ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
review continues below
The adaptation has the advantage of not only hitting all the plot points but providing back story on Miss Haversham's lover not revealed in any other production. It also illuminates psychological underpinnings undreamt of by Dickens but part of what made his work so memorable.
The orphan Pip is raised by his termagant sister and her kind husband Joe who becomes a surrogate father to the boy. But he acquires another surrogate father in the convict Magwitch whom he rescues from starvation and who bequeaths the anonymous legacy that gives him "great expectations."
Pip is introduced as a playmate to the beautiful Estella, the ward of the reclusive Miss Haversham who, after being jilted by her fiancé, determines to raise a woman who will wreak revenge on men. Estella thus has a mother figure who plays old tapes and tries to create a woman who will never be hurt. In the simplified musical format, these themes become very clear.
The heart of a musical is the music and though more Gilbert and Sullivan than Rogers and Hammerstein, young Winzeler and Lane treat the period with respect and project appropriate emotional values. "The Best of Friends," Joe's and young Pip's duet, and "Love by Defininition," a trio between Pip, Estella and Miss Haversham are among the most memorable, with a special nod to Lane's way with words.
"Play!" Miss Haversham's first command to the boy Pip becomes a witchy minuet. Ellen Crawford, the superb actress who plays Miss Haversham, makes it at first a mad desire for diversion before, several choruses later, sinking into sardonic bitterness.
The excellent cast includes Adam Simmons, a fine actor with a resonant voice as Pip. Shannon Warne has the requisite beauty and bearing to play Estella, a part more sympathetically written than the novel. Marc Cardiff plays the convict Magwitch with fierce desperation and the lawyer Jaggers with unctuous authority. He has one of the show's most moving numbers, "Put The Case" which treats the plight of homeless children.
Dave Barrus brings an appealing warmth to Joe. Britt Flatmo finds the girlish crush in Young Biddy when she says goodbye to Pip. Hap Lawrence has a wonderful Dickensian face and flair which he uses to great effect in playing a variety of characters.
Production values are excellent under Jules Aaron's exciting and perceptive direction. Shon LeBlanc sketches the period costumes with beauty and skill on a limited budget and gives Miss Haversham her due in antique white. Adam Blumenthal's skillful lighting intuitively highlights the characters and project the flames that consume Miss Haversham and visually interprets the shadows of Dickens' world.
There's no room for dance numbers but they're not missed. Dickens hardly leaves room for dancing unless your name is Fezziwig.