Jane Austen’s novel comes to musical life in Lifeline’s new stage adaptation.
In Lifeline’s delightful new musical adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Catherine Morland (Stephanie Stockstill), the daughter of a poor clergyman, has spent her life with her nose in a book, awaiting her own adventure. When a wealthy neighbor (Jenifer Tyler) takes her to the affluent enclave of Bath to meet an appropriate suitor, a whirlwind romance ensues.
The play’s whimsy and charm are largely contingent on Catherine. As her fantasies and realities intertwine on set, we’re anchored by Stockstill’s splendid performance. Her beautiful soprano shines throughout the entire score, and she makes Catherine’s charming naiveté bewitching. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent; in both chorus and featured roles, each member of the ensemble shines.
Director Elise Kauzlaric and set designer Sarah Lewis have done wonders with Lifeline’s compact space. A sense of scale has been acutely achieved, so it feels as if Catherine and her suitor, Henry Tilney (Javier Ferreira), are romancing through crowded lavish ballrooms and an expansive abbey.
The show borders on parody, to the point where sincere moments of theatrical staging, such as flowers descending from the sky to represent the entrance to a garden, incite laughter. The self-awareness of the theatrical mode is entertaining, but detracts from the otherwise earnest nature of the show. Kauzlaric and her design team have constructed such a tight and precise world that referencing the failings of it only undermines their accomplishment.
Overall, though, the production itself is top notch. This superior production is nothing short of enchanting and is sure to delight Austen fans and musical theater lovers alike.
Lifeline Theatre. Based on the novel by Jane Austen. Music and lyrics by George Howe. Book by Robert Kauzlaric. Directed by Elise Kauzlaric. With Chris Ballou, Shelby Lynn Bias, Andres Enriquez, Javier Ferreira, Peter Greenberg, Lydia Hiller, Stephanie Stockstill, Denzel Tsopnang, Jenifer Tyler. 2hrs 30mins; one intermission.