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‘Sense and Sensibility’ and sameness

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

What could be more enjoyable and beautiful on a summer evening in Balboa Park than seeing “Sense and Sensibility”?

It’s a new musical at the Old Globe, co-produced in association with Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST), where it premiered on Navy Pier last year. It’s based on Jane Austen’s romantic novel, with book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, remembered hereabouts for “Jane Eyre” at La Jolla Playhouse in 1999 and more recently, “Emma” at the Old Globe.

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Megan McGinnis as Marianne Dashwood (left) and Sharon Rietkerk as Elinor Dashwood (Photo by Liz Lauren, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Set by CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines in 1792, the era features Empire-waist gowns, waistcoats and breeches by costumer Susan E. Mickey, a light and airy scenic design by Kevin Depinet (much flying-in of windows and chandeliers), lighting by Donald Holder and sound design by Ray Nardelli — all easy on the eye if not flattering to the bust line. Harrison McEldowney (original production) and Matt Raftery provide choreography.

As envisioned, the vile are villainous; the cads, despicable; the old people, adorably dotty and comedic; the ingénues, beautiful; and the music, tuneful, tonal and bland. Whether solo, duet, trio or beyond, it has a sameness of style and execution quite suitable to the evenly matched company, who are as if cut from the same cloth vocally — the men are high baritones and the women sopranos. I must say, however, that the sisters achieve an admirable blend.

Sean Allan Krill as Colonel Brandon and Paula Scrofano as Mrs. Jennings. (Photo by Liz Lauren, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Sean Allan Krill as Colonel Brandon and Paula Scrofano as Mrs. Jennings.
(Photo by Liz Lauren, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Never mind, too, that romantic poets Shelly and Keats (“So the Poets Say”), whose books are so prized by the “sensibility” sister (Marianne Dashwood, played Megan McGinnis), were born in 1792 and 1795 respectively. At least the company is uniformly attractive, there’s a fine, 10-member union orchestra (led by Music Director Laura Bergquist at the piano) behind the scenes, and 20+ songs, the best of which is “Wrong Side of Five and Thirty.” This, and another titled “Lydia,” are sung by Colonel Brandon (appealing Sean Allan Krill), who considers himself too old to woo Marianne. She falls instead for the dashing Mr. Willoughby (Peter Saide), who is neither as available nor as wealthy as he seems.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 9.20.23 AMThe “sense” sister, two years older than Marianne, is Elinor (Sharon Rietkerk). It’s not that Elinor is cold, she is just controlled, a calm force amid chaos. When her romance with the awkward Edward Ferrars (Wayne Allan Wilcox) appears to creep along, she is patient, and when their half-brother (David Schlumpf) and his greedy wife (Jill Van Velzer), evict the orphaned sisters six months after their father’s death Elinor has the wisdom, fortitude and optimism to see the sisters through a move to Lord Middleton’s (Brian Ray Norris) proffered cottage in the English countryside far from home. He and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, (Paula Scrofano) take the girls to London for the season hoping to find them suitable husbands, something they manage to do on their own, with considerable difficulty owing to Marianne’s infatuation with Willoughby and her intractable nature. Sadly, we lose patience with this situation long before all are suitably paired and Willoughby gets his just desserts.

Others in the company are Emily Berman, Elizabeth Telford and Colin Morgan. Ensemble members are Matthew Keffer, and Megan Long. Swings are Melinda Gilb, James Rank, Connor Sullivan, and Kelsey Venter.

—Charlene Baldridge has been writing about the arts since 1979. Follow her blog at charlenebaldridge.com or reach her at charb81@gmail.com.

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