’m still going into work, I was like I’m not missing out again-I’m watching it.

I love musicals, in fact I studied drama in high school and attended a college prep/art school.

My senior project for my drama class was we had to find a musical, budget it, design costumes, set, etc-and create a look book with our findings. I of course being a Jane Austen fan actually chose a Pride and Prejudice musical, although that one was called, First ImpressionsSo not only did I want to see this because I love Jane Austen, but I was excited to see how this compared to the 1959 musical.

Hmmm…

So at 7 o’clock PST I got my pot of tea, computer, notebook, and sat down to watch.

The actual production was performed and filmed at Palo Alto’s TheatreWorks in Silicon Valley, where it ran December 4-January 4. Book, music, and lyrics were written by Paul Gordon, and of course Jane Austen.

It was really interesting watching it this way. I know I appreciated it as I may live in California but that does’t mean I have the time or money to see it live, so even though COVID-19 is a serious downer, I’m thankful it gave someone like me this chance to be a part and view this musical.

Hosts:

Before the production started we were hosted by three ladies, who unfortunately I only have two names, Beth Leavel and Julie James. They gave a little preshow talk, but I didn’t think it was as well done as Hillari DeSchane’s talk before the Mansfield Park Opera. I guess they thought that most people would already know the story, but I still think it would have been wise to have a quick summary of the book, the time period, and place for anyone who didn’t.

Hmm…

One lady described the summary of Pride and Prejudice as being a boy is rude to a girl, tries to ask her out and she refuses, but then she finds out he is rich and wants to be with him.

What are you talking about?

That really bothered me as it is 100% inaccurate. They knew from the beginning he was rich, richer than Mr. Bingley in fact, and it wasn’t seeing the house that changed her mind so much as seeing how he acted at Pemberley and how the servants praised him.

But they did have very high energy though, and when they returned at intermission they hosted the question and answer session better.

Quick Summary:

The story is really about a mother who wants to marry her five daughters as she constantly worries that her husband will die and leave her and her daughters with little to live on (her husband’s estate is entailed and neither person was very good at saving). She tries to match them up with any eligible men whether or not they want it.

 Netherfield Park is let and with it comes single and wealthy Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley falls for the eldest daughter, Jane Bennet, and she falls for him. No ones tries to win Mr. Darcy as though he is rich, he is very proud looking. Elizabeth overhears him make a unflattering remark about her and she is extremely angry.

Her sister goes to visit Mr. Bingley’s sister, Miss Caroline Bingley, and grows ill after being caught out in the rain. Elizabeth goes to stay and take care of her sister, also spending time with the Bingleys and Mr. Darcy.

Later, Elizabeth meets a man, Mr. Wickham, who says he grew up with Mr. Darcy and shares how Darcy kept his inheritance, forcing Wickham to join the military instead of the church. Elizabeth is pleased to have another reason to dislike Darcy, besides her wounded pride, and Wickham spreads the story throughout the community.

Mr. Bennet’s cousin Mr. Collins, who will inherit their home, comes to visit and plans to ask one of the Bennet girls to marry him. Mr. Bingley holds a ball, and Elizabeth hopes to dance with Mr. Wickham, but he doesn’t come and she ends up dancing with Mr. Darcy. Her siblings also are very embarrassing and her mother.

So embarrassed

Mr. Collins asks Elizabeth to marry him, and she refuses him. He becomes hurt and angry and instead marries her best friend Charlotte Lucas. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley leave with no engagement to Jane. Later Elizabeth visits Charlotte and meets Mr. Darcy’s aunt and Mr. Collins patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There she discovers from Mr. Darcy’s cousin that Darcy was the one who convinced Bingley not to ask Jane to marry him. Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth to marry him, which surprises her and she refuses him.

Later Mr. Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter in which he shares why he encouraged his friend to refuse Jane and the true story of what happened with Mr. Wickham, that he spent his inheritance and when Darcy refused to give him more, Wickham goes after his fifteen year old sister. She knows this is true as what he shares is something no one would want to ever come to light. But after reading the letter, Elizabeth is even more confused. How could she be such a bad judge of character? She and her aunt and uncle Gardiner take a walking tour and stop at Pemberley, where they are surprised by Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth sees another side of him.

But then her younger sister, Lydia, makes a disastrous mistake by running off with Mr. Wickham. Will this destroy her family? Will this end her chance with Mr. Darcy?

Costumes:

The one costume I didn’t like was Elizabeth’s outfit.

From left to right: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Mr. Collins, Kitty, and Lydia.

So I really like the 1800s, especially the West, and one thing I read years ago that has never left my mind is that one way to tell if a Western film is accurate or not is whether or not the cowboys wear suspenders or belts. Belt loops were not created until the 1920s (for men and women), cowboys/cowpokes copyed the Chilean huaso of wearing sashes or suspenders. Some people wore belts, like soldiers, but they were often more ornamental and overlaid outfits not sitting in belt loops. So all I could do was look at this skirt and see those belt loops which were completely inaccurate to the time period. It probably was just an oversight by the costume designer, and I don’t know if anyone else noticed it, but I didn’t like it.

Although I do like the way they did her quick changes. Elizabeth is in every scene and wears the same outfit throughout the whole first act, but with other scenes adds a ribbon at her waist, a vest, and a jacket. I liked this as I had the same idea when I did my project although I did not care for the vest the put her in as it did not match.

Elizabeth Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte Lucas.

But I love what she wears in the second act. That dress was so cute!

I lovd Mr. Darcy’s costumes, but you know me:

This should say breeches instead of pants, but I didn’t write this so it gets a pass. It was an instagram answer from a question I asked my followers.

But enough about that, let’s move on to the musical.

