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Jane Austen's EMMA
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Dec 7, 2021, 12:36
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Through December 12
Jane Auston’s EMMA Leary Theatre/Niagara University

English novelist Jane Austen has been dead for more than two-centuries and for much of that time, she was a curiosity in the male dominated “Canon.”
Society changed and the “Canon” changed and Austen’s catalog became essential to literature to the point there is actually a series where Austen solves crimes.
There are also movies using her novels and her time period and then modern movies built on the premises.
Especially “Emma,” often considered her best.
That’s probably why Paul Gordon wrote the music, lyrics and book for “Jane Austen’s EMMA.”
It’s also what Niagara University is using to re-start its theater program performances.
This is a look at a small English village, with a tiny upper crust that’s dominated by a couple of aristocrats and the vicar.
And, of course, the women, who may control things but are just supposed to flounce around and be decorative.
Emma (Alyssa Garmone) is blatant in trying to control things, to the point she’s a marriage arranger in a society where marrying just the right person is essential to those in society.
That’s Emma and Mr. Knightley (Tyler Olson), her brother-in-law, dancing with “I Made the Match Myself.”
It’s a society where match-making is difficult because the rules are so different from today, particularly for women.
So, we sing and dance through matches, breakups, flirting and love recognitions, “Mr. Robert Martin” (Julia Miskines and Jamarion Evans); “So This is How Love Feels,” Garmone; Austin Marshall and Samantha Campbell; “Humiliation” (Miskines): and, “A Gentleman’s Daughter” (Garmone and the company).
The cast is working with a good orchestra.
There’s good choreography from Terry Filips Vaughan.
Director Steve Braddock has the large pool of performers in a theatre program and set work from other productions to keep a fairly long story moving quickly, with quick scene changes.
The biggest problem with the show is that some voices need work.
In this current college environment that probably means it’s hard to be a theater major, virtually, as opposed to that face-to-face contact of campus classes.
Still, “Jane Austen’s EMMA” is a good show and a good story, as Emma learns there are other ways to deal with life and to recognize what’s going on around her.

A.W.

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