Sense and Sensibility

April 8

June 7, 2015

in CST's Courtyard Theater

based on the novel by Jane Austen
book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon
directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim

Highly recommended... a flawless world premiere! Austen’s prose has been so seamlessly expanded into song that it is often difficult to know where language ends and music begins. But that is only one of the many charms of this beguiling new show that bursts with both wit and heart. Developed in collaboration with Rick Boynton, and impeccably cast and directed by Barbara Gaines (who is at the very top of her game here), this musical also serves as further proof that, as with Shakespeare’s plays, there is no need to ‘update’ Austen because the story deals so deftly with such eternal matters as love, loss, money, family relationships and that enigmatic thing we call ‘chemistry.’ Each of Gordon’s two dozen songs is a beauty. Laura Bergquist, the superb music director and pianist who leads an orchestra of 10 from a balcony above the stage, reveals the full allure of Gordon’s score. It is not often that a new musical arrives in such pristine form. Credit the book (both the Austen original and Gordon’s, which is a model of the form), and the music, which adds great heat to Austen’s light. This production could be sent directly to Broadway, or ‘home’ to London, without the least bit of tinkering. ” Read full review

Paul Gordon, who also penned Jane Eyre for Broadway, has a real feeling for Austen and a gentle lyricism that is a deft match for her writing. It will be greatly enjoyed by Austen fans. Thanks to the sparky Megan McGinnis, who plays Marianne and, especially, the poignant and generally excellent Sharon Rietkerk, who plays her more sensible but still-yearning sister, both Gordon’s new musical and Gaines’ production offer a moving musical portrait of two vulnerable Austen women, buffeted by men and fundamentally connected to each other. Watching this show makes you long for a sister—which indicates that these two actresses (and the writer) have focused on the right thing: each other. The show also has a major asset in Sean Allan Krill, who plays Colonel Brandon and really comes off here as an ideal climatic Austen man: decent, honorable, kind, dignified and, ahem, mature. Plenty of new musicals of my recent Broadway acquaintance have cold heroines, disconnected lovers and other such chilly atrocities, so the level of emotion floating around on Navy Pier at this juncture in the development of a new musical actually is quite striking and surely indicative of simpatico direction.”

A winner...Theater audiences can't get enough.”

Nothing less than sublime... it is a match made in musical theater heaven! Before the orchestra plays a note of composer/lyricist Paul Gordon’s exquisite score. Before Sharon Rietkerk and Megan McGinnis delight with their winning performances as the sisters Dashwood. Before a single scene unfolds in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s world premiere of Sense and Sensibility, the musical adapted from Jane Austen’s novel, the audience encounters the simple elegance of Kevin Depinet’s set. It’s dominated by an intriguing, distinctly feminine sculpture that unfurls from the stage to float over it like a ribbon, or a wayward curl escaped from a lady’s coiffure. Commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare, developed with creative producer Rick Boynton’s invaluable assistance and masterfully helmed by Gaines, this entire production is a sublime work of art. Which isn’t that surprising considering its pedigree. Older sister Elinor (the graceful, winningly expressive Sharon Rietkerk) is cautious and reserved, while the younger Marianne—played with endless passion by the very charming Megan McGinnis, co-star of Northlight’s Daddy Long Legs—is fiery, impetuous and outspoken. One of the show’s great joys is the absolute authenticity of their performances, how perfectly the voices of these superb singer/actresses complement each other and how well their delicate singing complements Gordon’s score.” Read full review

I cannot imagine it being done any better. Everything about Chicago Shakespeare’s new musical is rich in detail. Shannon Rietkirk and Megan McGinnis play the sisters Dashwood, and with their strong chemistry and the way their lovely singing voices blend together, it’s easy to believe their bond, as well as to care for each sister individually. The suitors are as dashing as one would expect. Wayne Wilcox is adorably awkward as Elinor’s beloved Edward, and Peter Saide cuts an impressive rug as Mr. Willoughby, the very embodiment of the man of Marianne’s dreams. Yet it’s Sean Allan Krill’s sublime performance as Colonel Brandon, the overlooked and less flashy suitor, who becomes the man to root for. For those for whom Jane Austen isn’t beloved, this production may still appeal. CST’s adaptation trims away a great deal of society comings and goings and minor characters and turns the novel into a chamber musical. This helps keep the focus on the essential characters and what the story is truly about: two sisters, and their love stories, as told through witty dialogue and lovely songs.”

