Paul Gordon

Building Musicals For a Better World




Emma, a timeless love story from one of the most widely read writers of all time, is a musical that will entice modern audiences to fall in love again with one of Jane Austen's most adored characters. Emma, a beautiful and clever young woman who prides herself on her matchmaking ability, is preoccupied with romance yet is clueless to her own feelings of love. When she takes on a young friend as her latest project, her well-intentioned efforts misfire, leading to a whirlwind of complications. Deliciously charming, this new romantic comedy, from Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon and directed by Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun, brings Jane Austen's masterpiece to musical life.


Emma was first developed by TheatreWorks in 2006 and was in the NAMT Festival the same year. The World Premier of Emma was presented by TheatreWorks in 2007 and directed by Robert Kelley where it broke box office records. In 2008 the production premiered at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. In 2011, the musical opened at the Old Globe in San Diego, directed by Tony Nominated director, Jeff Calhoun. In 2012 Stephen Wentmore and David Ira Goldstien helmed Emma for the Arizona Theatre Company.



“It's a bloomin' gem.  ….The score is as intelligent as it is buoyant. Gordon's skill with musical soliloquies, previously evidenced in "Jane Eyre" and "Daddy Long Legs," expands as each solo becomes a dramatic opportunity for character growth.  Adapter Paul Gordon artfully selects incidents from a young girl's sentimental education; songwriter Gordon gives them witty, lyrical expression; and stager Jeff Calhoun, through minimal means, conveys the warp and woof of 1815 British country life. Vest-pocket scaled but with a big sound, the resulting distillation will enjoy a robust life in multiple venues.” -- Variety

“Composer and writer Paul Gordon's Jane Austen's Emma: A Musical Romantic Comedy is most certainly the best new musical that San Diego's Old Globe has hosted in some time.  His book is relatively faithful to the 1815 novel, and his lush, romantic, score features at least two songs, "Home" and the title number, that have a good chance of entering the musical theatre canon”. -- Talkin’ Broadway


“This show is a gift and Paul Gordon makes it so. His words, his lyrics and his music each seem to be the most superior achievement at various moments. The way to say it is that they all, blended in Jeff Calhoun’s wise staging, are a blissful whole, worthy of Miss Austen herself…. From the first view of Tobin Ost’s ravishing set, glowing in Michael Gilliam’s pristine light, to the final goodbye waves of happy couples, this show celebrates the hopeful metaphors of comfortable virtues in an innocent world than make Austen’s awesome talents still so viable.”  --  San


“It’s hard to imagine a better creative force to adapt Jane Austen’s Emma for the musical theater stage than Gordon, Tony nominated for his score to Jane Eyre and winner last week of the Ovation Award to his score to Daddy Long Legs.  Gordon’s book manages to compact Austen’s novel into under two and a half hours, maintaining a delectably tart Austenian tone while peppering it with just enough winking humor to keep it fresh and delightful for contemporary audiences.  Emma further cements composer-lyricist-book writer Gordon’s position as the most romantic of our contemporary musical-theater composers.  Sparklingly tuneful, witty and romantic as all get-out, Jane Austen’s Emma is a rom-com lover’s dream come true.” --


“Jane Austen’s EMMA - directed with a wink by Jeff Calhoun and starring a bright, sparkling Patti Murin who fills the stage with endlessly vibrant energy making this perfectly proper, hopelessly flawed Emma a maddening delight.  …Some of the evening’s most comical moments belong to Dani Marcus’ Harriet.  Gordon has given her one of the best comedy songs in musical theatre since Jerry Herman wrote “Gooch’s Song” for Agnes in Mame.  As for the rest of the score, Gordon’s music is a dream, from the downbeat of “Hartfield,” which propels us into the world of Regency England, through “The Epiphany” when Emma realizes it’s been Mr. Knightley she has loved all along. In between are more beautiful melodies than you can count and poetry that will satisfy every hopeless romantic in the audience, a highlight being Knightley’s “Emma,” which soars to the rafters and is one of Adam Monley’s finest vocal moments of the night     --  Musicals in LA


