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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Great Expectation

Until you spoke to her the other day ,and until I saw in you a looking-glass that showed me what I once felt myself, I did not know what I had done.—Miss Haversham to Pip
Great Expectations-Musical
Adam Simmons and Shannon Warne
Great Expectations, the most beloved, melodramatic, and psychologically astute of Charles Dickens' novels, has been filmed many times and its dark materials have now been made into a musical. Fortunately it was adapted by Margaret Hoorneman, a literature teacher who knew it very well and whose grandson Brian VanDerWilt has a theatre degree and professional TV credits. With writing partner Steve Lozier, the three whipped the adaptation into shape and signed on Richard Winzeler to write the music and Steve Lane to write the words.

review continues below

The adaptation has the advantage of not only hitting all the plot points but providing back story on Miss Haversham's lover not revealed in any other production. It also illuminates psychological underpinnings undreamt of by Dickens but part of what made his work so memorable.

The orphan Pip is raised by his termagant sister and her kind husband Joe who becomes a surrogate father to the boy. But he acquires another surrogate father in the convict Magwitch whom he rescues from starvation and who bequeaths the anonymous legacy that gives him "great expectations."

Pip is introduced as a playmate to the beautiful Estella, the ward of the reclusive Miss Haversham who, after being jilted by her fiancé, determines to raise a woman who will wreak revenge on men. Estella thus has a mother figure who plays old tapes and tries to create a woman who will never be hurt. In the simplified musical format, these themes become very clear.

The heart of a musical is the music and though more Gilbert and Sullivan than Rogers and Hammerstein, young Winzeler and Lane treat the period with respect and project appropriate emotional values. "The Best of Friends," Joe's and young Pip's duet, and "Love by Defininition," a trio between Pip, Estella and Miss Haversham are among the most memorable, with a special nod to Lane's way with words.

"Play!" Miss Haversham's first command to the boy Pip becomes a witchy minuet. Ellen Crawford, the superb actress who plays Miss Haversham, makes it at first a mad desire for diversion before, several choruses later, sinking into sardonic bitterness.

The excellent cast includes Adam Simmons, a fine actor with a resonant voice as Pip. Shannon Warne has the requisite beauty and bearing to play Estella, a part more sympathetically written than the novel. Marc Cardiff plays the convict Magwitch with fierce desperation and the lawyer Jaggers with unctuous authority. He has one of the show's most moving numbers, "Put The Case" which treats the plight of homeless children.
Dave Barrus brings an appealing warmth to Joe. Britt Flatmo finds the girlish crush in Young Biddy when she says goodbye to Pip. Hap Lawrence has a wonderful Dickensian face and flair which he uses to great effect in playing a variety of characters.

Production values are excellent under Jules Aaron's exciting and perceptive direction. Shon LeBlanc sketches the period costumes with beauty and skill on a limited budget and gives Miss Haversham her due in antique white. Adam Blumenthal's skillful lighting intuitively highlights the characters and project the flames that consume Miss Haversham and visually interprets the shadows of Dickens' world.

There's no room for dance numbers but they're not missed. Dickens hardly leaves room for dancing unless your name is Fezziwig.

Adapted by Margaret Hoorneman from Charles Dickens' novel; Book by Brian VanDerWilt and Steve Lozier; Music by Richard Winzeler; Lyrics by Steve Lane
Director: Jules Aaron
Cast: Adam Simmons (Pip), Shannon Warne (Estella), Ellen Crawford (Miss Haversham), Marc Cardiff (Magwitch/Jaggers), Dave Barrus (Joe), Zarah Mahler (Biddy), Hap Lawrence (Pumblechook/Wemmick/Matthew Pocket/Judge), Sierra Rein (Marvel (Drummle/Compeyson/Vicar), Britt Flatmo (Young Biddy), Kelsey Smith (Young Estella), Troy Hussmann (Young Herbert), Brian Maslow (Herbert), Steve Mazurek (Startop/Officer)
Light and Set Design: Adam Blumenthal
Costume Design: Shon LeBlanc
Running Time: Two and a half hours, one intermission
Running Dates: April 4-27, 2008
Where: Hudson Theatre Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Reservations: (323) 960-4442.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on April 13.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Opening/Welcome Home - Pip and Chorus
  • Do As I Say - Mrs. Joe
  • Ever The Best of Friends - Joe and Young Pip
  • Play - Miss Haversham
  • The World To Me - The Gargery Household
  • No Less No More - Lawyers
  • Great Expectations/Everything I Wanted - Pip
  • Her Wedding Day - Herbert
  • The Finches of the Grove - Matthew Pocket, Drummle, Herbert/Jagger and Pip
  • Love Her - Miss Haversham
  • I Have A Heart - Estella
  • Mustn't Panic - Pip & Herbert
Act Two
  • Love By Definition - Pip, Estella, Miss Havisham
  • I Could Walk Away
  • Back to Back
  • Put The Case - Jagger
  • What Have I Done - Miss Havisham
  • Dear Boy - Joe
  • Come With Us To Cairo - Herbert
  • I Trust My Heart - Pip
  • This Old House - Pip, Estella, Chorus
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