Lovely, just lovey! Want to fall in love this spring? Sense and Sensibility will sweep you off your feet. In a musical with plenty of men to swoon over, McGinnis and Rietkerk’s relationship is the true illustration of unconditional love. Under the masterful direction of Barbara Gaines, the ensemble flirt and zing with equal zest. The old-fashioned ideals are riddled with biting remarks. The comedy comes sophisticatedly wrapped in pretty paper and trimmed in lace. For such a familiar and traditional story, the play is peppered with the unexpected. Gordon’s script balances the formality of the era with an underlying passion. His dialogue is crisp and witty.”

New City
The production lingers like the lightest puff pastry, the buttery richness circumventing even café noisette. All of Jane Austen’s earthy passion, bubbling under societal strictures, is on display. Yet the swirl of Gordon’s unpretentious melodies married to harmonically complex underpinnings renders the affair as impressionistic as a Degas ballerina. Megan McGinnis’ Marianne spits wit and fire, then glows in contrition. Elinor must speak words unattached to her genuine emotions; Sharon Rietkerk’s portrait is the piece’s heart. If there is truth in the rumor that Paula Scrofano is retiring, we must cover the mirrors; she is at the height of her powers yet, her Mrs. Jennings all confounded flutter. Tiffany Scott is a wonderfully horrid Fanny; Scott and Helena Bonham Carter have never been seen in the same room. We loved Emily Berman’s Lucy Steele because we wanted so to slap her. Sean Allan Krill’s Colonel Brandon has only to enter, shouldering answerable grief, to have us all in hand, and by the time he’s finished the ballad, “Lydia,” no one can see the stage through their tears..”

Chicago Stage Standard
This show will go far. All of us Austen fans will savor this retelling, and those new to the author will go along for the very enjoyable ride. Some of us will be going more than once to this dazzling charmer. The heart of this tale is the connection between the two girls, and it is so refreshing to see a story about women making their way in the world, even if it is a tightly constrained world with few choices for our protagonists. It’s a relief to attend a drama where the men are the supporting actors.”

This Chicago gem-of-a-theater and Artistic Director Barbara Gaines have outdone themselves. This musical adaptation of the novel by Jane Austen is perfectly cast with actors that embody the characters' “sensibilities” and bring the new music by Paul Gordon to brilliant life.  An enchantingly funny and striking night of theater, it will give theater-goers a spring in their step as they exit. Director Barbara Gaines and her team earn five stars for bringing a beloved novel to musical life.”

Chicago Theater Review
A must-see musical premiere. Barbara Gaines’ exceptionally well-directed production of Paul Gordon’s latest musical would make Jane Austen proud. An exquisitely expressive score, that’s beautiful all on its own, seamlessly flows from Austen’s own words. With a cast of talented actor/singers breathing life into these characters in a production that’s so honest and visually breathtaking that it must be seen to be appreciated.”

Northwest Indiana Times
A romantic gift to audiences and easy to enjoy. The creative time has blended the perfect music, songs and movement married with intrigue, humor and romance to exceed all expectations. You need not have read the book nor seen the 1995 film to cherish every moment of this warm, inviting and highly entertaining production. Composer Gordon offers a wide array of winning songs that stay with audiences long after the final bows.

The music is incredible and only enhances Jane Austen’s classic story. Every piece is evocative and cinematic. Everyone will find a character to empathize with, whether it’s Brandon’s unrequited love, Elinor’s determined attitude, or even Mrs. Jennings’ love of gossip. Given Jane Austen’s reputation as a subversive and satirical writer, perhaps I should have anticipated the sharp wit and biting barbs thrown about. There is something magical about watching a musical live—Sense & Sensibility delivered.”


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