Or, “what I did for fun over Labor Day weekend.”
Yes, there is a musical version of Emma–and my wife and I both thought it was first rate. It’s not a beat-you-over-the head, huge-cast musical; the cast numbers roughly a dozen and the orchestra all of four. But that works very well here. The book and score are by Paul Gordon, who did the Broadway version of Jane Eyre in 2000. The songs vary from good to showstoppers (the title song, sung by Mr. Knightley, is a stunner)–and they make up the bulk of the two-hour musical. About 70% of the dialogue and lyrics come from the novel.
This is the world premiere of Emma (TheatreWorks has premiered 50 plays and musicals), and the run ends September 16. It’s not clear where it will go from there. TheatreWorks is a fine company (and yes, it’s an Actors Equity company). The acting, direction, musicianship and stagecraft all worked well. We had what should have been awful seats–the furthest left in the third row–but the theaters of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (next door to the library) really don’t have bad sightlines or acoustics, so we were happy.
I won’t go into great detail; you can read the review. Well written, well played, charming, funny, and (I believe) reasonably true to the novel. It wasn’t cheap (TheatreWorks productions never are, particularly not musicals on weekend matinees), but well worth it. [To tell the truth, I have no idea whether it was cheap or not. Two tickets plus handling cost us $136. That strikes me as reasonable for a professional performance, but what do I know?]