Sense & Sensibility is a fine antidote for our instant gratification, social media infatuated age. Jane Austen’s romantic yarn is set in an age when it took six or so days for a letter to arrive sharing what could be devastating news, or heartfelt longing, from anxious lovers.
“Who writes a letter anymore?” asks theater veteran Marcia Milgrom Dodge, the director and choreographer behind the new Sense &Sensibility musical. “All the expecations and anxiety, it’s perfect to investigate in a musical.”
The musical version of Austen’s beloved novel is enjoying its world premiere run through May 26 at The Stage Theatre in Denver.
Dodge, whose Broadway credits include directing and choreographing the triumphant revival of Ragtime, finds plenty of perks working outside the Big Apple, even though she technically calls New York City home in her itinerant artistic life.
“My actors don’t run to auditions every day … we’re in a bubble … we don’t have to compete with the New York element,” she says. Even during the early script reading phase Dodge appreciated the difference between working in New York and a less media saturated city.
Manhattan-based script readings come with extra strings, she explains. The people on hand for the readings are often both friends and actors, “and they all want to be in the show … there’s always an agenda there,” she says. Plus, being an artist who works in both New York City as well as flyover country gives her the chance to meet new people and absorb different creative philosophies she otherwise might not.
The show itself isn’t suffering due to its location, she assures Austen fans.
“We’re doing all the right things to develop the musical, and the dollar goes further in Denver,” she says. “This is not an out-of-town tryout. We don’t have our next step [planned]. We’re just doing the best show possible.”
The new Sense stays faithful to the source material, minus some creative refinement of the era’s dancing selections and a few streamlined subplots. Dodge’s creative team reached out to the Jane Austen Society of North America which plans to coordinate some of its upcoming events with the musical’s run, she says.
Dodge says she had a pragmatic reaction when she first considered the script for this musical adaptation.
“It has title appeal. Maybe we can do a show without stars,” she says.
And while the story is set in the past, the desires that power the story remain timeless.
“The characters are so vivid and beautifully rendered and lean … it sounds like real people talking, even though it’s set back in the day,” she says.
Modern dating mores factor in texting, Facebook posts and other hiccups that people back in Austen’s day blissfully avoided. But Dodge still sees one whimsical comparison between the show and our media age.
“We have this wonderful chorus … the society folks coming in out of scenes. They’re our Twitterers,” she says.