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  Emma Reviews

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Thru - Mar 12, 2020

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Chicago Shakespeare Theater

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Recommended

"..."Emma" clearly delighted a lot of its opening-night audience and its strengths include a very enjoyable score (especially in Act 2), a few charmingly honest performances from the actresses playing the young women who find Emma meddling in their affairs, Ephie Aardema, Brandy Cheyenne Miller and Erica Stephan, and a general point of view so dedicated to pure romance that I don't doubt for a second that Gaines was intentionally trying to offer her audience a respite from politics, post-impeachment triumphalism and other current abrasions. And the guys in the piece - potential quarry for Emma and her reluctant mentees - are all fun, thanks to Devin DeSantis, Brad Standley and, especially, Ian Geers."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times- Somewhat Recommended

"...In "Emma" the musical, that rich heart is missing. Amid all the glittery surfaces, Austen's "Emma" ends up getting lost in translation. Chicago Shakes misses by a wide mile and doesn't make going out of your way to meet it worth the effort."
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Catey Sullivan

Chicago Reader- Somewhat Recommended

"...Emma's conscience and foil, Mr. Knightley (Brad Standley), sings the title song with emotion and fire. But as the spark to this flame, Gayer remains too much on the surface. Strong supporting comic turns from Bri Sudia's affected Mrs. Elton (an Austenian take on Moira from Schitt's Creek) and Larry Yando's hypochrondriacal Mr. Woodhouse deserve note, and it all looks and sounds quite handsome. But it never makes the case for why we need to hear this story told in song."
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Kerry Reid

Chicago On the Aisle- Somewhat Recommended

"...Lora Lee Gayer makes a lovely Emma, and one might easily grasp Mr. Knightley’s long-simmering passion for her – if she only had a brain. But the musical as it unfolds at CST, directed by Barbara Gaines, portrays her as air-headed to the end, when the poor sot Mr. Knightley (the properly reserved and astute Brad Standley) suddenly and inexplicably prostrates himself before her in an abject protestation of love. What’s the man thinking?"
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Still, the unstoppable magic works its spells effortlessly as ever. The casting is sufficiently close to character and the look is lovely. And this is Jane Austen, the most theatrical novelist ever. That's fantasy and factuality enough."
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Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Highly Recommended

"...Under the musical direction of Paul Gordan, who plotted out the lyrics to make it sing, Emma had a fresh new perspective. The romantic comedy was even more hilarious with creative banters, elegant staging (Scott Davis), and an original format that engaged the audience throughout was nothing short of Austen's sharp wit and intelligent storytelling brought to life with music."
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Rick and Brenda McCain

Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Her target is Mr. Elton (Dennis William Grimes) considered the most eligible and Harriet Smith ( solidly brought to life by Ephie Aardema) who has been proposed to by a young farmer, Robert Martin (deftly handled by Ian Geers). Emma convinces Harriet not to accept this man and instead she will set her path. Elton does not want this young lady and in fact proposes to Emma. He leaves the area and later returns with a wife, who is played beautifully by Bri Sudia. Later, we get to meet Frank Churchill ( the estranged son of Mr. Weston ) who is quite the flirt. Devin DeSantis is about as smooth as smooth can be in this role. The story becomes a bit crazy with people falling for people that you might not expect and so I will not tell you more in order not to spoil a beautiful story that will certainly entertain you. Yes, even those who are not into Jane Austen will be entertained."
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Alan Bresloff

WTTW- Highly Recommended

"...The manners, mores and rights of women may have changed quite radically since Jane Austen penned her major novels in the early decades of the 1800s. But the more things change the more human nature remains the same. And it is Austen’s spot-on depiction of the vagaries of the human heart and the pernicious impact of differences in social status, as well as her razor-sharp wit, that continue to make her work the focus of popular stage and screen adaptations, television series and movies."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...For fans of Jane Austen’s work, this two-hour musical visit to fictional Highbury, England will enchant and entertain. Although many theatergoers may only know this story from the more modern, 1995 film adaptation, “Clueless,” or the 1996 period comedy film, that starred Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role, Paul Gordon’s adaptation breathes new life into this story. He makes the somewhat complicated tale about a self-entitled busybody amusing, honest and authentic. And, the greatest achievement of Barbara Gaines’ loving production, this play is a Valentine, bound to inspire new readers to pick up this novel, while motivating diehard Jane Austen fans to revisit this, and her other novels. More I cannot wish!"
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Highly Recommended

"...A successful staging of an Austen work is one of the great pleasures of urbane playgoing and filmgoing. Paul Gordon and the CST have formed a bull's-eye artistic partnership in this musical venture. The CST is one of the few area organizations with the financial and artistic resources to assemble a production this accomplished and they have used their resources wisely.. Catch this show while you can."
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Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh- Highly Recommended

"...Jane Austen's beloved tale of a young woman of privilege and her questionable matchmaking skills gets a musical makeover. Paul Gordon (book, music, lyrics) deftly adapts the classic. Gordon serving as playwright and composer aids the ongoing seamless transitions. Characters' musings go from spoken to sung with a breath and a beat. This is the underlying soft whisper of this 18th century romance. The original rom-com swirls onstage with sophisticated wit and gentle presence."
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Katy Walsh

Chicago On Stage- Highly Recommended

"...For Austen fans, this Emma is a must-see. For those who are not (and what is wrong with you?), there is enough humor and pure joy here to make it enjoyable to see with a loved one. Even the hardest hearts can't help joining in the applause when the lovers who are actually meant for each other finally come together. Along with "Clueless," this is one of the best adaptations of this novel I've ever seen."
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Karen Topham

PicksInSix- Recommended

"...Scenically, the production marvelously befits the period. A luxurious Scott Davis design is awash in chiffon, gleaming crystal chandeliers, velvet cord and tassels. Mariann Verheyen's elegant costumes shine in the glow of Donald Holder's lighting design. All contribute to the seamless musical flow, vivid characters and Gayer's memorable performance in Gordon's fine new musical "Emma." "
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Ed Tracy

Picture This Post- Recommended

"...If you once devoured Jane Austen's works, this is especially a top pick Singing Cliff Notes reminder of why you fell in love with her pen. This isn't theater that turns your world upside down. This is strictly entertainment that will put a lilt in your step akin to that of charmer Emma/Gayer."
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Amy Munice