Monthly Archives: April 2019

Review #2 is in!

‘Emma’ review: Shani Ferry charms as Jane Austen’s meddling heroine

by Kerry Clawson with the Akron Beacon Journal

A cast of memorable characters comes to life on the Western Reserve Playhouse stage with the classic Jane Austen story “Emma.”

Under the fine direction of longtime Actors’ Summit company member Keith Stevens, the delightful and charming Shani Ferry stars as young matchmaker Emma Woodhouse. Ferry, a regular Akron-area pro who also worked for many years at Actors’ Summit, brings bright humor to this meddling, spoiled society girl who derives endless entertainment and self-satisfaction from her misguided manipulations of her friends’ love lives.

This stage adaptation, create by former Cleveland Play House artistic director Michael Bloom in 2010, is based on one of Austen’s greatest novels, published in late 1815. It’s Austen’s fourth of sixth novels and the last to be published during her lifetime.

The story is set in the early 19th century amid the country gentry of fictional Highbury, England. In Emma’s world, courtship and marrying well is just about everything for the young women of this country village. This heroine sees people as projects and believes she is always right when it comes to matters of the heart.

Bloom’s adaptation makes highly effective use of monologues by Emma, where she tells the audience of her delight in matchmaking and gradually of her horror at the errors she has made with other people’s lives. Ferry has excellent comedic delivery, especially in the moments when the largely good-natured Emma shares her innermost thoughts about her foibles.

A tight supporting cast includes Eli Ravenson as good friend Mr. George Knightley, Victoria Kirgesner as confidante/newlywed Mrs. Weston, Emily Shipley as the unsophisticated young Harriet Smith and Kayla Lehman as the beautiful and secretive Jane Fairfax. Mia Radabaugh is the ever-talkative spinster Miss Bates and the humorous Dennis Runkle is Emma’s father Henry, who fusses that young women shouldn’t marry.

Ravenson creates the voice of reason as the serious Mr. Knightley, the only character to stand up to Emma’s silliness and chastise her when she speaks unkindly. Henry, on the other hand, thoroughly indulges his daughter.

This story becomes a comedy of manners as some love triangles develop. Michael Knobloch is charming and effusive as young Frank Churchill, whom Emma starts to fall for, though she has sworn off ever marrying. It’s just too bad his light-colored, satiny pants are so unattractive in comparison with the other men’s dark pants onstage.

Kelsey Tomlinson cuts a snooty character as Augusta Hawkins and Zach Manthey’s Mr. Elton is almost as silly as Emma, until he’s subdued by his imperious new wife Augusta.

These richly drawn Austen characters have provided plenty of fodder for adaptations over the years, for the stage as well as in TV and film. That includes a 2000 musical version of the story as well as the 1995 movie “Clueless,” set in Beverly Hills and starring Alicia Silverstone.

In Bloom’s stage adaptation, Emma’s sister Isabella and brother-in-law John Knightley, the younger brother of George, are not seen.

Western Reserve’s production features some nice recorded music as both Emma and Jane sit at the piano to entertain friends. Ferry and Knobloch also share a lovely vocal duet.

Emma, who is rich due to an inheritance, can afford to concern herself with other people’s class and social status. She’s likable nevertheless, especially when she confesses herself to be a “spoiled child.” And Runkle’s Henry has one of the funniest lines in the show when he finally concedes that Emma’s marrying will at least put an end to her matchmaking business.


Comedy: “Emma”

When: Final shows 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Where: Western Reserve Playhouse, 3326 Everett Road, Bath

Onstage: Shani Ferry, Eric Wayne Coulbourne, Sid Freeman, Victoria Kirgesner, Michael Knobloch; Kayla Lehman, Zach Manthey, Mia Radabaugh, Eli Ravenson, Dennis Runkle, Emily Shipley, Kelsey Tomlinson

Offstage: Jane Austen, author; Michael Bloom, adaptation; Keith Stevens, director; Daniel Huntsicker, set design; Kelsey Tomlinson, costumer; Kevin Rutan, lighting design; Justin Herman, sound design; Sue Snyder, Brianna Joi, props; Bryan Bird, recorded pianist; Brianna Joi, stage manager

Cost: $17; students and senior citizens, $15

Information: 330-620-7314,

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or


First Review of “EMMA” is in. It is a HIT!

Strong acting featured in Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘Emma’


4/25/2019 – West Side Leader
By David Ritchey

Shani Ferry (Emma Woodhouse) and Eli Ravenson (Mr. George Knightley) share a scene in Western Reserve Playhouse’s “Emma.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Douglas

BATH — Western Reserve Playhouse is staging Jane Austen’s “Emma” through May 4. Austen (1775-1817) wrote the novel “Emma” late in her life. “Emma” has been adapted into movies, television features, in several versions for the stage and now there is rumor of a musical version. The adaptation of “Emma” offered at Western Reserve Playhouse was adapted by Michael Bloom.

