Back in April I participated in the first read-through of a new musical production of Pride and Prejudice that is premiering at the SCERA Shell outdoor amphitheater in August. I read (among others) the part of Mr. Collins, which, as a character actor, I think is the plum male role in the show.
A few weeks later when they held auditions, I was invited to call-backs for the part of Mr. Collins. It was at call-backs that I learned that the part of Mr. Collins was written for a bass.
I am not a bass.
Thus, I am not Mr. Collins.
(If you want a mental picture of my performance at call-backs, just imagine Beaker from the Muppets attempting to sing “Old Man River” in the original octave.)
Oh, well. It would have been fun to play Mr. Collins, but I would be perfectly happy just being in the chorus, so I wasn’t too disappointed.
Two days later, I received the following:
“Thank you again for auditioning for Pride and Prejudice. We really enjoyed your audition and would like to offer you the role of Mr. Wickham in our production.”
I honestly thought it was a typo. Surely someone at the theater office had read the wrong line on the cast list and typed “Wickham” when they should have typed “Townsperson #18 (Man With Bucket).”
I fired off an email message to Robert, the Assistant Director:
I just wanted to double-check…am I really Mr. Wickham, or did they send me the wrong information?
That’s the right role. You are to play the handsome Mr. Wickham.
As if “Mr. Wickham” wasn’t ludicrous enough, he just had to throw in “handsome,” too.
It is, to say the least, a “non-obvious” casting choice. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it is the least obvious casting choice, so I have to trust that they know what they’re doing. But, still…
I feel for poor Lydia. I initially heard that the young lady playing Lydia was only 17 years old, but that was incorrect.
She’s 16. Barely.
So, either this version of Pride and Prejudice is set in Texas, or they wanted to give the Lydia/Wickham relationship a new twist. In our production, if Lydia and Wickham get along really well, but things don’t work out romantically, instead of marrying her, he can adopt her.
Because of the venue, my age is less of a problem than it might be. As my sister, Amy, pointed out, the SCERA Shell is so huge, and the audience sits so far from the stage, you could have Phyllis Diller play the part of Liesl in The Sound of Music and half the audience would be none the wiser.
Another plus is that Wickham’s part isn’t very big, so even if I’m dreadful I can’t do that much damage. My sister, Jenny, who is playing Mrs. Hurst, noted that I am not unlike the dull-but-wealthy Mr. Rushworth in Mansfield Park, who is given a miniscule part in a play…
Miss Crawford accepted the part very readily, and soon after Miss Bertram’s return from the Parsonage, Mr. Rushworth arrived, and another character was consequently cast. He had the offer of Count Cassel and Anhalt, and at first did not know which to choose, and wanted Miss Bertram to direct him, but upon being made to understand the different style of the characters, and which was which, and recollecting that he had once seen the play in London, and had thought Anhalt a very stupid fellow, he soon decided for the Count. Miss Bertram approved the decision, for the less he had to learn the better; and though she could not sympathise in his wish that the Count and Agatha might be to act together, nor wait very patiently while he was slowly turning over the leaves with the hope of still discovering such a scene, she very kindly took his part in hand, and curtailed every speech that admitted being shortened;–besides pointing out the necessity of his being very much dressed, and choosing his colours. Mr. Rushworth liked the idea of his finery very well, though affecting to despise it, and was too much engaged with what his own appearance would be, to think of the others, or draw any of those conclusions, or feel any of that displeasure, which Maria had been half prepared for.
…and then spends the better part of the next three chapters blathering on about it.
Mr. Rushworth followed him to say, “I come in three times, and have two-and-forty speeches. That’s something, is not it?–But I do not much like the idea of being so fine.–I shall hardly know myself in a blue dress and a pink satin cloak.”
“I had my choice of the parts,” said Mr. Rushworth; “but I thought I should like the Count best–though I do not much relish the finery I am to have.”
“You chose very wisely, I am sure,” replied Miss Crawford, with a brightened look; “Anhalt is a heavy part.”
“The Count has two-and-forty speeches,” returned Mr. Rushworth, “which is no trifle.”
“Me!” cried Fanny, sitting down again with a most frightened look. “Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.”
“Indeed but you must, for we cannot excuse you. It need not frighten you; it is a nothing of a part, a mere nothing, not above half a dozen speeches altogether, and it will not much signify if nobody hears a word you say, so you may be as creepmouse as you like, but we must have you to look at.”
“If you are afraid of half a dozen speeches,” cried Mr. Rushworth, “what would you do with such a part as mine? I have forty-two to learn.”
Like the dull-but-wealthy Mr. Rushworth, I come in three times, but in order to condense a 300+ page novel into a two hour musical, they’ve “curtailed every speech that admitted being shortened.” So, unlike the dull-but wealthy Mr. Rushworth, I do not have two-and-forty speeches; I have three-and-ten.
That’s it: 13 lines. A miniscule part, to be sure. And now I’m going to spend the better part of the next two months blathering on about it.
I’ll warn you right now, if you don’t care for Jane Austen, you might want to leave and come back in September. Because, until the show closes on August 22, Tiny Pineapple is probably going to be ALL AUSTEN ALL THE TIME!
To get into the proper Austenian mood, the girls and I have been working our way through all of the various productions of Pride & Prejudice on DVD. So, in addition to the musical, I’ve been drawing up a list of other possible topics of conversation. Among them:
What price must Colin Firth pay for setting the bar for the rest of us men so ridiculously high?
Is the 1980 BBC production proof that you can light a film with nothing but two 40-watt bulbs and the foil from three sticks of Doublemint gum?
Why didn’t Mary and Mr. Collins get married, and if they did, would you dare invite them over for dinner?
Is Crispin Bonham-Carter’s Mr. Bingley the biggest goober to ever appear on the screen? (And I mean “goober” in the best possible way.)
Who should be crowned Ultimate Darcy?
So, welcome to “The Summer of Wickham”…