Pride & Prejudice: A New Musical

Act I

The style of music reminded me a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s choice with Jesus Christ Super Star. In that production we have an ancient text juxtaposed with rock songs, while in this we have a regency story paired with pop. I really enjoyed it and the music as I think they captured the heart of the novel and were extremely enjoyable. Many of them I could see purchasing and downloading and listening to over and over again.

So I wish I had a book to go off, but I don’t so I don’t know what every song is called. But we start off the musical with Elizabeth Bennet (Mary Mattison) quoting the first line of Pride and Prejudice:

Then she and Charlotte Lucas then sing about “happiness in marriage.” In this Elizabeth isn’t looking for a man, in fact she has a strong leave me alone vibe, while Charlotte (played by Dani Marcus) was spot on in counseling her. I felt Marcus completely captured the character of Charlotte Lucas.

I really enjoyed Mattison’s singing and I think she did a wonderful job with the character of Elizabeth, although Gordon did make a few changes to Elizabeth. As said above, Elizabeth doesn’t want to get married and she doesn’t want a man (which isn’t what happens in the book as in the novel she isn’t against marriage, but just isn’t throwing herself at men nor is she interested in Mr. Collins.) In fact this sentiment is more similar to Emma Woodhouse..

At first I was a little upset at the change, but as I continued watching the musical I think it served well to enforce Elizabeth’s headstrong and stubborn side. Elizabeth believes what she wants and won’t listen to others, like Charlotte. Having her be so staunch in her beliefs mimics the way she acts about Darcy, believing Mr. Wickham and never considering there could be another side to the story, or thinking about the fact she believes this man with no proof. My interpretation of this was that one should be film in their beliefs, but at the same time not let their headstrong or stubborn ways blind them. In the end Elizabeth acknowledges that it is not a truth universally acknowledged that a man with fortune is in want of a wife or that every woman wants to marry, but to keep your heart open.

Elizabeth is also the narrator of the musical, and introduces her family-her father Mr. Bennet, mother Mrs. Bennet, and four sisters-Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. I also enjoyed the tizzy Mrs. Bennet is constantly in as she worries over their future and felt that Heather Orth truly captured the character-and Gordon was perfect in the lines he gave her.

“Mrs. Bennet: None of my five daughters will be old maids if I can help it…even you Mary.

I also enjoyed Tara Kostmayer’s portrayal of Lydia as silly, flirty, and needing to be the center of attention. And Gordon summed up her character very nicely in this:

“Elizabeth Bennet: Lydia is just 15.

Jane Bennet: Going on 25.

Mr. Bennet: In all but wisdom.”

I also loved Melissa Wolfklain as Mary Bennet. She was just so droll and perfect.

Elizabeth sings a song about being headstrong that I enjoyed, but the whole time I kept thinking of Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong GirlIf you need something new to read you should definitely check it out.

So after being introduced to the Bennet family we have the ball where we meet Mr. Bingley (Travis Leland), Miss Caroline Bingley (Monique Hafen Adams), and Mr. Darcy (Justin Mortelliti). I really liked the way Gordon and the actors interpreted these characters. Mr. Bingley is extremely tongue-tied and often has trouble relaying how he feels relying heavily on Darcy. This worked well to show why Darcy feels the need to protect his sweet, friend (treating him very similar to how he treats Georgiana) and why Bingley so heavily values on Darcy’s judgement over his own.

Bingley and Jane sing a song about their love and it is so cute. They both sing about how they like each other and want to tell each other, but when they try to talk they are too tongue tied and say hardly anything. It was absolutely adorable and both Leland as Bingley and Sharon Rietkerk as Jane Bennet were just perfect. I think this song really captured what Austen wrote:

“…in spite of his [Mr. Bingley] being a lover, Elizabeth really believed all his expectations of felicity to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her [Jane] and himself [Mr. Bingly].”

-Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 55

Adams as Caroline was also perfect as she was just the right amount of mean and snobby-she made the friendliest words sound like a slap in the face. Leland and Adams worked well off each other as Mr. and Miss Bingley. They were like two sides of the same coin-he geniality, kindness, optimism, glee; she rude, snobby, sarcastic, and cold.

“Mr. Bingley: I’m enjoying myself immensely.

Caroline Bingley: Yes brother, but that’s why you have me.”

But out of all the characters, my favorite was Mortelliti as Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and Miss Bingley.

One thing I really, really enjoyed about this musical was while it is narrated and told from Elizabeth, every song that Mr. Darcy has gives us a view into who he is. I think this worked for this medium as a musical and stage production you aren’t given the time and subtly a movie has as you can’t concentrate on something small, but have to make sure that no matter the seats they can witness what is happening. With having the songs show Darcy’s point of view and feelings alongside Elizabeth’s it works in with the themes of first impressions/pride and prejudice, and gives it a kind of his story/her story dynamic.

I really enjoyed this interpretation because even though we see how Darcy feels about Elizabeth throughout, it doesn’t take away from what Austen wrote and the realizations they have after the proposal and his letter (Darcy seeing how he presents himself and that he’s not right about everything [Jane + Bingley], and his decision to change; nor does it take away from Elizabeth realizing that she is not right about everything [Wickham + Darcy] and that she was judgmental because she was wounded, she changing as well.) Having Darcy’s songs just allows us see the two character’s journeys from the beginning. The title of the musical is a “new” musical so it seems fitting for Gordon to try a different interpretation.

Mr. Darcy’s first song is about being separated from the others, about keeping away from these people and to not fall for anyone. It is really interesting as the words are juxtapositioned with a soft melody, one that could easily be a love song. I personally believe that when Mr. Darcy made that comment about Elizabeth being not tolerable enough for him it was more trying to get Bingley to leave him alone as he didn’t want to dance or be there. Then later when she visits her sister, he pays attention to her and likes her-not realizing she heard his earlier comment. But this particular song and the music almost sounds to me as if Gordon is saying he did see her and is trying to convince himself to stay away, the melody being a seed of romance, the not tolerable being him trying to convince himself to not like. It is an interesting point and feel free to comment below what you think.

