Get in on 1st ‘ACT’ as Austen eyes big time By Joanne Greco Rochman
If you still haven’t experienced ACT (A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut) in Ridgefield, and you like to see shows headed to Broadway before they get there, here and now is a unique opportunity. I spoke with ACT’s artistic director, Daniel C. Levine, and he has had his eye on the musical “Austen’s Pride” for a couple of years.
“It’s part of our mission to introduce new works on the ground floor to our audiences,” he said. There’s little doubt that ACT will become a notable regional theater with Levine’s determination to be a part of an evolving practice to workshop full Equity casts for new plays that can attract serious backers and New York producers and directors. “Austen’s Pride,” is just such a musical.
This musical focuses on Jane Austen’s writing of “Pride and Prejudice.” It follows her as she creates a rough draft of the classic novel with characters being pulled in and out of the plot.
Events that happened in Austen’s life have a direct effect on what changes she makes in her novel. The end result is that the audience sees Jane Austen at work and witnesses the birth of the novel.
According to Levine, the musical has already attracted serious backers, New York producers and directors. Considering that the novel has sold over 20 million copies and that Jane Austen fans are not likely to pass up an opportunity to see this show, it’s not surprising that there is so much interest in the musical.
“Austen’s Pride” will have its Connecticut premiere this weekend and will run through April 14. I’ll be surprised if the show doesn’t sell out. From Ridgefield it will move to the Seattle 5th Avenue Theatre for another run before moving to Broadway.
“Our theater has a total of 180 seats. The Seattle theater is much larger and the transfer to Seattle will require set changes and adjustments for New York,” said Levine. ACT has already had an Equity staged reading of the show and there was another reading held in New York City.
According to a very enthusiastic Levine, the response has been overwhelming positive.
Because critics will not be able to review the show during its Ridgefield run, I spoke with Levine about works in progress. “Everything is a work in progress until it’s on Broadway. Then there are no more changes. Then the show is frozen.” Interestingly enough, the show did have an opening in 2016, but ACT’s artistic director said that there have been so many changes since then that the show is practically not recognizable to what audiences will see in Ridgefield and New York.
“The writers have been writing and changing the script so that it is now drastically different from the show four years ago,” he said. The musical will be full of the elements of the Austen era including the period costumes and the overall atmosphere of the times.
Daniel C. Levine is a passionate theater devotee. This is not the first show that he intends to help launch to a Broadway opening. He is destined to bring ACT into a major regional theater.
“Austen’s Pride” plays through April 14. ACT is at 36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield.
Box office: 475-215-5433.