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.