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Jane Austen musical hits the right notes

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Brittany Law and David Crane appear in “Pride and Prejudice-The Musical” at Fort Mason. (Courtesy IM Theatre)
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Has the time has come for “Pride and Prejudice-The Musical”?

Fans of the Jane Austen classic likely will be pleased with the modest and charming adaptation by Bay Area-based Rita Abrams (music, lyrics) and Josie Brown (book) onstage in its North American premiere at Fort Mason in The City.

The show, first staged in 2012 by the Ruislip Operatic Society in London, is presented by IM Theatre, a Marin community troupe whose players skillfully articulate the novel’s early 19th century mores and morals, and lively, dense verbiage, which the writers lovingly retain.

It’s truly an ensemble piece, from the funny opening “Welcome to Our Neighborhood” (which introduces the five unmarried Bennet sisters with the amusing invitation, “It would be our greatest gift if we / could facilitate your felicity — especially if you’re as wealthy as you look, sir”) to the sentimental closing “I Wish You Joy!” (One fan in the audience even teared up at the inevitable unions between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Bingley.)

Each performer has a spotlight in the production, more of a chamber opera (with nice, catchy melodies) than full-fledged musical theater extravaganza.

The show’s biggest drama comes in a power ballad by David Crane as Darcy (after he’s rejected by Elizabeth), and Brittany Law as Elizabeth, as she comes to terms with her complicated feelings toward Darcy.

Kathy Deichen and Geoffrey Colton play the beleaguered Bennet parents with fine humor, and Chris Maltby and Juliet Heller display comic chops at Bennet associates Mr. and Mrs. Collins, as does Sandi Rubay as the haughty Lady Catherine.

Lizzy Moss is a lovely Jane, to Kodo Elder-Groebe’s affable Charles Bingley, and Kim Long gets her digs in as Bingley’s sister Caroline.

While Lexie Papedo Gasparini directs with attention to detail, capturing Austen’s spirit, the show (with a funny Act 1 and more serious Act 2) lacks a slam-bang dramatic arc and may not appeal to those unfamiliar with the novel or its TV, movie and stage versions (including musicals that never hit the mainstream).

The show is bolstered by classy period costumes by Deichen and Suzan Plath leading a savvy team, and the band’s musical accompaniment: composer Abrams (of local fame for the 1970 novelty hit “Mill Valley”) on keyboard, Andrew Klein on synthesizer, Mike Evans on percussion and Jeff Sherman on bass.

REVIEW
Pride and Prejudice-The Musical
Presented by: IM Theatre
Where: Southside Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; closes Oct. 9
Tickets: $40
Contact: www.fortmason.org

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