Thursday, March 17, 2022

TheatreWorks triumphs with 'Sense and Sensibility' as musical

Sharon Rietkerk (left), Antoinette Comer  and Lucinda Hitchcock Cone. (Kevin Berne photo)

Two sisters left bereft by the death of their father in 1815 must fend for themselves in the musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in its regional premiere.

With book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, this adaptation often allows the characters to sing their private thoughts and emotions.

But one character who has no problem being open with her emotions is Marianne,  (Antoinette Comer), the younger of the Dashwood sisters and the “sensibility” of the title.

Her sister, Elinor (Sharon Rietkerk), is more reserved and proper, the “sense.”

After their brother, John (Nick Nakashima), and his greedy wife, Fanny (Melissa WolfKlain), leave the sisters with no home or money, a cousin, Lord Middleton (Colin Thomson), and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone), kindly offer them the use of a cottage in the country.

There they meet Edward Ferrars (Darrell Morris Jr.), who takes an immediate liking to Elinor, but he’s too shy and tongue-tied to let her know.

For her part, Marianne falls hard (literally) for the dashing Mr. Willoughby (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), while a neighbor, Colonel Brandon (Noel Anthony), is smitten by her, too.

As the story unfolds, misunderstandings arise and secrets are revealed, but somehow everything turns out for the best.

This production marks another triumph for its director, Robert Kelley, TheatreWorks’ recently retired founder and artistic director.

It starts with the superb cast anchored by the stately, dignified stage presence of Rietkerk as Elinor.

Comer as Marianne is more open and impulsive, yet the loving bond between the sisters in unshakeable.

The three principal men – Morris as Edward, Anthony as Colonel Brandon and Herdlicka as Willoughby – are well suited to their differing roles.

Comic relief comes from Thomson as Lord Middleton and Cone as Mrs. Jennings, who’s both good-hearted and gossipy. When they made their first entrance, I fully expected them to break into “Master of the House” from “Les Miserables.”

Everyone in the cast sings and blends well, accompanied by the four-member orchestra that includes musical director William Liberatore on piano.

Augmented by a few set pieces, Joe Ragey’s scenic design relies primarily on period landscape paintings projected in a gilded oval frame.

When it comes to design elements, though, Fumiko Bielefeldt’s elegant costumes are the clear stars.

Lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt and sound by Jeff Mockus complement the effects.

Running about two and a half hours with an intermission, this not-to-be-missed  “Sense and Sensibility” continues through April 3 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (877) 662-8978 or visit

The show also will be video streamed with details to be announced.