Reflection: Sense & Sensibility the Musical

Now that I have had a few days to really let Denver’s production of Sense & Sensibility musical by Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton sink in I could give details of what I liked and didn’t like, etc…

The first thing I noticed was that aside from six characters:
– Elinor Dashwood
– Marianne Dashwood
– Mrs Jennings
– Edward Ferrars
– Colonel Brandon
– John Willoughby
Everyone else in the cast was playing dual (if not triple) roles… most as an ensemble-ish group similar to the Liebeslieders (or the Quintet) of A Little Night Music. Though unlike in A Little Night Music, the ensemble fluctuates from as little as four players to as many as eight/nine (I do not remember which).

However, there are two others within the cast who are not necessarily part of the general ensemble but do play multiple roles on stage.

This ingenious casting piqued my interest because it gives performing arts groups the flexibility of having a medium sized cast of 16 actors (maybe less depending on how things break down) to as large as need be for high school groups… and yes I am thinking very far ahead.


For anyone familiar with the original story the action follows that of a set of sisters in the form of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The creators have done a seamless job in integrating scenes to keep the action moving that focuses on other characters… for example:
– Sir John and Mrs Jennings trying to persuade Colonel Brandon in being more aggressive of his pursuit of Marianne Dashwood
– Moments between Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars
– The family dynamic within the Ferrars family (sans Robert Ferrars)

In hindsight (and this is probably entirely by accident) with the three male leads only with two of them do we know anything of their lives away from the Dashwood family… whileas with Willoughby, without any idea of what is going with him away from the Dashwoods we were led to believe as the sisters were.

As mentioned in my earlier post, there were other supporting characters that did not make the jump to the staged adaptation despite being mentioned on occasion… or not mentioned at all:
– Robert Ferrars
– Anne Steele
– The Palmers
– Sir John Middleton’s entire family

When looking at the above, there are whole scenes and plot points that needed to be changed around… so how did the creators manuveur around this conundrum?

The creators of this particular musical did a commendable job in adapting the story of Sense and Sensibility for the stage. By taking the most important moments and points of the lives of the Dashwoods sisters and finding a way to keep the essence of the original novel while adapting for the stage.

Since the Palmers were cut from the production, how to reflect Marianne’s near death? Well the creators kept the Dashwoods in London so that Marianne would walk around London during a downpour and as thus her illness begins. She insists on heading home to Barton park as soon as possible which accelerates her illness further and as thus the party of Elinor, Marianne and Colonel Brandon stop at a inn where the sisters stay while Brandon continues to Barton Park to fetch their mother.

Another scene change that was necessary after cutting the character of Anne Steele was the revelation to Mrs Ferrars of the engagement between Edward Ferrars and Miss Lucy Steele. How to go about doing this? What the creators did was that after Lucy and Edward leave the Dashwoods / Jennings home in London, they end up in a park where Lucy does a little song and dance of her feelings towards Edward’s desire and they are discovered by Mrs Ferrars. To which Edward sees that he is trapped between Miss Lucy Steele’s desire to be introduced and his mother’s desire of him marrying an heiress… Oh did I mention that the park statues come to life to aid Miss Steele in her song? Yeeeeaaaaah, the audience was laughing.

Another major change occurs at the top of Act Two: soon after Willoughby leaves Barton for London, Marianne starts writing her letters to Willoughby leading up to the Ball where she confronts Willoughby and was rebuffed.

There was other moments throughout the storyline that changes were made in regards to scenes to storyline, but nothing that would be blatantly obvious unless you know the original story.

This is probably one of the stronger stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s works that I have seen / heard in a long time and there are quite a few out there (but that’s another post for another time). One that has been earning rave reviews in the first few weeks since opening in early April (and I managed to make it out there in mid-late April).

So if you happen to be in the Denver / Colorado Springs area I highly recommend heading over to the Denver Center for Performing Arts and watch this production. The creators did a more than fantastic job in catering the production to not only the average theatre goer… but to the non-typical theatre goer and Jane-ites alike.

Leave a Reply