After Jane visits and grows ill, Elizabeth comes to stay and help. One of the best scenes was the accomplished woman and the turn about the room scene. In this Mortelliti did some brooding, but when he mentions their reasons for walking about he says it more flirtatious. We then have Caroline trying to bully Elizabeth and have Darcy find her boring. After Darcy shares his idea of an accomplished lady he says this while looking right at Elizabeth:

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

It is hilarious how Elizabeth drops the book like it is on fire and immediately takes it as a negative.

And of course spending this time with Elizabeth Darcy has fallen for her. He sings a song about it and I loved when he belted out how much he was in love with her. I also really loved this line:

“Oh dear God…must I like her eyes. Oh, I’m in so much trouble.

I like your eyes and d***it,  it’s alarming.”

I thought this perfectly captured how much he didn’t want to like her, it was the foundation of his future proposal, and I just all around enjoyed this song, best song so far.

Mr. Collins is introduced and Brian Herndon was fantastically pompous. He just was just so ugh-there aren’t any other words to describe him. And in my book if you don’t feel ugh when you see a portrayal of Mr. Collins than they are not doing it right. His song is just so awfully perfect as he sings about the sisters being this abundance of riches, Mary and Kitty’s face express exactly how I felt listening to it.

From left to right: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Mr. Collins, Kitty, and Lydia.

This song and the acting was great, but the person who stole the stage in it again was Melissa Wolfklain as Mary Bennet. There is a part where they sing Mary should be the one and her face is like Lord please, no anything but that-I’ll join a convent, I’ll go help lepers, just please no Mr. Collins. And later she uses a book to try and shield herself from his view.

Later the girls are out and run into Lydia and Kitty’s friends, Captain Denny (Sean Fenton) and a new face Mr. Wickham (Taylor Crousore). Everyone is pleased to run into the handsome and genial men…except Mary. In her droll and moralizing tone she states:

“Mary Bennet: I find war to be very upsetting.”

Melissa Wolfklain seriously just killed it as Mary Bennet. She was hilarious and perfect.

Mr. Darcy comes upon them and I love the staging of him and Wickham. Both on opposite sides and staring each other down like two gunslingers. With Bingley in the middle.

Mr. Bingley tries to flirt with Jane and instead it comes out horribley

“Mr. Bingley: Good afternoon Miss Bennet. You look…thirsty.

Jane Bennet: [Confused but really likes Mr. Bingley]…I am thirsty.”

They end up leaving Mr. Wickham and Elizabeth together and Mr. Wckham shares about Mr. Darcy being cruel to him. I liked Crousore’s and Gordon’s interpretation and how Wickham tests the waters with Elizabeth, feeling out what Elizabeth thinks of Darcy, and after hearing she can’t stand him then promptly upends his sob story. He sings a ballad about how he’d been wronged, (with the perfect level of pretend humbleness and smaryness) and his heartbreak to know being forced to live the life of a soldier instead of a clergyman. I really liked this line:

“I speak my truth to you”

Key word there my, my truth as in I’m lying.

The ball at Netherfield comes and Elizabeth is disappointed to be dancing with Darcy rather than Wickham. I really enjoyed the interaction between the two as Darcy is trying so, so, so, so, hard to flirt with her but everything he says Elizabeth takes as an insult. It was hilarious as he not overt in his attentions, but you can tell he is trying to compliment her but each time Elizabeth assumes he is making fun of her.

Again I really enjoy how much time we spend with Darcy and him sharing how he feels. It works really well in this format and makes a stronger show. Plus I like that they are trying to distinguish it from other adaptions, along with keeping pieces that people love from the previous ones.

After the ball Mr. Collins tries to propose to Elizabeth and when she hears he wants to have a private word with her I love how she immediately picks up a cup of tea. She’s all-I need tea if I’m gonna get through this.

The two sing a song with Mr.Collins going on about his proposal completely ignoring Elizabeth’s refusals. She rebuttals with the perfect blend of anger and good manners, and I like her final shove at the end that helps her words get through his head.

After that Mr. Collins marries Charlotte and the  Bingleys & Darcy leave Netherfield.  Elizabeth tries to comfort Jane, but Jane insists that that Mr. Bingley was just an acquaintance and she is fine.  Jane’s song is the perfect mix of beatiful and sad as she tries to convince herself she doesn’t love him but isn’t fooling anyone as in every note we can feel the heartbreak. It was a fantastic performance.

We then find ourselves with the Collins, Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Bingley at Lady Catherine’s home. Now I know why they were there as I’ve read the book, but it was a bit weird they didn’t have an introduction as to who she was or why Elizabeth was visting. However, my thoughts didn’t rest on that long as Lucinda Hitchcock Cone was perfect as Lady Catherine as she was just relentless in grilling Elizabeth. I really enjoyed how Mortelilti as Darcy has a smirk the whole time, as if he was just enjoying watching Elizabeth hold her own against Lady Catherine. Mr. Bingley just looks uncomfortable and as if he wants to leave, but is afraid to as Lady Catherine might turn on him, just trying to blend into the furniture.

In this Colonel Fitzwilliam is not Darcy’s cousin but is introduced as his friend, why the change I don’t know.

Oh, well.

Lady Catherine sings her song and it is one of the most egotistical songs I have heard, like levels of Ratigan’s song in The Great Mouse Detective or Gaston’s in Beauty and the Beast.

Elizabeth Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte Lucas.

I love how Elizabeth and Lady Catherine share that same stare of Death that Darcy and Wickham did earlier when they do a song battle:

And right in the middle of their “song battle” Mr. Darcy laughs and all pause and stare daggers at him.

