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Emma - Original Soundstage Recording

by Steven Bergman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Feb 11, 2019
Emma - Original Soundstage Recording

The famed novel "Emma," by Jane Austen, has now been musicalized for the stage by the writer / composer Paul Gordon, whose previous works include the musical, "Daddy Long Legs," and the adaptation of another Austen story, "Sense and Sensibility." However, in an intriguing twist, Gordon has reset the 1811 work from its original time period, to the year 1961, giving Emma Woodhouse a more modern perspective while still allowing Austen's words and characters to shine through.

Beyond that, he has left the majority of the dialogue intact, and delivered a enjoyable, easy-going version of the tale, which is now available on CD (from Broadway Records), and on DVD/Blu-ray. In a new strategy for marketing and promoting the show, the production was recorded live (without an audience) at the Westside Theatre in Manhattan, with the hopes of bringing the show to a larger audience at a more affordable cost via streaming and digital downloads.

A six-piece chamber group, led by Gordon and conductor/keyboardist Brad Haak, accompany the cast of twelve through Emma's adventures, still set in the English town of Highbury, where the high-class come and go on a whim between London and the countryside in search of love and self-fulfillment. As Emma, Kelli Barrett (from the recent, "Gettin' the Band Back Together") comes across as a slightly misguided version of Mary Poppins, always involved in the affairs of those in her "circle," but not nearly as successful in the results that she has predetermined. Furthermore, Emma doesn't have the benefit of any "magic," and in the end, finds the tables turned on her goals of finding suitable, class-appropriate mates for the people of Highbury, including her friend Harriet Smith (Dani Marcus), who Emma believes needs someone of much greater status than the gentleman who Harriet truly pines for, Mr. Robert Martin (Adam Daveline).

Gordon's music is unassuming and consonant, and he let's the vocalists control the melodies and emotions of the score. Even though with the exception of Barrett, it is difficult at times to discern which characters are performing, as the majority of them are singing about their thoughts on relationships, and are performed with the affected British accents commonplace for the culture being depicted, without the benefit of the program book (or a thorough knowledge of the story). However, this doesn't detract from the ability to listen to the score, or lessen its pleasantness.

"Emma" (Original Soundstage Recording)
CD and digital formats

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.


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