By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 16 2020 01:00PM
Last week’s online premiere of a new musical version of Pride and Prejudice, streamed for free by Streaming Musicals, drew a more than respectable audience: 160,000 viewers from fourteen countries, according to Variety.
Compared to the audience for a new theatrical production, P&P’s viewership numbers are staggering: Broadway theaters seat between five hundred and nineteen hundred people. Compared to the audience for network TV, not so much: The most popular show (NCIS) is averaging nearly twelve million viewers a week and even the least popular (Dynasty) is still pulling in more than 360,000.
The goal of Streaming Musicals, however, is not to compete with TV but to broaden access to theater, and in that context, Friday’s numbers look pretty good. Viewers got to see a live-on-tape performance filmed in front of an audience last year, during P&P’s run at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA. The show is the brainchild of Tony-nominated composer Paul Gordon, who wrote the book, the music, and the lyrics.
After sitting through Friday’s airing, I must admit that I’m not a big fan of this P&P, which sold many tickets but got mixed reviews during its original theatrical run. I'm a purist, though: My hackles were up from the moment that Elizabeth Bennet strolled onto the stage, spoke the novel's famous opening line, and changed one of the words.
If you missed the online premiere but would like to judge for yourself, you can still catch the performance, albeit no longer for free: It’s available to buy ($19.99) or rent ($4.99), as is Gordon’s earlier musical version of Emma.