I should not have laughed.

Later Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam are talking and he relays that Mr. Darcy is the reason Bingley left and didn’t propose to Jane. She is furious and sings a song about what kind of man could do this-but every trait and action she uses to describe Darcy perfectly applies to how she has been toward Darcy. This was very interesting as I’ve never thought of them as being the same, but in this production they are quite similar in their personality and the way they are perceived by others; except Elizabeth is a extrovert while Darcy an introvert.

Hmmm…

Darcy of course doesn’t hear her song and thinks it is the perfect time to propose, and again the comedic timing in this is just perfect. And while we are not surprised at Darcy’s feelings I love how both he and Elizabeth are

“Mr. Darcy: “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Elizabeth: [Completely shocked] You do?

Mr. Darcy: [Utterly baffled] I do?!

I could not stop laughing, that is comedic gold. Neither one can figure it out and he is so flabbergasted when proposing.Elizabeth of course objects and I love how he continues to be baffled and confused at her statements

Then Morteletti as Darcy sings and I loved this song. Morteletti gave it the perfect blend of anger, pain, and heartbreak. He runs the gamut of emotions. He has a great voice and every time he sings Miss Bennet you can just feel his heartache as he holds the note. Elizabeth is on the other side of the stage and sings as well, and you can feel their anguish. I know some people might find it as a cliche but I am a sucker for things like that.

End Act I

Intermission:

With intermission I put my kettle on the stove,

Got the snacks…and settled down to listen to the talk with the cast and Paul Gordon.

So they had a few questions for the cast and crew and it was really interesting to see them this way as you saw a view into their home.

Paul Gordon shared that he read Pride and Prejudice and watched many film adaptions before he wrote the musical. He said that instead of doing how he did with other Austen musicals, he decides to write the songs the way he felt, and that’s why they came out more pop-like.

One question to Taylor Crousore struck me as strange, as they asked him how it felt to play “Mr. Wickham, a very misunderstood character.”

Huh?

I don’t think Wickham is misunderstood, I think he is extremely clear in what he does and wants. Crousore, however, brought up an excellent point about the character. He shared how crucial Wickham is to the story, I mean he is the reason why Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy is so high, but also the reason she realizes she was wrong about him, and in the end he brings them back together. Without him Elizabeth probably would have forgiven Darcy sooner and might not have refused him when he proposed-but then on the flip side without Wickhim, she and Darcy might not have gotten together. We will never know!

I didn’t take as much notes on intermission as I was getting the tea + snacks ready, and before I knew it, it was time for the second act.

Pride & Prejudice: A New Musical

Act II

We start off with Darcy giving Elizabeth his letter, having had to write his feelings down as he wasn’t able to say it. Aw, poor Darcy.

I really enjoyed this scene as Elizabeth reads it angry and talking back to Darcy’s words, only to stop when she gets to why Darcy doesn’t like Wickham. It was done extremely well as Elizabeth is hurt and angry over what happened with her beloved sister Jane and Wickham, but then she softens when Darcy talks of his beloved sister.

Darcy’s song made me think of an ’80s power ballad, about his sister and the part when he belts out “she was fifteen”, you can really hear his heartbreak. Mortelliti was perfect in this as you could feel the love he had for his sister, the guilt he has for not protecting her better, and the anguish he shares over someone hurting his sister that he raised as a daughter (they are many years apart and his dad died when she was so young).

I’m crying!

I loved the duality of the song as Darcy sings softly, still in love with Elizabeth while Elizabeth is loud and harsh as she is angry-but then she softens when she reads of Darcy’s sister.

Elizabeth returns home and learns of Lydia’s plans of going off to Brighton. Jane has a song that she sings as they share each other’s news and their relationship is so adorable. I like how Elizabeth protects her sister, mimicking how Darcy protects his.

Before Lydia and the soldiers leave, Wickham and Denny stop by and say goodbye. I loved the exchange between Elizabth and Wickham as she lets him know she knows the truth and won’t take any of his charm. Wickham is so baffled as what to say or do, he ultimately just leaves. Hilarious!

Elizabeth is invited to go on a walking tour with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner and they end up at Pemberley, which gets its own song. I’m glad it does as it needed to and if it hadn’t I would be solely disappointed.

“Cast: Pemberley we love you tenderly.”

I’m so happy they said that this would be on the site forever. Then all of you who missed it can have another chance to watch, or rewatch it.

Elizabeth listens to the  servants talk about Darcy, and that combined with the letter leaves her puzzled as to who is Darcy. I really enjoyed this song, as I did with all of them and I encourage you to purchase them and sing while quarantined.

As Elizabeth sings Darcy coms up behind her, surprising her. It is such a cute scene I wish I had been fast enough to screenshot it.

Elizabeth is embarrassed to be there as they didn’t realize that he was coming home.

“Mr. Darcy: I find the intrusion rather agreeable.”

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh!!!!!! He is so cute!

So while this Darcy isn’t as broody as other depictions, you still see a change in him as he realized how he was being seen by others and becomes much more open. It is amazing what a difference in body language, and looking back there were sublte difference throughout the musical in every scene with him. They are so cute together, *Swoon*. 

How sweet!

He introduces Elizabeth to his sister Georgiana, and it is so adorable.

“Georgiana Darcy: It is a pleasure to meet you. My brother speaks of you so often!

Elizabeth Darcy: [Surprised] Does he?

Mr. Darcy [Definitely] He does!”

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! So cute!

How sweet!

Miss Bingley is back and snobby and sarcastic as ever. Monique Hafen Adams, you are perfect at it. Mr. Bingley is there as well and it is so obvious he is trying to grill her about any news of Jane.

