Last week I continued my return to the theater by frequenting one of my favorite local playhouses in Hale Centre Theatre’s production of Emma. Of course, anyone who knows me knows I love Jane Austen and Emma. Just last year the film version was one of my favorite movies of the year. This musical also has music and lyrics by Paul Gordon who penned Daddy Long Legs which I adore and just saw for the 3rd time at Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy.
Hale Centre Theatre Orem is a theater in the round concept but it is a lot smaller than its Sandy counterpart. It also doesn’t have the fancy mechanics they have up north. While sometimes limiting, it can also have its charms. There’s an intimacy to the audience that is special and I took voice lessons there for many years so I have a special place in my heart for HCTO. I have also found they take more risks at Hale Orem and frequently Sandy copies them a year or so later doing the same shows with even the same cast. (For example, Hale Sandy is doing Daddy Long Legs right now which I saw twice at HCTO with the same cast last year).
With such a small venue they are requiring masks for all audience members although the adherence by the patrons could have been better. (I will never understand people who willfully break the rules in a private establishment. So rude).
I saw the MWF casting of Emma and that features Erica Glenn in the lead role and Will Ingram as Mr Knightly. Ingram said in the program that it was his first time in a musical and if that’s the case I am very impressed. The role requires a beautiful tenor sound which I thought he did beautifully. Glenn has a lovely soprano and she had nice chemistry with the entire cast. Being in nearly every scene she holds herself well and captures the sweetness and naivety of Jane Austen’s most prideful heroine.
I enjoyed watching Emma because I love live theater and love the core story. It was also directed well with a fun and vibrant sets. However, I must own to not being impressed with the music, both book and music. There wasn’t a single memorable song in the bunch. I would have honestly preferred it to just be a play the songs were so bland. Gordon definitely upped his game when it came to Daddy Long Legs. I have seen his musical on Sense and Sensibility and it was way better. He also has a version of Pride and Prejudice (I guess Jane Austen is his thing. Not that I can blame him) I don’t know if I’d like that more than this but maybe someday I will have to check.
I am trying to support local theater as much as possible. If you are a fan of Jane Austen give Emma at HCTO a shot for the performances and staging but manage your expectations on the music.
6 out of 10