In Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy was hampered by his pride while Elizabeth Bennet had to overcome her prejudices. Now in a special staged reading at Houston's Main Street Theater, the couple's struggles to find each other and their true selves will have an added dimension: music. Main Street Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden will direct the adaptation by Jon Jory with an original score by Peter Eckstrom.
Jory, who spent 32 years as the producing director at Actors Theatre of Louisville and conceived the world-recognized Humana Festival of New American Plays, has long been a fan of Jane Austen's works, although he says he didn't read her for the first time until he was in his 30s, at the urging of his wife who “reads an enormous amount of 18th and 19th century literature.” He was entranced.
“She was an extraordinary writer; she was probably the Dostoyevsky of romantic writers. And because her books are dialogue heavy she does adapt very well to the stage.”
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Jory has written several adaptations of Austen's best known works, including Pride and Prejudice, but this is a first time for him to work on a musical version. “It's a lyric romance. Sort of the old-fashioned idea that when emotion becomes too much for you, you sing. Jane Austen is filled with emotion, much of it repressed emotion and it seemed to us like a good possibility for musical adaptation.”
The connection to Main Street came through Eckstrom, Jory said, and they approached the theater for what will turn out to be the musical's first staged reason. Jory says it will also be the first time he's heard the songs sung by someone other than Eckstrom. Amy Garner Buchanan (Peace in Our Time, Into the Woods) will play Elizabeth and Taylor Alan will play Darcy.
Jory predicts there's a large audience for Pride and Prejudice. “There are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of Jane Austen societies in America. Having seen those adaptations performed for almost a decade, they almost invariably have attractied large, attentive and delighted audiences.”
The two performances of Pride and Prejudice are scheduled for July 18 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose Boulevard. For information call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $10.