Darcy was just so perfect- I gushed so much while I was watching this scene that I accidentally wrote over what I wrote and I now cannot decipher it, except that Justin Mortelliti and Paul Gordon did this perfectly and I think Jane Austen would be proud.

Elizabeth receives Jane’s letter about Lydia and then Darcy finds out he is angry. I liked the way Mortelliti portrayed it and how you can see how upset he is and the guilt he feels-taking on the blame that another 15 year old and another family has to go through this. He quickly leaves, running off to find them.

But Elizabeth misunderstands it, thinking that it is directed at her, that he is ashamed and it is so sad as she has lost him. She has finally admitted it and realizes she does care for him and wants to be with him. It is a powerful song!

Back at home it is a mess. Mary tries to be helpful, but her moralizing is horrid and anything but soothing. Mrs. Bennet is going to pieces and if they had a play with just the two of them I would love it. They would be a screwball comedy team for sure.

Mr. Bennet returns:

“Mrs. Bennet: You look miserable.

Kitty: Papa always looks miserable.”

So usually in this scene Mr. Bennet threatens Kitty with no trips, no going out, being grounded until 50 years of age, etc. But instead of Chanel Tilghman playing Kitty as whining and throwing a tantrum at how unfair it is-Tilghman just looks at her father and laughs it off. I really loved that as Mr. Bennet is so curmudgeonly throughout the play that I could see her not taking him serious, much better than her wailing.

Lydia returns with Wickham and he tells everyone about how wonderful and happy he is to be married. Wow, Crousore is a talented actor, I almost believed him. He is so smarmy and slimy I just want to punch him in the face, perfect! In my book you are not a good Wickham unless you make me want to sock you.

Lydia let’s it slip that Darcy was at the wedding, and Elizabeth is further puzzled. Who is Darcy? She was so sure who she knew his character, but now she does not know. She muses over what Lydia said…

“Elizabeth Bennet: [Singing] And he didn’t want it known…”

You know, that speaks really well of a person’s character when they do something extremely kind and don’t want it known. Darcy didn’t want to do this for Lydia he wanted to do it for Elizabeth and he never wanted her to know, he never wanted her to think he was trying to bribe her affections, or buy them back.

“Elizabeth Bennet: Is it too late to tell you…”

Aw, so heartbreakingly sad. So perfect!

Bingley returns and all pretend they don’t care but the do. I can see pieces of the other films in this, such as the hustle and bustle they have when Bingley is coming is like Pride and Prejudice (2005).

Mr. Bingley is so shy and tongue twisted, you once again see why Mr. Darcy wants to help him and protect him. He sings about how much he loves Jane and it is just so gosh darn adorable. Now if only you could just tell her that.

He and Darcy leave, but then Bingley gets his strength back and returns.

“Jane Bennet: Wonderful to see you again and so soon…after your last visit.”

Aw, they are so cute!!!

Come on Bingley!!! Just say it already!

And then he does! He finally sings all his feelings!! Yay! Aw, so cute!!!

After that happiness we have the horror. The carriage is coming…DUN, DUN, DUN! Lady Catherine!

She and Elizabeth have another song battle and every word that comes out of Lady Catherine is dripping with disdain. Elizabeth’s song is a verbal beatdown of Lady C. and it was perfect.

The interaction after this of Darcy and Elizabeth is one of my favorites, Darcy is practicing what to say to Elizabeth, and it is soooooo cute. It is the scene I have always wanted and ever realized it.

When he and Elizabeth have a chance to talk and he hears that her feelings have changed, oh the hope in his voice. I love it!!! My favorite part is they are seprated by a stream and Darcy moves to her…

But then he waits, letting Elizabeth make the final step-everything is in her court, he doesn’t want to push her, he doesn’t want to influence her, he wants her to decide based on her heart and feelings. And when she moves in they kiss! So cute and their song! So adorable! So romantic. He waits for her to take the “leap” to him ad then after they cross over together.

Soooo cute!!!!

And they take the leap over the stream together! Awwwwwwww! It was so adorable and gosh darn romantic and aw! Aw! I LOVE IT!

At the end we have a review of the couples as as it ends I’m sad it is over.

So I just LOVED it! I thought it was amazing and cute and adorable! The music was fantastic and I think you all should watch it if you haven’t, and if you have-it is definitely worth another rewatch. Go here to watch it.

For more Pride & Prejudice, go to Elizabeth-Obstinate Headstrong Girl: Part II, Other Eras

For more Jane Austen stage productions, go to Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Elizabeth-Obstinate Headstrong Girl: Part I, The Regency

Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

So I had to take a break from finishing my review of Modesto Jane Con, as we had Valentine’s Day posts and some other things, but now I am ready to finish reviewing Modesto Jane Con.

So if you have been following me on social media, you know I have been super excited about Modesto Jane Con. The past eight years I have seen pictures from different Jane Cons and festivals and wished I could go-but they were not possible for me to attend as it always came down to a problem of time, money, work, etc. Instead I had to be content with seeing pictures on social media.

I’m sad…

But then Modesto Jane Con was created!

From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

Your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

That was it, I was going! And I convinced my book club + my sister to join me. I scrounged around for a costume (I’ll post on that later) and made sure to bring a notebook to take copious notes on the workshop and opera to-of course post on them later (as I am now).

So the first workshop of the day was Gowns & GroansAfter that you had your choice of The Definitive Darcy and Lizzie or Start You Own Book Club. The third workshop was your choice of Dressing the Regency Lady or Are You a Long-Lost Austen? Searching Your Family Tree.

So after Dressing the Regency Lady, we had about an hour and fifteen mins before the Mansfield Park Opera pre-show talk by Hillari DeSchane. We checked out a few things and had lunch, and then headed to the Opera.

