For those of you who have never heard of this show, it is loosely based on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, with Music by Joshua Saltzman and Book and Lyrics by Ryan Cunningham. It was first produced off-Broadway in 2006 and the first UK production was in 2007. So much for its history.
The show itself is, quite simply, wonderful, with a simple but engaging story-line and beautiful songs, and it deserves to be seen and experienced by a far wider audience than it probably has been in the past. Here, SUSU have handled it with skill, energy and creativity, and are fortunate to have six such supremely talented actors to call on to handle this tricky score with such confidence and ability. It was a bold choice of show for many reasons and one that has paid off handsomely.
A packed and supportive audience watched as the simple story of two New York couples unfolds; meeting, falling in love, falling out of love and finally falling in love again, ultimately realising that they love each other ‘because’ of who they are.
As Austin, the geeky writer of predictable verses in greeting cards, Will Fieldhouse set the opening scene (‘Another Saturday Night In New York’) along with the standard of what was to follow over the next two hours: impressive singing, acting and inventive choreography, along with believable and genuinely funny characterisation. Will’s self-effacing charm was his greatest asset and we were caught up in the twists and turns of his blossoming affair with Harriet Victoria’s Marcy, in the depths of despair after her break-up with her boyfriend. Harriet’s wonderful voice served her perfectly for perhaps the evening’s two best numbers, ‘Just Not Now’ and ‘Even Though’, both of which deserve to become classics in their own right.
As Austin’s brother Jeff, Kenny Adegbola provided much of the evening’s comic business, but matched his fellow actors in the singing stakes, particularly in his duet ‘We’re Just Friends’ with his girlfriend Diana, slickly played by Antigone Robertson, whose clever ‘Actuary Song’ outlined in some detail the rules for dating, all mathematically calculated. Kenny and Diana’s attempt to ‘get it together’, resulting in Jeff injuring his back and having to go to hospital, was just one of the many well-worked pieces of the show’s comic business.
A big mention, too, for the show’s two other performers: Alex Wareham and Imy Brighty-Potts as a succession of bartenders, baristas, cocktail waitresses and passers-by. Alex’s turn as a disgruntled Chinese waiter brought the house down, and both actors not only joined in the ensemble numbers to great effect, but got their own chance to shine musically with the number ‘Why Do We Do It?’
The 7-piece band, led by MD Molly Ellis, was excellent and Amy Springett’s choreography was spot on throughout. The whole show, in the clearly very capable hands of Director Maciek Shasha, was a delight from start to finish, and if any reader is in two minds about going, I would just say “GO SEE IT!!”