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Great Expectations

Even after years of development, the stresses between the spindly form of a novel and the comparatively sleek arc of a musical still make themselves felt in Margaret Hoorneman’s delightful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ saga (book by Brian VanDerWilt and Steve Lozier, music by Richard Winzeler, and lyrics by Steve Lane). There are scenes of narrative elaboration where one aches for dramatic impetus. This may be irresolvable, and why should it matter? The event is something between a musical and an opera — Winzeler’s music has the distinctive rhythmic counterpoint of Sondheim, with a smidgen of Gilbert & Sullivan thrown in. VanDerWilt and Lozier’s book throws into soft focus the love triangle among laborer Pip (Adam Simmons); the aristocrat Estella (Shannon Warne), whose calculations to break men’s hearts have been drilled into her by the bitter, and later remorseful, Miss Havisham (Ellen Crawford); and, waiting in the wings, Pip’s long-suffering friend, Biddy (the gently electrifying Zarah Mahler), who would rather take things further. Paradoxically, it’s because Hoorneman’s adaptation remains so faithful to the novel that the epic twists and turns of fate, and of social ascension and decline, emerge. They emerge at the cost of the musical’s impetus, but it may be worth that sacrifice. Jules Aaron stages a loving and stylish production with a huge ensemble (vocal abilities vary), including gaunt-faced children, accompanied by a tiny band, under Brian Murphy’s musical direction. Too many sparkling teeth reminds one that this is Dickens’ London as seen through a Hollywood lens. With a few minor lapses, the accents are plausible, and Shon LeBlanc’s costumes are gorgeous. Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (added perf April 20, 7 p.m.); thru April 27. (323) 960-4442.—Steven Leigh Morris

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