Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Austen's Pride
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Review by David Edward Hughes

Olivia Hernandez, Steven Good,
and Laura Michelle Kelly

Photo by Tracy Martin
Only the most die-hard Broadway buffs recall a short-running 1959 Broadway musical entitled First Impressions, the pre-publication title of Jane Austen's beloved and repeatedly adapted novel "Pride and Prejudice." Using the same novel and overlaying a tale of how Austen's own life may well have served as inspiration for its story, co-librettists/lyricists/composers Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs have developed Austen's Pride, a handsome-looking Broadway hopeful in its world premiere production at The 5th Avenue Theatre, but overlong and overloaded with largely unmemorable and sound-alike songs. Director Igor Goldin stages the show with style and panache, and the cast sparkles brightly enough to make the production a pleasant romantic diversion.

Jane Austen (played commandingly and sung beautifully by Laura Michelle Kelly) has labored for years for her book to be a classic. Spurred on by her sister Cassandra (Cayman Ilika at her radiant best), Jane starts reworking and revising "First Impressions" into "Pride and Prejudice." She converses freely with her literary offspring and they question some of her motivations in tweaking the tale of the landed Bennet family. Elizabeth, second eldest of the five Bennet daughters, whose complex relationship with aristocrat Fitzwilliam Darcy is at the center of the story, along with her elder sister Jane, who is courted by the very delightful and totally smitten Charles Bingley. In a particularly funny moment, one of the Bennet girls asks what she is doing at a particular point in time, and Jane Austen replies "I don't know!" The humor in Austen's Pride is its strongest virtue, and all in the company give vivid accounts of the characters.

Olivia Hernandez is an ideal Elizabeth, proud but not imperious, and her vocals are most accomplished. She sparks with handsome Steven Good as the moody Mr. Darcy, and their duet "The Portrait Song" and Darcy's solo "Fine Eyes" are two of the best numbers in the score. The winning comedienne Michele Ragusa plays Mrs. Bennet with daft deliciousness and basically stops the show with her great number "My Poor Nerves" and also dazzles as the odious snob Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Clifton Davis, Jr. is a perfect foil for Ragusa, and his singing voice remains strong, though he deserves a better featured song than "Silly Girls".

Gregory Lee Rodriguez makes an ebullient, charming Mr. Bingley and shares the pleasant duet "I Think You're Wonderful" with effervescent Manna Nichols as Jane Bennet. Another scene stealer is Sarah Rose Davis as the snobbish, gossipy Caroline Bingley. Her comic delivery of three song snippets, "My Dearest Jane," is simply hilarious. Eric Ankrim is both unrecognizable and gut-bustingly funny as the oafish Mr. Collins, and it's a credit to Ankrim, a real triple-threat performer, as he dances badly so well! John Donovan Wilson is ideal as the rakish George Wickham and his vocal range is well worth noting. Delphi Borich makes an agreeably giddy Lydia Bennet as she chases after Wickham, determined he marry her.

Music supervisor Matt Perri masterfully conducts the typically fine 5th Avenue orchestra. Choreographer Lisa Shriver does well with what limited dance moments the show offers. Josh Zangen's scenic design features an eye-catching half-shell of a main playing area, to which Jason Lyon's lighting design is in perfect alignment. Costumes by Melanie Burgess are a bit of a letdown given her usual level of accomplishment.

As the 20th new musical to be developed by The 5th Avenue, Austen's Pride falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It is polished and slick but seems too old-fashioned to have a shot at long-run Broadway success. With two more originals, Mrs. Doubtfire (already announced for Broadway this spring) and Bliss, coming up next, it will be interesting to continue to chart the success of The 5th Avenue's track record of newest shows.

Austen's Pride runs through October 27, 2019, at The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Ave, Seattle WA. For tickets and information call the box office at 206-625-1900 or visit