March 28, 2020

Emma: Jane Austen musical at Chicago Shakespeare

It came as no surprise that the audience was predominantly women at last night’s performance of Emma, a musical currently playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. More’s the pity since this was full of smart dialogue and lyrics, fine acting and extremely high production values.

Lora Lee Gayer is superb as the opinionated and meddlesome Emma Woodhouse. Brad Standley as the upstanding and slightly repressed Mr. Knightley goes toe to toe with her. Their exchanges are reminiscent of the screwball film comedies of the 1930s. All of the cast members, a mix of local and out-of-town talent, turn in entertaining acting and vocal performances.

Paul Gordon is the mastermind behind this lovely musical having written the book, lyrics, music and contributed to the orchestrations. The marvelous direction is by CST artistic director Barbara Gaines.

There is a diaphanous quality to the scenic design with gauzy drapes, romantic lighting and sliding minimal sets. There is not much choreography but the ball scene absolutely delights. The pit ensemble is small but mighty with violin and cello, plus a tasteful electric keyboard and a reed person adding various colors.

This makes for an absolutely charming outing to the theater. You only have until March 15 to catch Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Emma. Limited tickets have been available at Hot Tix and Goldstar but paying full price would be worth every penny. Hey men, Jane Austen lives! Deal with it.

NAVY PIER, 800 EAST GRAND AVE, CHICAGO, IL 60611

www.chicagoshakes.com

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