The building was really cool as it was a classic theater showing old, foreign, & independent films that also hosts concerts & events. It has a snack bar that serves popcorn, wine, soft drinks, and espresso. I really wanted tea, but it didn’t serve any. Oh, well…

So quick review of the book, for those of you who might not have read it. Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, a sweet kind girl-niece to the Bertram family, who was sent to stay with the Bertrams. Instead of being treated as family, she is seen as “lesser” because of the “bad blood” inherited from her father who her mother “married down” to.

She is particularly mistreated by her evil aunt, Mrs. Norris, and two cousins; all of which take pride in bossing her around and being as cruel as can be. Fanny is the essence of sweetness, taking this injustice in stride and trying to remain optimistic in a bad situation.

The life of the Bertrams are interrupted when a Mr. Henry Crawford and Miss Mary Crawford come to visit their half-sister Mrs. Grant. Mary is set on winning the eldest Bertram, but finds her interest captured by the younger brother, Edmund,-even though he is intent on being a minister and Mary finds religion hypocritical. Fanny has loved Edmund since she was young, but he has never thought of her in such a way and he is now completely captivated by Mary. Henry Crawford’s sole interest is to upset the apple cart by going after the Bertram sisters for sport, having no intent of being serious or facing any consequences. Will the Bertrams and Fanny survive this?

That is not good,

The Mansfield Park Opera was a part of the Story into Song Literacy Initiative and worked with a lot of literacy advocacy organizations, (such as the Becoming Jane Austen Book Club, Modesto Library, Modesto Friends of the Library, and more) and half of the cast are making their solo professional debuts. Pretty amazing!

So like when I did my Psycho (1960) review, I brought my notebook and took notes in the dark of my thoughts of the performance. Hopefully I can still read them.

So we attended the preshow with Hillari DeSchane:

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

So the program gave a copy of the full talk, but I’m not going to write it word for word. I’ll just write my notes and paraphrase a bit.

So taking a book as long and complex as Mansfield Park and cutting it down to a two-hour opera is no easy feat. Mansfield Park is a “tapestry of human emotion and psychology.” (Deschane).

In the opera they strip the book down to the central theme and a small number of characters. The story is told as a chamber opera, more intimate-like a theater in the round. The opera itself is group centered, with no arias or being solo based.

The opera also focus on the theme of “The Fall of Man” and the “Expulsion from Eden.” Mansfield Park is Eden, a paradise, and each character is tempted by their own personal snakes, with many falling victim to their pleasures and “biting the apple”.

As seen with the recent TV show Sandition, there are many who think Austen needs to be sexier and steamier but truth is-they just need to remake Mansfield Park as it has it all: gambling, drinking, seduction, adultery-just full of thse vices without modern additions.

We really see the focus of this motiff in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. Here they explore Mr. Rushworth’s home in Sotherton, where they walk a “serpentine path”. Henry offers to explore with Maria Bertram while her fiance is gone, tempting her with the two being alone together, even singing “how tempting those pathways that lie hidden-how much sweeter are the joys we are forbidden.” Edmund is given the choice to wait with Fanny while she rests from the walk, or to go off with Mary alone-and he walks off with Mary forgetting all about Fanny on her own.

The ending was changed to be more happily ever after for all, (in the novel people have to face the consequences of their actions), but I didn’t mind too much.

So the ten characters we have are:

  1. Fanny Price (Alexandra Jernic)
  2. Edmund Bertram (Andrew Pardini)
  3. Mary Crawford (Angela Yam)- Professional Opera debut
  4. Henry Crawford (Emmanuel Mercado)
  5. Maria Bertram (Darby Schmidt)-Professional Opera debut
  6. Julia Bertram (Brylan Finley)- Professional Opera debut
  7. Mr. Rushworth (Luca Mitchell)- Professional Opera debut
  8. Aunt Norris (Alison Collins)
  9. Lady Bertram (Anakira Gabriella-Graça)
  10. Sir Thomas Bertram (Brad Reed)- Professional Opera debut

From The Modesto Bee. Left to Right: Lady Bertram, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price, Henry Crawford, Mary Crawford, and Edmund Bertram.

There is no Tom, although he is mentioned, and sadly no William Price who I love. Oh, well.

Sad really.

So the opera was AMAZING! As I mentioned in an earlier post the group of us who came varied in our knowledge of Mansfield Park. One book club member had never read or seen a film version of Mansfield Park (or any Jane Austen beside The Darcy Monologues), one book club member had seen the 2007 film version, my sister had seen the 2007 version and the 1999 version years ago, and I had read the book and seen the 1999 film, 2007 film, & the 1983 miniseries. However, all were able to follow the storyline and completely comprehend and bcome fully involved in the story.

We all loved the music and found everyone to be entertaining, talented, amazing, and that they completely captured the characters they were portraying.

Fanny was perfect! She had an amazing voice; along with perfect facial expressions. I’m not a big opera fan (as in I don’t watch them all the time), and this was my first time attending one, but one thing I have noticed when I’ve seen the films or clips of Operas is that they don’t always focus on the acting-more on the singing. Alexandra Jernic was spot on. The way she looked at Edward when singing, as if they were the only ones in the room. The incredible sorrow when seeing Edward and Mary together and knowing his preference for Mary over Fanny. Or the ball scene when all are happy and excited for what the night will bring, but Fanny who all this is supposed to be for her, but she is sad and alone as her love is excited to dance with another.

Mrs. Norris was just as perfect. You hated her as immediately-every time she sang and the way she acted toward Fanny, I don’t know if there has been a better one.

Mr. Rushworth was wonderful. He was kind caring, goofy, hilarious. It amazed me that he was only 18 when he was so talented.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the performance is that  each character had their own distinctive music, tone, and speed. For instance Mr. Rushworth’s was fast and quick, just like how his character spoke in the book and sang-while Henry’s music was slower, softer, more seductive.

