I know I say this every single time I sit down to write a review of the latest show I’ve seen, but I love Cincinnati theatre, and I adore Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It’s no surprise at all, then, that I enjoyed EMMA so very much and can’t wait to tell you about it – and it’s family friendly, too!
Many of us grew up reading Jane Austen and loving every moment of it. You may know Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility (one of my absolute favorites!) as well as Emma from movies and television in addition to the books. Though the stories have been shared, adapted, even appropriated (Pride and Prejudice – and Zombies), there’s something timeless about the characters, settings, and plots that bear being retold over and over again. EMMA is definitely one of those tales, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s retelling was more delightful and engaging than any other reimagining I’ve seen. (A bit of trivia – did you know that the 90’s movie CLUELESS, starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd is one such reimagining? Who’da thunk it?)
EMMA tells the story of, well..Emma, a bright, precocious, and amiable young woman who spends her time delighting in matchmaking for friends and acquaintances. While meddling in the love life of her friend Harriet, however, her plans go awry causing mayhem for all involved. Here’s a bit more about EMMA from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company:
Amateur matchmaker Emma Woodhouse has a penchant for meddling in the love lives of others. Her latest mission is to find a promising prospect for her less than promising friend Harriet. But when her efforts to play cupid go awry, Emma finds herself struggling to undo the damage. Audiences that clamored for CSC’s productions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility surely will again when Austen’s trademark storytelling returns to the stage in Emma.
Courtney Lucien as Emma was simply enchanting. She was equal parts charming and spunky, with a dash of mischievous sass thrown in for good measure. Everything about her performance was perfect, and although I have not had the pleasure to see Ms. Lucien in many roles as yet, I am keenly looking forward to seeing her again. Jeremy Dubin — I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adore this man as an actor. Everything he touches turns to pure gold. I have been completely delighted by him in every performance that I have seen thus far, but his portrayal of Mr. Knightly has catapulted him into top leading man position in my personal ‘Best in Cincy’ list. Gallant, with a touch of snark, every moment on stage was swoon-worthy. And those are just two of the many incredibly talented actors that make up the cast of Cincy Shakes’ EMMA. Jim Hopkins as Mr. Woodhouse is so endearing, Caitlin McWethy’s Harriet so sweet and innocent, Miranda McGee as Mrs. Elton is just as haughty and hysterical as you’d expect her to be, and then some. If I spend all of the time I would need to list out the amazing attributes of every cast member we will be here until next week. I have come to recognize, know, and love each member of Cincy Shakes ensemble and look forward to seeing them in each new role, new character, new production – I really just have to stop myself from going on and on about the wealth of talent that is housed at 719 Race Street.
The best part of this performance? Sharing it with my very own budding actor – my 12 year old son. He’s not a stranger to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. I took him and his younger brother to see Cyrano de Bergerac, played by the handsome and swoon-worthy Jeremy Dubin in yet another outstanding performance, and they both absolutely loved it! They sat, completely enrapt, for every sword fight and plot twist, and the same thing happened at EMMA. I did worry, for just a moment, that he wouldn’t be as “into” this story as the sword-toting Cyrano, but he enjoyed every single moment. What’s even better? He’s taking part in Ascent Arts through his middle school and they are working with actors from Cincinnati Shakespear Company through Project 38 to perform a Shakespeare piece during the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival in April. I can see my own bold, daring 12 year old on the Cincy Shakes stage some day – but he’ll have big shoes to step into – the talented actors of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company are leaving very large footprints!
I highly encourage you to take your own middle school or older child to see this endearing, charming, and perfectly acted production. It’s a delight to know that we have theatre companies in town that produce such tremendous performances, and that we as parents can expose our children – some aspiring actors in their own right – to such great performances at a very impressionable age. Showing them the magic and wonder of a perfectly produced and acted stage production is what ignites the spark of imagination and passion that creates great actors. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s EMMA is a perfect example of amazing theatre, brought to you by amazing actors. You don’t want to miss this production!
EMMA runs through March 26 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race Street in Cincinnati, OH on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. & Sundays at 2 p.m. Final Saturday performance is at 2 p.m.
Thursday Evenings & Sunday/Saturday Matinees: Adults $35, Seniors $31, Students $22
Friday & Saturday Evenings: Adults $39, Seniors $35, Students $26
This season’s remaining shows are JULIUS CAESAR and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. The 2016-17 season looks amazing as well – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, THE ELEPHANT MAN, and so many more!
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is currently seeking support to fund their new, beautiful theatre that will be the finale to the Cultural Arts Corridor, anchoring Music Hall, Memorial Hall, School of Creative and Performing Arts, and Washington Park. Cincy Shakes has been ‘Making History Unexpected’ by bringing Shakespeare’s plays to life in the hearts and minds of the students and theatre-lovers in our region for so long now – if you enjoy their work, and support the arts, please consider making a contribution to making this dream a reality. For more information, please visit their website, here: www.cincyshakes.com/makinghistoryunexpected/