Mrs. LanceAround and I love the movie Enchanted April.
The story revolves around two dutiful yet unhappy London housewives during World War I. On a rainy, foggy day they notice an advertisement in The Times entitled “Wisteria and Sunshine.” The ad is for a month long rental, in April, of a castle on the Italian Mediterranean coast. They decide to leave their husbands for a month’s vacation. To help defray expenses, they advertise for two additional companions to join them. One is an elderly, widowed member of high society; the other a brash, young socialite who, unknowingly, is having an affair with the husband of one of the housewives.
What happens in the castle during the month of April is a story of transformation, redemption and unexpected romance.
We love this movie so much; it inspired us to begin a vacation rental home company in Florida. And when Mrs. LanceAround began to write a monthly newsletter for our business, we decided to call it “Palm Trees and Sunshine” in honor of the Enchanted April advertisement for “Wisteria and Sunshine.” (Shameless plug: You can sign up for Mrs. LanceAround’s newsletter by clicking on this link)
Frankly, when we heard that Orlando’s local theatre company, Mad Cow, was going to do a stage production of Enchanted April, we were skeptical. Part of the power of the story lies in the exquisite gardens surrounding the castle. We did not think the story could possibly translate onto the stage.
We were wrong.
The beautifully structured script by Matthew Barber based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, perfectly captures the essence of this enchanting story. We came to appreciate that the real power of the story was not the external scenery. Rather, it was the internal transformation of the characters which was sparked by their decision to take a much needed vacation away from the dreariness that had become their existence. Once they came face to face with their need to “get away” they discovered, ironically, just how much they needed what they already had…but seemed to have lost…only to find it again!
If that last paragraph seems cryptic, it is intentional. I do not want to give away too much of the story. But I do want to intrigue you enough to encourage you to see the movie. Or, if you are lucky enough to be in Orlando between now and 14 April, I recommend you go to Mad Cow Theatre for a wonderful evening of relaxing theatre enjoyment.
Enchanted April is an ensemble piece featuring eight very competent performances under the crisp, technically precise direction of Aradhana Tiwari. However, the real star of the show turns out to be the scenic design by Douglas Huston. It is exceptional–and this was the first time I have experienced an ovation for a scenery change since I witnessed the building of the barricade in the original staging of Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center.
The production is very good but not perfect. The first act takes place in rainy, dreary London. The lighting designer decided to help portray the dreariness with subdued lighting that often has the unfortunate effect of not allowing the audience to see the faces of the actors. In addition, each change of scene is accomplished by an intricate choreography of characters adjusting the scenery and placing the props. While amusing to watch, I found myself wishing that the director had spent more time helping the actors better explore the depth of their characters rather than wasting time with unnecessarily long scene changes.
For Mrs. LanceAround and I, perhaps the real issue with the production was our unfair habit of comparing the local professional company’s performances with the award winning work of the film stars like Joan Plowright, Miranada Richardson and Josie Lawrence. These great stars were able to discover and convey the most sublime subtext of their characters in performances worthy of the many awards and nominations they received!
Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the movie version, you will have a great evening at the theatre enjoying Mad Cow’s production of Enchanted April. And if you’re like Mrs. LanceAround and I, after the show you might go home, put on a pot of delicious British tea and watch the movie all over again. Either way, the story of transformation and redemption is powerful and enjoyable. And the staging of Enchanted April at the Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando is well worth a trip to downtown Orlando for the well informed readers of my blog seeking “More Than A Mouse.”™