We also loved seeing the costumes and how they looked on the performers, as in an earlier workshop we saw the swatches. We also kept an eye out for Kristine Doiel’s favorite dress of the production, the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got:

But the one who stole the show for me was Angela Yam, Mary Crawford.

Every time she entered the stage all my attention went to her. She had an amazing voice and was equally amazing in her acting. One of the best scenes was when she and Edward first see each other, the way she doesn’t sing anything other than hello, but her whole body language is changed. The rest of the scene continues in the way she acts and looks. It was fantastic. That continued throughout the whole Opera as she was able to convey sooo much in her tone, a look, a motion. I was surprised this was her debut as she just blew me away. I stopped taking notes as I just wanted to enjoy her performance.

We had to leave after the opera and head home, but we did all the way humming, singing, and talking about how much we enjoyed it.

It was a wonderful experience and I am so happy to have been able to watch it. If I could have, I would have stayed the next day and watched it again.

For more on Modesto Jane Con, go to Modesto Jane Con: Looking Around the Library, Lunch, and a Crazy Random Happenstance

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more Mansfield Park adaptions, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

For more Hillari DeSchane, go to Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

For more Opera, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 8, Ill Repute

Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

So Modesto Jane Con was this past weekend. From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

I, unfortunately, could only go on Saturday, but I had so much fun and I can’t wait until the next one! If there is a next one…

So your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

I dressed up for the event (I’ll post on that later) and brought a reticule my sister made. Reticules are tiny, so I couldn’t pack everything in my bag-just the essentials. Debit card, credit card, ID, fan, gloves, pens, glasses (as I was wearing contacts) and a handkerchief. I wasn’t too worried about the size of the reticule though, as I had planned on purchasing one of their cute tote bags.

I also brought my notebook, as I planned on taking notes and later posting them (as I am now).

Our group was traveling from 1.5-2 hours away (depending on that CA traffic) and left around seven and arrived a little after 8:30. We actually headed to the theater as I was looking at the wrong event. You know me and navigating, I always get lost!

I then redirected our group, and we went to the library. We easily checked in and finished just as they announced the first workshop: Gowns & Groans

So of course, we were excited about this workshop. We wanted to learn more about the Regency gowns and who can resist the chance to snark about costumes?

Let the snark begin!

This workshop was run by Kristine Doiel and Hillari DeSchane

“Costumes have a coded language all their own. They can transport us back to Austen’s time and speak volumes about the characters, or they can be a constant distraction and prevent us from losing ourselves in the unfolding drama. Join veteran costumer Kristine Doiel on a lively, and likely to be controversial, stroll through this Regency costume Hall of Fame and Shame.”

Kristine Doiel is a costume designer and theater educator with over 50 theater and dance productions to her credit. A lecturer at Fresno State since 2017, she has taught costume and theater classes and mentored student designers. Awards include the UC Davis Provost’s Fellowship in Arts, the Princess Grace Foundation Theater Grant and a Dramalogue Award for costume design for The Rivals in Santa Barbara.

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

Picture by Arnold Chavez

So Doiel started off the workshop talking about her background; moved onto the judging of the film depictions, finished with her experiences in costuming the Mansfield Park Opera, and concluded with a Q&A.

Part I: Doiel’s Background

Doiel shared that didn’t have a background in Regency wear, and had to do research on it-being an archeologist, literary analyst, and art historian all in one. I enjoyed this aspect of her talk as you don’t really think about that when watching a film or performance, that not only do the clothes have to be accurate-but they have to reflect the action of the scene, the context of the characters, and the literature of the piece.

That’s a lot

It reminded me of when I studied art history and how you looked at the art and what it was saying, but at the same time also looked into what was happening at the time and how that influenced it. There are many layers you have to work through-such as a self portrait of an artist wearing red, blue, and white takes on a different meaning when it was created post-French revolution, such as to show liberty, fraternity, that is one of the new citizens, etc.

Part II: Gowns & Groans

The next part of the discussion was Doiel reviewing the clothing choices in Mansfield Park (1999), Mansfield Park (2007), and Pride and Prejudice (1940).

So to start with, I do not like Mainsfield Park (1999). 

Not for me..

Eventually I will review it, but as for now-we will get back to the clothes.

Gowns:

Doiel felt that quite a bit of the costumes in here were accurate. Lady Bertram wore flimsy, lacy gowns that looked like something the wealthy class would wear, but older-late 1700s and post-French Revolution. It fits as Lady Bertram wouldn’t be at the height of fashion, but wearing something more her time. Maria, Julia, and the men were all accurate.

Groans:

So here is the good part, let’s start talking trash! J/K, Doiel was very kind in her remarks, trying to not be too judgmental and try to reason why a certain outfit would have been picked.

The first offender: Fanny Price played by Frances O’Conner

So in this Fanny wears a lot of what looks like a jumper or vest over a shirt. This is not accurate at all. Instead the film, which is one reason why I can’t stand it, doesn’t follow the book at all when it comes to Fanny’s character. Instead, they turn Fanny into Jane Austen, and emphasize the writing aspect, dressing her in this more masculine, “writing type” outfit. I call it a “writing type” outfit as when I saw this the first time it made me think of Jo in the 1933 version and she was a writer. It also is similar to what Jo wears in the 2019 version of Little Women.

The other offender: Mary Crawford.

All of Mary’s clothes were too contemporary. I mean look at the dress above, it is something that we were wearing at the start of the millennium, rather than 185 years earlier. remember wearing sleeves like that on my clothes.

She also has an outfit with a giant collar, that is just what? Doiel pointed out that the person in charge of wardrobe would have the resources and done the research on what was accurate and somebody (whether them, the studio, actor, or the director) picked this for a purpose. Doiel didn’t know why, but guessed that either the director or actor wanted something more modern to relate to audiences.

