Just think about Jane's novel: repressed passion! soaring emotions! should you listen to your head or to your heart? Mr Haddow thinks the story is just right for a musical.
We were both highly skeptical of a musical adaptation of Jane's novel; however, we ended up being wowed. It was great. And it was instructive to learn more about how literature is adapted to the musical genre.
The book and lyrics are written by Jeffrey Haddow. We met him, and he is a classic Eleanor type of great sense. Music is by Neal Hampton--the classic Mary Ann type of sensibility. The director is Marcia Milgrom Dodge who's last Broadway production was the new Ragtime. Costumes are by E. Sosa who just did the revival of Porgy & Bess.
The writer, Jeffrey Haddow, says a musical can't repeat Jane's humor because the stage musical doesn't do irony very well. He says musicals are about emotions. Just think about Jane's novel: repressed passion! soaring emotions! should you listen to your head or to your heart? Mr Haddow thinks the story is just right for a musical.
It's interesting to see some of the specific ways a musical adaptation changes Jane's novel:
- The opening 60 pages of the novel is condensed to a 5 minute exposition by opening the musical with an expository solo by Mrs. Jennings.
- Lucy Steel is a shop girl. And she has the show-stopper number--"With Me By Your Side."
- The Margaret character is dropped altogether.
- Lots of dialog is cut and replaced with more inner soliloquies, i.e. solos.
- Mrs. Jennings and Sir John Middleton end up as a couple.
What was the music like? A little bit of James Taylor, some Jazz, and certainly Stravinsky.
The set is a minimalist scenic design to accommodate a great number of different scenes. It has a 3-quarter thrust stage with 4 elevators. The dancers and chorus have to be extremely careful not to fall into an elevator pit, as one did during a dress rehearsal, when all 4 are open at the same time.
Yes, there's a chorus. It's a group of society people serving much the same purpose that a chorus did in ancient Greek theatre. It's the engine that helps move the story along. Milgrom Dodge, the director, sees the chorus as the 1800s equivalent of today's twitterers on their smart devices. "No, we're not pulling out cell phones. Certainly we're not doing anything anachronistic in that way, but in terms of the emotional presence that this chorus has in the piece, we want an audience to say, 'Oh, my gosh, these people are just like twitterers.' You know what I mean. They have that kind of nosy behavior, that sense of never-ending gossip, that need-to-know-everything that goes on today."
In the program notes, director Milgrom Dodge reminds us that Sense and Sensibility The Musical is not Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. She continues, "In this production the goal is to present a beautifully rendered period piece, in that we're setting it in its own time. But we are not afraid to add some modern sensibilities."