Sense and Sensibility
A New Musical
book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon
directed by Barbara Gaines
“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.” ― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
On last Wednesday I had the good fortune to attend a production of a new musical with some friends. The production was by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the musical, based on a two hundred year-old novel, was Sense and Sensibility based on the novel by Jane Austen.
Austen wrote romantic novels and this is one of her best and the first with several to follow. The musical followed the plot closely thus capturing the essence of the novel. The story concerns two sisters: Marianne Dashwood, the young, beautiful, passionate, and unreserved romantic; and her older sister Elinor, prudent, pretty, and proper, with all the restraint of feelings of which Marianne had none. Their father dead, the sisters and their mother were about to be displaced from their childhood home of Norland by their half brother John, and his wife, Fanny. He might have allowed the Dashwood sisters to remain at Norland, if only grudgingly, but his wife was determined to send them packing, especially once Elinor had begun a friendship with her brother Edward. These characters are well-portrayed with music and songs by Paul Gordon (who has also written a musical based on Austen's novel Emma), somewhat reminiscent in tone to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (a bit derivative to my mind, but no matter).
The story continues with their removal to a cottage in Devonshire where Marianne falls in love with a young man named Willoughby. On the other hand she is also pursued by a dashing young officer, Colonel Brandon. The remainder of the story concerns the relationships of the two sisters and how the complexities of love that develop are resolved (if you haven't already, read the novel).
The singers were superb, the staging was delightfully minimalist (a rare treat for a Chicago Shakespeare production), and the direction was brisk and straightforward. In other words, you could not ask for a more entertaining afternoon of musical theater.