Mary’s outfits definitely were the worst.

So Mansfield Park (2007) is not the most accurate of films, as they cut a lot out to keep it at standard movie time length-however I am apparently one of the few that actually enjoys it.

Gowns: 

She didn’t talk about any she liked as it was time to move onto the next section.

Groans:

The offender here was Billie Piper as Fanny Price.

So Doil noticed that Piper wore a wide range of styles and thought maybe it was so varied as the production wanted her to be wearing hand-me-down gowns. There is a diamond dress that she wears that is completely inaccurate to the time period. Also her hair is one hundred percent wrong, as it is too modern, and she would have had it pinned up as she isn’t a young child. I think that is an interesting comment in light of the Emma Vogue photo shoot. 

The other outfit that Doiel pointed out as wrong was the white wedding dress Fanny wears at the end of the film. White wedding dresses only became popular after Queen Victoria, prior to that they were colored dresses. I disagreed with this as I thought the white dress was more a comment on Fanny’s innocence, sweetness, and morality versus being white to be in with what is in fashion today. I mean, after all this takes place after an affair, a love proved false, and all the manipulations by the Crawfords. Plus, it is a foil to Maria’s dress who had opulence (check out that hat) and color, Fanny’s being plain not because of what she was forced to wear (as I am sure Sir Thomas would have bought her a different dress), but a testament to her character. But that’s just my thoughts…

The last one we looked at was Pride and Prejudice (1940) a film I love, but apparently a lot do not.

Gowns:

Nothing was accurate.

Groans:

The film was set in the 1830s instead of the Regency period and no one quite knows why. Some say it was because Gone With the Wind was so popular and they wanted to use costumes like that. Others say it was because the Regency gowns seemed too plain. Others believe it was more cost effective to use these gowns than create new ones. Doiel thought that they might have picked such extravagant costumes as England was having to o with sparse materials, “mend and make do” as the slogan goes, and seeing such fun fabric and opulence would raise spirits. I don’t know if we will ever know…

Hmmm

Doiel said that she felt that this style works for Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia as it is extravagant, frivolous, oversized, and fits their characters.

However, with Elizabeth, it works against her.

*Sigh* Laurence Olivier looks great, but he is wearing pants instead of breeches (as are the other men (see below on the view of pants) and Colonel Fitzwilliam wears a kilt (?).

That’s where we ended, although I wished they had discussed Mansfield Park (1983) as that one has some doozies in choices. I mean look at their hair.

From left to right: Edmund Bertram, Mary Crawford, and Mr. Yates

Part III: Costuming Mansfield Park, the Opera

So Doiel said that when costuming something that takes place in the past, buying the right type of fabric can be a problem. You need something that looks right on stage, fits together as a whole (in color and style), and needs to be accurate as to something they would wear.

Doiel did say that she was fortunate in this Opera to be able to reuse costumes from an earlier production, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley that had been done in December 2019.

She brought swatches in of the different fabrics for each characters costumes, and me and my group really liked that. We all enjoyed the closeup look and when we watched the performance later in the day, looked at the costumes and remembered what we had seen earlier in the workshop. We also loved that her mom, who helped her sew and cut things out, was there. It was so sweet how she helped hand out the swatches and supported her. I had tried to take a picture of the one for Fanny, but the people in my row wanted me to pass it along and the pic came out blurry.

But Lynne Marcus, one of the organizers from Modesto Jane Con, sent me a pic a friend of hers took.

Doiel’s favorite dress of the production was the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got.

She also loved the Navy suit that Edmund wears as she made it.

Part IV: Q & A

Doiel ended the session by answering questions and talking about Regency wear. Breeches were standard menswear. Pants, or pantaloons as they were called, were not to be worn by the upperclass. They were said to cause a scandal because they showed everything too well-even though in reality breeches showed more. But you know how I feel about that!

This should say breeches instead of pants, but I didn’t write this so it gets a pass. It was an instagram answer from a question I asked my followers.

She said that pants were worn only by the lower class workers, so wearing them was seen as trashy.

Someone asked about the muslin we have today versus then, and she said it is different. The muslin sold in stores today is mostly white and work wear, instead of dress wear. Back in the Regency period it would be block printed, decorated, different colors, and came from India. The muslin was semi-sheer and lightweight, like cotton. Of course whenever I think of Muslin I think of:

India greatly influenced what people wore-in colors, patterns, and of course ladies adopting the use of a pashmina. I had noticed that when I was trying to find something to wear to Jane Con.

From Emma (1996)

Women and men always wore gloves when going out of the house. Doiel mentioned how they weren’t doing that in the Opera as it was too difficult with all the clothing changes. That means that that hand clench scene in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice never should have happened as both Darcy and Elizabeth should have been wearing gloves.

One woman asked about lace, and lace was very in fashion. It came from India or France (probably not as much from France at this time as England and France had been fighting) and was used on hemlines and sleeves.

My book club + sister really enjoyed this discussion. We wished that Doiel had judged the costumes a bit more, (as who doesn’t like a good rip ?), but understood that she was trying to be fair.

We loved that she stayed on topic-discussing only the clothes instead of the actual films. We would have liked to hear her thoughts on more films or more on costuming the show, but understood we only had an hour and had to be a bit limited to have enough time to cover everything.

DeSchane did a great job moderating the workshop, with her interesting questions and keeping an eye on how much time we had.

We loved it and learned a lot. In fact, later we watched the 1983 Mansfield Park and discussed what we learned in this when we looked at the costumes.

This workshop.

For more on Regency clothes, go to Muslin: The Fabric of Jane’s Life

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more on Jane Austen, go to Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen