“Persuasion: A New Musical” at Taproot Theatre

Jane Austen set to music? It’s been done before, and now we have a new effort, a really good effort. You’ll find much to like in this world premiere Directed by Karen Lund and now playing at Taproot.

Written by Harold Taw with music and lyrics by Chris Jeffries, it began as staged readings at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2015 and since then has been work-shopped around the country. Now we have the full-blown production, and it is a delight.

Director Karen Lund and her staff have carefully honed every aspect. Sarah Burch Gordon’s costumes provide lush examples of early 18th Century clothing.

Mark Lund’s set deserves special attention. It’s quite bare yet works marvelously well. The floor has no carpets. Instead it consists of a stunning geometric pattern that resembles parquetry. There are no large pieces of furniture. In their place are 10 low wooden tables of various sizes, probably  few more. Cast members cleverly rearrange them throughout the production to create an amazing variety of scenes. It’s fascinating to watch the transformations.

Music Director Michael Nutting’s four-piece orchestra is located at the rear of the stage out of sight, but that doesn’t diminish their role. There is almost as much music in this work as there is dialog. As in opera or operetta, the cast sings consistently, and does it well.

Cayman Ilika & Matthew Posner in Persuasion at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Cayman Ilika gives just the right amount of reticence to her portrayal of the demure, unassuming, ever-giving Anne Elliot. She’s the one everyone uses, even dismisses. She’s the one you can always count on, yet Ilika never lets you forget that this is a character with a rich private life. She is one who yearns, who dreams but who unselfishly sees that others are well served, even when her heart is breaking. The lovely Ilika brings all these emotions as well as her rich singing voice to the role.

This is one of Austen’s most popular books, and it’s been brought to the stage in a polished fashion. If you’re an Austen fan you won’t want to miss it. And if you’re not . . . this might persuade you otherwise.

Through August 26 at Taproot Theatre 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

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