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Pride and Prejudice

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Garnering numerous awards at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2011, it has been re-worked as a full-scale production and is McCoy Rigby Entertainment's first world-premiere musical. Fresh and imaginative, it takes the finest features of Jane Austen's classic novel and musically highlights the love stories of its principal characters.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Gregory North, Amanda Naughton) have five daughters, and in Regency England their principal concern was that they find suitable husbands, preferably wealthy, to settle them into homes of their own. As the story begins, two eligible young men have moved into the neighborhood, and Mrs. Bennet is beside herself with giddy excitement. The first, Charles Bingley (Eddie Egan), is an amiable young man who is attracted to the Bennet's oldest daughter, Jane (Samantha Eggers). The second, an aristocratic and disdainful Fitzwilliam Darcy (Brandon Andrus), finds the small town of Longbourn provincial. He is, however, intrigued by second daughter, Elizabeth (Patricia Noonan), though he feels her family lacks social consequence.

Thus sets the scene for a story that addresses social mores, class, and love in all its complexities. A plethora of characters gives Austen plenty of fodder for her witty satire that endures over time.

Playwrights Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs have taken the play into a theatrically interesting direction by including Jane Austen (Bets Malone) as an integral character in the story. At play's opening, Jane is seated at a desk having received a letter from her publishers of Sense and Sensibility. They are inviting her to submit a manuscript for a new novel, and her sister Cassandra (Jill Van Velzer) encourages her to send in a previously written story. Jane is not sure if it will be well received. As she conjures up ideas, the cast, in a tableau, emerges at the rear of the stage, ready to come to life. It is an amusing conceit, and thus begins a lively re-telling of the story.

The characters are well cast and have universally fine voices. North is excellent as the beleaguered father, and Naughton shines as the dithery mother. The three youngest daughters--Kitty (Katherine McDonough), Lydia (Arielle Fishman), Mary (Kimberley Hessler)--embody the personalities ascribed by Austen with animation and a nice comic touch. Malone is a pro, and her inclusion in the play's entirety adds humor and an opportunity for commentary. Characters regularly confer with her as she creates the scenes.

It was common for estates without a male heir to be entailed to a relative, and in this case, on the death of Mr. Bennet, their home was to be passed on to Mr. Collins (Jeff Skowron), a rabbity cleric who offers for one of the daughter, preferably Elizabeth. Skowron's deft characterization of the unctuous and socially inept Collins is the standout audience favorite. In a song about his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (McDonough), and a droll country dance in which he is woefully lacking, his comic antics are masterful.

Andrus is aloof and arrogant, as the role requires, and his eventual thawing hits all the right notes. Eggers, too, makes the most of her secondary role in the romances. Eggers and Egan deliver a charming "I Think You're Wonderful." Malone and Noonan also have a fine moment in "Had I Been  in Love."

Igor Goldin manages the large cast with precision. Coupled with Jeffrey Denman's varied choreography, the production hits all the right notes. Timothy Splain's musical direction is also deft, as the music and songs deliver the emotional interest that holds the audience's attention rather than detracting from the storyline.

In other characterizations, both Matthew Kacergis as the contemptible Mr Wickham and Jamison Lingle as the haughty Caroline Bingley are excellent. A scene with the despoiled Lydia and Wickham adds a touch of reality to the largely civilized behavior of the characters.

Ensemble members Leigh Wakeford, Brian Steven Shaw, Andrew Arrow, and Mathew Domenic fill in nicely, particularly as redcoats in a lively dance number. Many cast members do double and triple duty deftly. Denman provides some interesting patterns on the large stage.

Enhancing the production are Ann Closs-Farley's period perfect costumes, Josh Bessom's sound design, and Jason Lyon's lighting. Josh Zangen's simple set design is clever, as backdrops fall into place to simulate a church, an estate, and the Bennet's home. In this case, less is more.

While this production is still evolving, it is McCoy Rigby's hope that it will wend its way to New York. Warren Baker and Jacobs clearly have an artful concept, and Austen's romantic story is timeless. La Mirada's creative team certainly showcases it in the best possible way.

Presented at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd, La Mirada. 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday, 8:00 on Fridays, 2:00 and 8:00 on Saturdays and 2:00 on Sundays. April 18-May 10. Talkback with the cast on May 6. Tickets $20-70. 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or at Parking is free.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.