|Mr. Darcy (Justin Mortelliti) and Elizabeth Bennet (Mary Mattison) converse while dancing.|
Despite the limitations imposed by her social class and societal norms of the times, Elizabeth Bennet has an independent streak.
She makes that point early in Paul Gordon’s musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” when she sings “Headstrong.”
In its world premiere by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, “Pride and Prejudice” features Mary Mattison as Elizabeth, or Lizzie, the second-oldest of five daughters.
Because of English inheritance laws in the early 19th century, she will have no claim to her father’s home and land after his death. Therefore, her best hope for a secure future is to marry a wealthy man.
But not just any man. That’s why she rejects the proposal of the obnoxious, self-important Mr. Collins (Brian Herndon), a distant cousin and closest male heir.
The heart of the story, though, is her seesaw relationship with the aloof Mr. Darcy (Justin Mortelliti).
|Jane Bennet (Sharon Rietkerk) and Mr. Bingley (Travis Leland) also enjoy the dance.|
A subplot involves another seesaw relationship, this one between her older sister, Jane (Sharon Rietkerk), and the tongue-tied Mr. Bingley (Travis Leland).
Gordon, who wrote the show’s music, lyrics and book, does a good job of conveying the characters’ emotions and propelling the plot through his tuneful songs in a variety of musical styles. Music director William Liberatore conducts the singers and six-piece band.
Director Robert Kelley, the company’s artistic director, has perfectly cast the large ensemble.
|Mrs. Bennet (Heather Orth, center) reads a letter from Jane to her other daughters, from left: Mary (Melissa WolfKlain), Lizzie (Mary Mattison), Kitty (Chanel Tilghman) and Lydia (Tara Kostmayer).|
Besides the principals already named, some of the standouts are Heather Orth as Mrs. Bennet, Lizzie and Jane’s doting, dithering mother; and Christopher Vettel as their droll, patient father, Mr. Bennet.
Lucinda Hitchcock Cone has some brief but memorable scenes as she commands the stage as the rich, imperious Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
|Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone) demands "Her Ladyship's Praise."|
The show also has numerous humorous moments, especially when Lizzie stands up to Lady De Bourgh late in the second act.
Joe Ragey’s bucolic set, with its scenic projections, immediately draws the audience into the action, which then flows seamlessly despite changes in locale.
Also establishing the time and place are Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costumes along with Pamila Z. Gray’s lighting, Brendan Aanes’ sound and Dottie Lester White’s choreography.
Even though it doesn’t have a holiday theme, “Pride and Prejudice” embodies the holiday spirit with its overall excellence.
TheatreWorks’ 70th world premiere in 50 years, this musical delight went through part of its development process during the company’s annual New Works Festival in 2018.
Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, it will continue through Jan. 4 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.
Photos by Kevin Berne