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First Impressions – 1959

First Impressions – 1959

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Synopsis

The time is 1813, the scene is Longbourn, the home of the Bennets in Hertfordshire. The family consists of Mr. Bennet (Laurie Main), his busy wife (Hermione Gingold), and their five unmarried daughters: Elizabeth (Polly Bergen), Jane (Phyllis Newman), Mary (Lois Bewley), Lydia (Lynn Ross), and Kitty (Lauri Peters). Mrs. Bennet’s primary aim in life is to see her children well married, which is not easy when one has “Five Daughters.” Nor are the daughters, particularly Elizabeth, entirely sympathetic to her schemes (“I’m Me”). But good news comes to Mrs. Bennet that a rich young man, Charles Bingley (Donald Madden), is coming to live at nearby Netherfield Hall, accompanied by his even richer friend Fitzwilliam Darcy (Farley Granger), and she hurries out to tell her friends (“Have You Heard the News?”). Darcy and Bingley make their first appearance at the Assembly Dance, where the latter is immediately attracted to Jane, but an intense dislike springs up between Elizabeth and Darcy, arising from her spirited tongue and his overbearing pride of station. When Bingley forces them to dance together, they make the best of it but are by no means happy (“A Perfect Evening”). Elizabeth is more attracted to the dashing Captain Wickham (James Mitchell), who is anathema to Darcy. Bingley and his sister invite Jane to dinner at Netherfield, and the canny Mrs. Bennet sends her off on horseback in the rain, planning for her to be invited to remain overnight. “As Long As There’s a Mother,” she assures her daughters, all will be well. Jane catches cold on her journey, and her stay is extended. When Elizabeth goes to visit her, she is persuaded by Bingley to sing for them (“Love Will Find Out the Way”), and Darcy, hearing her, is forced to conclude that he may have been wrong in his low opinion of her (“A Gentleman Never Falls Wildly in Love”). Mr. Bennet’s cousin Mr. Collins (Christopher Hewett), to whom the Bennet estate is entailed, arrives at Longbourn with the idea of marrying one of the daughters, and decides upon Elizabeth, who is appalled by the idea and indignantly refuses him (“Fragrant Flower”). Meanwhile the romance between Jane and Bingley is blossoming, and he gives a party at Netherfield for her (“I Feel Sorry for the Girl”). The strong-minded Elizabeth slowly begins to find Darcy more attractive and he, in turn, appears willing to overlook the commonness of her mother and her connections (“I Suddenly Find It Agreeable”). Elizabeth is delighted (“This Really Isn’t Me”), until they unfortunately hear the foolish Mrs. Bennet boasting of Jane’s triumph. Darcy at once withdraws into his pride and prevails upon Bingley to leave for London, leaving Elizabeth bemused and angry. Mr. Collins, spurned by Elizabeth, thereupon marries her friend Charlotte Lucas (Ellen Hanley), to the intense disgust of Mrs. Bennet {“Wasn’t It a Simply Lovely Wedding?”}. He and Charlotte invite Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth to visit his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Mary Finney), a fine example of vintage snobbery – and Darcy’s aunt as well. Mrs. Bennet, overcome by the grandeur of her surroundings, dreams of owning “A House in Town.” Darcy arrives and tells Elizabeth he has conquered his dislike of her and her family, and that he wishes to marry her (“The Heart Has Won the Game”). This oddly reasoned proposal incenses Elizabeth, who refuses and moreover upbraids him for his cold behavior to Captain Wickham. They argue violently, and he again stalks out, leaving her dejected. Lydia, the fourth sister, takes advantage of their absence to run off with Captain Wickham, throwing the family into dismay and humiliation. At last Mr. Bennet returns from his search for them with the news that Wickham has come into an inheritance, has agreed to marry Lydia, and has paid his debts. Lady Catherine arrives to forbid Elizabeth, quite unnecessarily, to marry Darcy, and unwittingly reveals that it was he who supplied the money to Wickham, despite the fact that Wickham had once plotted to elope with Darcy’s young sister. It dawns on Elizabeth that her feelings against Darcy are founded only on his pride, not on his person, and when Bingley suddenly arrives to be reunited with Jane, she allows Mrs. Bennet to persuade her to go to Netherfield to apologize (“Let’s Fetch the Carriage”). Together Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and prejudice, based on first impressions, and agree that the heart has indeed won the game.

Credits

Mr. Bennet: Laurie Main Mrs. Bennet: Hermione Gingold Elizabeth Bennet: Polly Bergen Jane: Phyllis Newman Mary: Lois Bewley Lydia: Lynn Ross Kitty: Lauri Peters Charles Bingley: Donald Madden Fitzwilliam Darcy: Farley Granger Captain Wickham: James Mitchell Mr. Collins: Christopher Hewett Charlotte Lucas: Ellen Hanley Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Mary Finney Book and direction by Abe Burrows, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Music and lyrics by Robert Goldman, Glenn Paxton, and George Weiss Choreography by Jonathan Lucas Vocal arrangements and direction by Buster Davis Dance arrangements by John Morris Orchestrations by Don Walker Musical direction by Frederick Dvonch