Keith Stevens directed this production of “Emma.” This is the Stevens who has acted and directed successfully throughout Northeast Ohio for several years.

Stevens has a good command of the theater and of the script he’s brought to the stage.

“Emma” is a delightful comedy of manners. Emma Woodhouse (Shani Ferry) prides herself on her ability to matchmake. She has successfully introduced Mr. Weston (Sid Freeman) and Mrs. Weston (Victoria Kirgesner) and the first scene shows the Weston’s marriage ceremony.

Emma announces repeatedly she will never marry. However, when Frank Churchill (Michael Knobloch) makes his first entrance, Emma changes her mind. He is handsome, sings well and charms all of the ladies.

Costumer Kelsey Tomlinson built many era-appropriate costumes — home dresses and ball gowns. I think of wigs as part of the costumes and the wigs were especially good in this production.

The costumes are complemented by the furniture, which is bright and appropriate for the era.

Kayla Lehman choreographed the dance scenes. The dances were directly out of the 1815 period. Lehman did an excellent job staging the dances on a small, crowded stage.

Ferry creates a charming and irritating Emma. Bloom wrote this version to have Emma step out and speak directly to the audience. This breaking of the fourth wall is uncomfortable for some audience members, yet Ferry makes this stage convention easy to watch. Ferry is an excellent actress who has worked in the Akron theater area for several years.

Mia Radabaugh plays the talkative Miss Bates. Radabaugh has a keen sense of comedy and can milk a line for all of the laughs that line may hold. She’s a first-rate actress.

Mr. George Knightley (Eli Ravenson) seems irritated by Emma’s match making and her inability to get her own life in order. He squirms with this comedy of manners and the inability of characters to run their own lives. Yet, when he takes charge of his own life, he is decisive and fun to watch.

The cast members are equally strong, without a weak link on the team.

The novel and the play seem to reach out to Dear Abby, Ann Landers and Miss Manners. During the play, I thought of teenagers giggling over who has a date with whom for the prom.

“Emma” was one of four of Austen’s novels to be published in her lifetime and the last one published before her death. As a young, single woman, Austen visited many friends for several weeks at a time. These visits provided characters and scenes for her novels. One of the forms of house-party entertainment was for members of the family to act in short plays.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor emeritus of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

Meet the cast of Jane Austin’s “Emma” adapted by Michael Bloom


Western Reserve Playhouse announces third show of 2019 Season

“Emma” by Jane Austen

Adapted by Michael Bloom
Directed by Keith Stevens

One of Jane Austen’s greatest novels, Emma is presented as a highly theatrical production. Pledging never to marry, the mischievous Emma Woodhouse is nevertheless the “matchmaker of Highbury.” Her newest project, Harriet Smith, has already received a proposal, but Emma insists she marry the eligible vicar Mr. Elton, while, an older family friend, Mr. Knightly, warns her to give up matchmaking. When Emma discovers Mr. Elton is more interested in her, she is forced to fend him off and find another suitor for Harriet. Highbury welcomes two new guests, a mysterious Jane Fairfax and the charming Frank Churchill, and Emma finds herself falling just a little in love with him. Ultimately, she decides that Frank is better suited to Harriet, but when she suggests the match, Emma is astonished to discover that Harriet has fallen for Mr. Knightly. A horrified Emma suddenly realizes she has always been in love with Mr. Knightley. In the end, all is set right as Frank reveals his secret engagement to Jane, Harriet receives a second offer from her first beau, and Mr. Knightley proposes to the deliriously happy Emma.

The star studded cast filled with some of WRP’s favorites, Shani Ferry (Lost in Yonkers and The Maids), Kelsey Tomlinson (Tartuffe), Kayla Lehman (Tartuffe & Little Women), Mia Radabaugh (Tartuffe), Emily Shipley (Little Women), Michael Knobloch (Little Women), Zach Manthey (Hay Fever & Tartuffe), Eric Coulbourne (Hay Fever) and new to our stage, Eli Ravenson, Dennis Runkle, Sid Freeman and Victoria Kirgesner.

“Emma” April 19-May 4, 2019 with a matinee at 2PM, Sunday, April 28, 2019. Tickets are $17.00 for Adults and $15.00 for Students and Seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

BY: Jane Austen and Adapted by Michael Bloom
VENUE AND ADDRESS: 3326 Everett Road, Bath, Ohio 44268
RUN DATES: April 19-May 4, 2019
TIMES OF SHOWS: Friday and Saturday 8PM, Sunday April 28th at 2PM
TICKETS: $17.00 for Adults and $15.00 for Seniors/Students
BOX OFFICE: 330-620-7314