In this season of giving, "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" is a great gift to all. Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents the imaginative play, co-written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, Nov. 28-Dec. 23.
Boston-based director Bridget Kathleen O'Leary joins director Sean Daniels as associate director of the eight-person show, which is a holiday sequel to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." And she couldn't be happier.
"I was delighted when Sean gave me the script and asked me to help direct," O'Leary said. "He had told me it was a holiday show, and I didn't really want to do another 'Christmas Carol' or 'Wonderful Life.'"
Instead, she got the play that the Huffington Post calls "a holiday delight -- wonderful wit, clever and exhilarating."
At the end of "Pride and Prejudice," (SPOILER ALERT) the heroine Lizzie invites her sisters to spend the holidays at her new home, Pemberley. Gunderson and Melcon used that invitation to create a sequel with holiday spirit and family appeal.
"This is a chance to escape in a wonderful, character-driven play," said O'Leary. "You get to spend time with these great women who are articulating what's important to them in a funny way. It's a farce and incredible to be working with strong women portraying strong women."
The lush production includes elegant costumes and sparkling humor, as it revisits the Bennet sisters, especially plain, bookish Mary, who spends her days dreaming and hoping to find a love of her own.
O'Leary brings years of experience to the role of associate director. She specializes in directing and new play development and for over a decade served as associate artistic director at New Repertory Theatre in Watertown.
She's learning a lot about directing comedy working with Daniels.
"I have done plays with comic relief, but this is farce, and Sean is building the comedy machine," she said. "It's so eye-opening to create a comedic moment. There is a precision to it."
Audiences, she hopes, will bask in this lovable holiday farce, whether they are Austen fans or not.
"It's truly a gift," she said.
Visit www.mrt.org or contact the box office at 978-654-4678 for tickets and information.
Nancye Tuttle's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the marquee
FEELING ELF-ISH: Buddy, everyone's favorite holiday elf, comes to life in "Elf The Musical," a joint production from Ogunquit Playhouse and the Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H., where it's on-stage Nov. 28-Dec. 16 at the Music Hall. Based on the beloved film, the show tells the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa's gift bag and is transported to the North Pole, where he is raised as an elf. Eventually, Buddy's enormous size and poor toy-making skills cause him to journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. Steven Booth stars as Buddy, with Diana Huey co-starring as Jovie. For tickets, visit www.themusichall.org or call the box office at 603-436-2400.
HOLIDAY POPS: Just hear those sleigh bells jingling at the Chelmsford Community Band Jazz Ensemble's fifth annual Holiday Pops on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., at Chelmsford Center for the Arts, 1A North Road. The Holiday Party Pops show features favorite Christmas classics with a touch of swing to get you in the ... well, swing. Look for a surprise visitor, guest artists and the annual sing-along. Tickets are $10 and there is a cash bar and snacks for all. Visit www.chelmsfordarts.org for tickets.
INSPIRATION AT LYRIC: "Breath & Imagination," running Nov. 30-Dec. 23 at Lyric Stage in Boston, offers a music-filled alternative to traditional holiday theatrical fare. The musical by Daniel Beaty chronicles Roland Hayes' inspirational journey from a Georgia plantation to a singing career that included command performances for kings and queens. He achieved international acclaim, but never left behind his complex, loving relationship with his mother, Angel Mo. With spirituals and classical music, it's a compelling show about one man's determination to become an artist despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Davron S. Monroe stars as Hayes. Tickets start at $25 at 617-585-5678 or www.lyricstage.com.