A holiday sequel to Pride and Prejudice!
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Capital Repertory Theatre
Nov. 23–Dec. 23
ALBANY, N.Y.—NOV. 9, 2018—Bookish Mary Bennet is the middle child, even though she is a child no more. She is, frankly, growing a bit weary of being the responsible, stay at home one. Why can’t she up and live her own life, too?
In Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Mary does just that, stepping up and stepping out.
The delightful Jane Austen-inspired show—at Capital Repertory Theatre, Nov. 23–Dec. 23—is a genteel comedy with sass, written by Lauren Gunderson (currently America’s most-produced playwright) and Margot Melcon.
It is an imagined sequel, two years after the fact, to the classic Pride and Prejudice. With a great big sparkly tree parked almost centerstage, it’s a perfect treat for the holidays and for Austen fans of all stripes.
“It’s a show for everyone who still believes in love,” says theREP’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, who is proudly helming this one herself. “It’s got all the kindness and romance and beauty of Jane Austen’s Georgian-era world.”
That tree, newfangled for its time, is, naturally, at Pemberley, the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy; the latter, as all Austen readers know, being the novel’s pretty protagonist Elizabeth Bennet. Younger sisters Lydia and Jane (with her husband) are in for the holidays, too, along with Darcy cousins Anne and Arthur de Bourgh.
“We all want to know what happened to the Bennet sisters,” says Mancinelli-Cahill gleefully, “and Gunderson and Melcon are telling us!”
“In Pride and Prejudice, you wait and wait for Mr. Darcy and Lizzy to kiss and then it’s all over,” the director says. “They seem such worthy soul mates; you long to know if they are happy in their future. Along comes this play, which gives you just that and much more.”
It’s Arthur (a character newly-minted by the writers) that catches the pianoforte-obsessed Mary’s eye, and it’s the odd friction of their courtship—as intellectual as it tender—that drives much of the humor and intrigue inherent in the script.
Gunderson and Melcon—who launched Miss Bennet with notes hen-scratched on Starbucks’ napkins during a six-hour West Coast drive—hew to Austen’s tone as they extrapolate their own well-schooled take on fan fiction. The duo is actually at work on a potential Pride-inspired trilogy.
Mancinelli-Cahill, an avowed Austenite, will soon travel to the San Francisco Bay’s Marin Theatre Company (where Gunderson is playwright-in-residence) to view the second installment, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, which is being directed this month by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, who recently helmed the critically acclaimed boxing drama The Royale at theREP.
In 2012, theREP produced Daniel Elihu Kramer’s Pride@Prejudice, a decidedly modern, technological, social media-driven take on Austen’s tale. Miss Bennet is much more traditional, but no less enchanting.
What’s more, the full-length show is filled with music and movement. Mancinelli-Cahill has once again teamed with collaborators Josh D. Smith (music director) and Freddy Ramirez (choreographer) to complete her artistic vision. Actor/violinist Lauren Wainwright will join Smith making music onstage and both are featured in the ensemble.
“You don’t need to know a thing about Pride and Prejudice or Jane Austen to enjoy Christmas at Pemberley,” Mancinelli-Cahill says. “You will be welcome from the first word. Do join us for a little light, a little joy, this season.”
Connie Castanzo leads a diverse Christmas at Pemberley cast (at the specific request of the playwrights) as Mary Bennet, who is imbued by the playwrights with a little modern feminism and, as Gunderson told the New Yorker, some “geek chic.” Castanzo has strong New York stage, TV and film credits and is an associate artist of New York Classical Theatre.
Ellen Cribbs is Mary’s nemesis, Anne de Bourgh. A freelance voiceover artist and drama teacher, Cribbs’ favorite credits include Wait Until Dark, The 39 Steps, As You Like It, Noises Off, Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Other Desert Cities.
Jane’s husband Charles Bingley is assayed by Patrick Andrew Jones, who, in the past year, has worked at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, off-Broadway and on a two-month Italian tour of Othello.
Sean Mellott, an alumnus of both Tulane University and Actors Theatre of Louisville’s acting apprentice program, plays Arthur.
The well-loved Mr. Darcy—Fitzwilliam Darcy, if you will—is portrayed at theREP by Grayson Powell, co-founder of 3 Worker Films, LLC which is dedicated to making cutting-edge film projects. Powell’s TV work includes Modern Love (Amazon), and Madam Secretary and Made in Jersey (CBS).
His Elizabeth is Kelsey Rainwater, who has been in a run of Shakespearean titles of late, including Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth and As You Like It.
Caroline Whelehan is the Capital Repertory Theatre veteran in a cast of newcomers, having been in The Secret Garden, Hamlet and She Loves Me. She plays Jane.
Marielle Young completes the Bennet quintet as Lydia Wickham. She has been seen locally at Chester Theatre Company in Mary’s Wedding, and in Kate Hamill’s Pride & Prejudice at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.
Capital Repertory Theatre Artistic Associate Kevin McGuire serves as dialogue coach on Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, joining a creative team that includes, in addition to Smith and Ramirez, Lighting Designer Travis McHale, Scenic Designer Brian Prather, Sound Designer Jane Shaw and Costume Designer Howard Tsvi Kaplan.
Previews for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley take place Nov. 23–25. Opening night is Tuesday, Nov. 27. Regular performances continue through Sunday, Dec. 23. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5 &12 . Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $22 to $65. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets by Proctors, 518.445.SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org.
Opening night includes live music in the café at 6:30 p.m. and complimentary post-show champagne and dessert from Bella Napoli Bakery. The Chef’s Table performance, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, includes complimentary light fare from Yono’s for ticketholders, in the lobby, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
At 1:45 and 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec.1, Capital English Country Dancers offer a participatory English Country Dance Demonstration, featuring live music and steps and dances featured at balls in Austen’s time.
At 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, Dr. David Shapard, author The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Emma, The Annotated Mansfield Park, The Annotated Northanger Abbey, The Annotated Persuasion and The Annotated Sense and Sensibilitywill host a pre-show discussion on Jane Austen.
The Sunday, Dec. 16 matinee is preceded by a Behind-the-Scenes event, which features a light continental breakfast for ticketholders and discussion led by Mancinelli-Cahill. Food service begins at 12:30 p.m., with the presentation following from 1–1:30 p.m.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is part of the 2018–2019 Season
at Capital Repertory Theatre.