Jane Austen's Persuasion: A New Musical Drama

Though Jane Austen is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most prominent literary names, Persuasion is perhaps her least widely read work. It tells of Anne Elliot, her history of broken love and her hopes of reconciliation with Captain Wentworth. One of the most striking observations for Austen fans (in a festival featuring further spin-offs and adaptations of the writer’s novels) is Barbara Landis’ commitment to retaining much original dialogue which is complemented superbly by Austen’s favourite music and luxurious costumes.

There is perfect synchronicity between the cast and the impressive chamber orchestra

From the outset we revel in the childish overindulgences of John B. Boss’s Sir Walter Elliot who steals the opening with his boundless energy and expression. In this number, the musical credentials of the company are confirmed as there is perfect synchronicity between the cast and the impressive chamber orchestra – the virtuosity of the musicians from time to time showcased during quieter onstage moments. The dexterity of pianist Anatoliy Torchinskiy is particularly apparent during his rendition of Haydn’s Piano Sonata in D Major.

There are a great many highlights to this performance – not least the rousing sailor songs which demonstrate the vocal talents of the entire company and treat us to Irish tap routines of the highest order. Particular mention should go to Anne Marie Lewis for her constantly reacting and vibrant Mary, to Kristin Johnston and Sarah Kropski for their endearingly giggly and flirtatious Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, and to Simon Kyung Lee for a couple of simply sumptuous song-bursts.

As with the novel, the ultimate success of the piece relies upon our investment with the character of Anne and on our concerns for her eventual happiness. In this area, unfortunately, tonight’s performance faltered. The character lacked the delicacy and selflessness which a reading of the novel suggests. She lacked the vulnerability of a young woman who is still essentially mothered and nurtured by Lady Russell and all too often there was little real distinction between the twenty-seven year old Anne and the forty-one year old Austen who formed the second half of this dual role. Of course, artistic interpretation is to be welcomed, but it may be hoped that the character is softened during the run in order to add more emotional connection to the technical and aesthetic excellence of the production. 

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Performances

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The Blurb

A new musical adaptation of one of Jane Austen's most admired novels. Featuring music from Austen's manuscripts and the era, fully staged with chamber orchestra, Regency costumes, and world-champion Irish dancers! ‘No "persuasion" needed to see this treat for the eyes and ears ... astounding!’ (Isle of Wight County Press). ‘Flashes of humour, great dancing, a small but perfect orchestra, clever scene changes with very well done projections, and the cast of over 30 all playing their roles to perfection … one of the best evening’s entertainment I’ve had’ (Bury Free Press).

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