Jane Austen’s “Emma” has lent itself to various adaptations over the years — some traditional (Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Emma”) and some with an updated twist (Alicia Silverstone’s “Clueless”).
Luckily, it’s a story that adapts well to change, whether in time period, minor plot variation or, in the case of “Single Girls Guide,” the world premiere now playing at Capital Rep, turning the show into a ’60s-style musical extravaganza.
In Gordon Greenberg and Tommy Newman’s “Single Girls Guide,” our somewhat hapless but ultimately well-meaning heroine, Emma Woodhouse (Kate Loprest), has been working as a Dear Abby-style columnist for the past seven years at her father’s newspaper. It is 1966 and she has dreams of doing something more important with her life, even though her father, coworkers and her boss, Nick Knightley (Jonathan Rayson), all tell her what she truly needs is to settle down and find a good husband.
Enter Harriet Smith (Farah Alvin), a Rhode Island dental hygienist who writes to Emma with a problem — should she settle down with the nice young man who is too scared to talk to her? Does life end if you reach 30 and are still single?
‘Single Girls Guide’
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl, Albany
WHEN: Through March 30; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $60-$20
MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org
Lightened by music
Emma realizes this can be her way to make a difference. She can write a new column, geared toward single women, letting them know it’s OK to let themselves come first and to have a career. But Nick doesn’t want the column to see daylight — he doesn’t see the merit in it.
The show is more “Clueless” than “Emma,” but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Even though the subject matter (the burgeoning feminist movement, women being defined by their relationships and gender roles) is somewhat heavy, the musical aspect lightens it, turning it into a frothy, fun night of theater.
Loprest’s Emma is stunning onstage — she seems to have been made for ’60s fashions, and Dane Laffrey’s gorgeous costume design does not disappoint. Loprest’s voice leaves a bit to be desired — she is a little off in some of the more powerful moments in the songs — but it’s early yet, and I’d be willing to guess she’s just hitting her stride.
For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here.
Lots of presence
Farah Alvin’s Harriet steals the show. From her beginnings in a dental office to her release upon the streets of New York, she commands the stage with her presence as well as her voice. Her “In Your Mouth” with Robb Sapp (as her timid Rhode Island beau, Henry) was easily the most enjoyable song of the evening.
Although none of the songs seem to have that instant-star quality that one hopes for when watching an unfamiliar musical, the show is consistently enjoyable and visually very pleasing, with masterful choreography, costumes and set design.
Kudos to Capital Rep for premiering a musical; it’s always a treat when we get to see a show before any other area does.