Wednesday, January 16, 2013


by Pa Rock
Six Rows Back

Last Saturday night I was in attendance at the Arizona Theatre Company’s musical production of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix.  As with all productions by the ATC, “Emma” was a highly polished and most satisfying theatrical performance.  The cast, professional actors all, performed gracefully, both in acting and singing, and moved about the stage with the precision of the inner-workings of a fine Swiss watch.  The show was flawless in every respect.

Miss Austen's story revolves around Emma, a young woman who fancies herself a matchmaker.  She is so involved in manipulating the destinies of others that she ignores the yearnings of her own heart.  Emma finally collides with the stolid and respectable Mr. Knightly, a relative of hers by marriage, who isn't shy about calling a meddler a meddler.  Complications of course ensue as Emma and Mr. Knightly begin to recognize their mutual attraction to each other.

The sets, framed in a Greek temple motif, were simple, yet beautiful scenes of a tranquil English countryside interspersed with the interiors of large manor homes.  Many of the set changes were accomplished through choreographed actions of the actors as they danced about moving furniture and accoutrements as though their movements were integral to the story of the play.   These theatric set changes helped to maintain the flow of the production.

The cast of “Emma” was exceptionally strong, with Anneliese van der Pol, a Broadway and Disney actress, in the title role.  A pair of outstanding  performances were turned in by Shannon Stoeke, who played the affable and somewhat acerbic Mr. Knightly, and Dani Marcus who portrayed the hapless Harriet Smith, a lonely heart who was too easily controlled by the overpowering Emma.

“Emma” runs through this Sunday at the Herberger.  It is a couple of hours of pleasant respite from the reality of life in Arizona.

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