The Denver Center Theatre Company has assembled a stellar group of Broadway performers to bring Jane Austen's beloved romance to life in SENSE & SENSIBILITY THE MUSICAL, with book and lyrics by Jeffrey Haddow and music by Neal Hampton. It will receive its world premiere production April 5. Many thanks to its director and choreographer, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, for accepting to answer some questions about her work, Jane Austen and Sense & Sensibility.
- Your Sense & Sensibility The Musical will receive its world premiere production soon, on April 5th. Does it take more sense or more sensibility to bring such a beloved novel to life on stage?
|(picture courtesy of Marcia Milgrom Dodge)|
- How different is Sense and Sensibility from anything you’ve worked on so far?
- It’s the most romantic show I’ve ever worked on.
- You’ve assembled a stellar group of Broadway performers for this grand musical. Can you tell us something about them ?
- Sure. Our sisters will be played by two exciting young leading ladies: Stephanie Rothenberg (Elinor) and Mary Michael Patterson (Marianne) who bring such beauty and vitality to these roles. Our trio of suitors: Nick Verine (Edward), Jeremiah James (Willoughby) and Robert Petkoff (Col. Brandon) are all handsome leading men with enormous charisma and depth of feeling. Mrs. Jennings and Sir John are played by Ruth Gorttschall and Ed Dixon, two of the livliest Broadway performers who last appeared together on Broadway in Mary Poppins. And rounding out the company are the versatile Joanna Glushak (Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars), the saucy Stacie Bono (Lucy), the hilarious Liz Pearce & Andrew Kober (Fanny & John Dashwood), Daniella Dalli, Preston Dyar, Kate Fisher, Jessica Hershberg, Steven Strafford, Josh Walden and Jason Watson who play Society People, Servants, Country Gentry and (with a few surprises) everyone in between!
- The story focuses on the two heroines and their love predicaments. Elinor and Marianne, sense and sensibility. Their sisterly bond goes beyond their differences and at the end of the journey, they look more one like the other. One acquires more sense and loses part of her impulsiveness, the other lets her heart start to rule over her head. Who of the two sisters can you sympathize with more?
- Hmmm. That’s a tough one. My heart goes out to Elinor for her inability to show her emotions. But Marianne pays a great price for her wild abandon. As one of four sisters (including a Marianne!) there was a great amount of balancing of both sides in our house.
- And now the gentlemen: Edward Ferrars, John Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. They form an interesting gallery of fascinating male characters, each of them with his own peculiarities. Which feature/s in their personalities did you decide to highlight in your adaptation?
- We've tried to make Edward's awkwardness understandable and attractive. His inability to express his emotions resonates with the equally repressed Elinor, and when they're both free to open up, the liberation should be tremendously satisfying to them and to the audience. We have also tried to make Brandon's selfless love for Marianne and his unswerving loyalty ultimately more sexy than Willoughby's glitter and dash. At the end of our show, we don't want anyone in the audience thinking for a minute that either sister has "settled" for anything. On the contrary, they should leave exhilarated that the right hearts have finally been united.
I have confessed more than once that I’ve got a crush on Willoughby and I’d rather elope with him, hoping to rescue his damaged soul and to succeed in changing his libertine nature, than marry loyal, faithful (boring?) Edward or Brandon. Who of the three would you choose instead?
- I think it would be difficult to choose and actually must stay mum on this so as not to play favorites with my actors who play the roles!
- As a director, what is the most challenging aspect in staging a musical version of a widely popular classic?
- I want to please the Jane Austen fans, but at the same time I want to create fans for the musical. Not everyone who will attend the production is a Jane Austen reader. My job is to make the show stand on its own terms as a beautiful piece of theatre.
- What is the achievement you are most proud of in this production?
- The opportunity that The Denver Center Theatre is giving to the production; to allow me to assemble the best creative team and acting company possible for this production. And my collaboration with the authors. There is great trust among us and that is extremely special.
- The aspect you are most worried about?
- Not a thing!
- Will Janeites find great changes from their beloved original text?
- They will find a few changes made that primarily help move the story along and allow for deeper character development on a few key people.
- Music and dance were two things Jane Austen deeply loved. Do you think she would be proud of watching her characters sing and dance and brought to life on stage?
- Oh yes! Neal Hampton’s music feels rooted in the period but has contemprary harmonies that make the characters emotional lives feel relevant and immediate. And I’ve done exhaustive research on the dances of the Regency period. I think Jane Austen will appreciate that attention to detail coupled with my own particular choreographic impulses.
- Jane Austen novels like S & S or P&P were published 200 years ago. What is the great appeal they still go on having on modern audiences?
- Romance. Romance. Romance.
- Why should Janeites come to see Sense & Sensibility The Musical? And B. why should Austen newbies come?
- “Janeites” should come to Sense & Sensibility The Musical to see and hear their favorite characters sing their hearts out in a highly original musical theatre adaptation of the beloved novel. “Austen Newbies” should come to Sense & Sensibility The Musical for the most romantic musical theatre experience of their lives!
More about our guest
After working in regional theatre, off-Broadway and elsewhere for thirty years, Marcia Milgrom Dodge directed and choreographed her first Broadway production, a revival of Ragtime in 2009. The production received 7 Tony Award Nominations including one for Dodge for Best Director of a Musical. Her Kennedy Center production of Ragtime received four 2010 Helen Hayes Awards including one for her for Best Director, Resident Musical.