REVIEW: Emma at Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle


FCC Disclaimer: Your AustenBlog Reviewer bought her own tickets, but there was a premiere party after the show with a buffet, so she must confess to eating one of their brownies.

Book-It Repertory Theatre has hit another one out of the ballpark with this season’s adaptation of Emma.  Lovely costumes, period-appropriate dancing and music, creative use of the theater-in-the-round space, and an energetic pace with plenty of humor make Emma a worthy follow-up to last season’s equally excellent Persuasion.

As with Persuasion, Emma‘s script is a blend of narration (the characters sometimes speak of themselves in the third person) and dialogue, which allows nearly all of Jane Austen’s clever, sparkling gems to be on display.  Your favorite passages from Emma will most likely make an appearance; listen for them and enjoy.

The cast is a delight.  Emma, Jane Fairfax, and Frank Churchill all have lovely singing voices, so their duets are a special treat.  (If you’ve ever wanted to hear “Robin Adair”, this is your chance.)  Ample comic relief is provided by Mr. Woodhouse, Mrs. and Miss Bates, and the Eltons, but Harriet Smith is the standout in this category.  Fans of the over-the-top Harriet as seen in the 1996 Miramax film will especially get a kick out of this boisterous take on Emma’s protegee. (My husband’s ears are still ringing from the entrance she made from behind our seats, but even so, she was one of his favorite characters.)  My favorite comic scene was Mr. Elton’s proposal:  a dance in the close quarters of an imagined carriage as Mr. Elton ardently pursues the shocked and appalled Emma.  All the couples did a fine job of developing their own chemistry, showing the variety of relationships Jane Austen portrayed in the novel.

Both the leads were spot-on:  Emma was the perfect blend of adorable and annoying, and Mr. Knightley was an equally pleasing mix of snarky, stern, and swoon-worthy.  (Hopefully Team Tilney can forgive us for a brief visit to the camp of Team Knightley.)

Jane Austen introduced Emma Woodhouse as “handsome, clever, and rich” and this adaptation fits the same description.  While we wait for the BBC miniseries to be shown across the pond, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Highbury right now underneath the Space Needle.

Emma can be seen at the Book-It Repertory Theatre at Seattle Center, Seattle, Washington through November 22.

8 thoughts on “REVIEW: Emma at Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle

  1. Heather,

    Delicious! is a pity not having this kind of show here, in Brazil… and with brownies at the end! I could not identify Mr. Knightley on the video…


  2. Unfortunately Fancypants Frank Churchill (who is my new favorite Frank, more than any of the film versions) gets much more screen time in this video clip than blink-and-you-miss-him Mr. Knightley. You can see Mr. Knightley right at the beginning, about four seconds in, speaking with Mr. Woodhouse.


  3. Joelle

    I saw their version of Persuasion a while back and absolutely loved it! This style of theater is perfect for adapting Jane Austen and the performances were first rate. In fact, I loved the Book-It Persuasion more so than any movie adaptation of the story so far. I’m hopeful Emma will be the same and I’m already scrambling for my calendar to see if I can make it to a performance.


  4. Rarely do I regret being an east coaster but how I wish I was able to see this! Do you know who wrote the screen play and if it’s available anywhere for purchase?


  5. Joelle – I saw Persuasion last season too (I could only get tickets for the last show, so there wasn’t time to review it) and loved it, so my expectations were very high for Emma … and I wasn’t disappointed. Even my husband, who is more of a tolerant good sport about the whole Jane Austen thing, would happily see it again.

    Alexa – The scriptwriter is Rachel Atkins and the director is Marcus Goodwin. I don’t know about the Emma script availability, but Book-It’s other recent JA play, Persuasion, is currently touring nationally and is available for booking. The left-hand column on Book-It’s web site (linked in my review) has a Persuasion link with contact information. I hope that if Emma is as successful as Persuasion was, it would go on tour as well.


  6. Jenniferlayne

    Mr Knightley is seen here warming his hands over the fire with Emma’s father – and leading the procession to the strawberries – and yes – I wish all Jane fans could see this production – very Jane !


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