It’s not easy to review something as innovative as Pride and Prejudice the Musical. Would Jane Austen be turning in her grave? Maybe a little uneasy at her classic tale of love being set to music.
Jane Austen was witty and delicate with her writing and her novel has been produced on stage, screen and television but to my knowledge, never with specially written lyrics and music. Does it work? I think it does as long as you don’t go expecting the classic and are prepared to accept a sort of pop version of the famous love story. But be warned, it’s a long evening, curtain up 7.45 p.m. curtain down 11.05 p.m. with one interval. The opinion was – too long.
In the beginning the cast rushed their lines and it was a bit garbled but we, and they, settled. The sound wasn’t great at times, too harsh and the piano too loud. There were some outstanding parts well played by Gerard McCabe as Mr. Collins, Ben Sleep as Mr. Bennet and a Hyacinth Bouquet performance from Christina Nelson as Mrs. Bennet. Her five unmarried daughters were a worry to her so she wanted more than anything to find them husbands, certainly the actresses who played the girls were beautiful and accomplished and the men who came to call handsome and all good singers.
The story highlights the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet (Hazel Gardner) and Mr. Darcy (Neil McDermott). He is attracted to her the first time he sees her but she’s beneath him, he liked her against his will, he tells her, and against his reason.
By the Second Act, love grew between various young men callers and the Misses Bennet much to their mothers delight and here Christina Nelson proves she is a born comedian.
But it was Lizzy and Mr. Darcy the audience were interested in. Would he overcome his high class upbringing and allow himself to even hold his Lizzy’s hand? It was painfully slow but eventually, to a roar of approval from the audience, he took her in his arms and gave her one of the longest kisses I’ve seen on stage!
A sophisticated set with pillars and portraits dropped in from above to establish whose grand house we were in, excellent costumes, composer Mark Dougherty also played the grand piano with Wilson Shields on keyboards. And it all came together thanks to Richard Croxford who turned the book into a musical, wrote the lyrics for 21 songs and directed this very unusual offering with great skill.
Review by ANNE HAILES
Check out this video by RadioVideo Belfast recorded with Neil McDermott (Mr Darcy) on the banks of the Lagan.
Pic credit: Marcin Lewandowski
L to R: Hazel Gardner as Lizzy Bennett, Matt Blaker as Mr Bingley, Neil McDermott as Mr Darcy and Colette Lennon as Kitty.