“Gordon’s charming, melodious score is an ideal match for the tone of the piece – and the marvelously talented cast gifted director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun has amassed. The voices are superb, and the performers have a stunning setting to play around in, cavorting within a giant hedge maze that underscores the story’s labyrinthine relationships. Gordon, Calhoun and company expertly capture the era, and not in the air-headed manner of the 1995 “Emma” update, “Clueless.” The show is lighthearted and fun, but it takes its Austen seriously -- and respectfully. ….This new musical creation is a delectable addition to the seemingly endless Austen-mania. It won’t take a lot of ‘Persuasion’ to call this one a winner. --  Jazz 88.3

“… a musical that’s a total pleasure, and maybe more fun for a contemporary audience than it has a real right to be. …. A savvy adaptation by composer-writer-lyricist Paul Gordon. The tone of his show treads nimbly between paying homage to Austen...   Tobin Ost’s eye-popping set — dominated by a huge maze of hedgerows tipped up like a pyramid — is an inventive metaphor for the story’s many twists. …A gem of an Emma.”  --  Union-Tribune

“And a delightful version it is, beginning with Tobin Ost’s fabulous set: a huge labyrinthine hedge, raked steeply enough to give even the audience the vapors and apparently trapped all over so that characters can pop up and disappear at unexpected times. ….the characters are all wonderfully drawn and sung.” --  San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

“Jane Austen’s Emma --  captures the essence of the original book with its witty dialogue and amusing situations, but now profits from a delightful score sung by enormously talented performers.  Guiding this tale of true love is terrific direction by Tony Award-nominee Jeff Calhoun and beautiful music by Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon.  Patti Murin plays the effervescent ingénue Emma, and there isn’t a moment in her performance that she doesn’t light up the stage”.  - La Jolla Light

“Jane Austen's Emma... a delightful, witty, clever, and thoroughly entertaining event. Paul Gordon's book, music, and lyrics are simply enchanting, capturing a perfectly pleasant tale of the heart and the age  --

“Patti Murin is the perfect embodiment of the Austen heroine; she is part sweet, tart, caring and blissfully unaware of the ramifications of her actions.  She strikes the balance between them so that the audience loves her even when they know that no good will come from her schemes.  Adam Monley as Mr. Knightley is the perfect Austen hero. Mr. Monley brings a quiet strength of character in his portrayal of Knightley”

“Jane Austen’s Emma shows just how much the original character still has to offer. The result is a delightful production that feels fresh and light on its feet.  Composed by Paul Gordon and directed by Jeff Calhoun, the production stays true to the original story, enhancing it with songs that appeal to modern sensibilities”.--  Pomerado News


“Paul Gordon does a fantastic job of making Jane Austen’s classic come to life as a musical romantic comedy.  …. Those who haven’t read or heard anything about Jane Austen’s popular novel Emma will be enchanted by the intricately woven plotlines and clever wit interspersed throughout the story.  But for those who are already familiar with the novel, the show will also pleasantly surprise audiences by things that they will already expect.”  --

“….every aspect of the show kept my full attention and captured my full heart. From the dynamite ensemble cast to the cleverly designed set, it was constant entertainment. To spice up this sugary review, I’d love to throw in something nasty, but I simply have nothing negative to say. If you have a pulse, you will adore this show”.   --   San Diego Mama


"All right, all you keepers of the Jane Austen flame, get over it...RELAX AND GET READY FOR A BUOYANT, VERY WELL-MADE NEW MUSICAL THAT SUCCEEDS ON ITS OWN SPRY TERMS…Even the most skeptical audience member would have to work hard not to be gratified, impressed and entertained.”  - San Francisco Chronicle “In his clean-lined book, dexterous lyrics and ingratiating score, Gordon finds an assured language for his transformation from one medium to another. What results is an "Emma" that pays fresh tribute to its source by pursuing its own theatrical purposes so clearly.”  “The show's strongest suit may be its score. First, Gordon has the undervalued knack for writing memorable melodies.  Second, in his Sondheimian mode, the composer can musicalize more complex emotional states, such as paradox or emotional detachment and self-deception.  Gordon coats his 21st century score in a 19th century sheen.”


“Paul Gordon's music, lyrics and books are all perfect enhancements of Austen's two-centuries-old romantic comedy novel.  A perfect match of music and staging…. EVERYTHING A MUSICAL SHOULD BE.”  -- San Jose Mercury


“Gordon's treatment of the material is spot-on.  The songs -- many of them cleverly woven throughout -- ENHANCE THE STORY IN WONDERFUL WAYS: They reveal the characters' subtext, create a palpable sense of the endless gossip network and move the action smoothly forward.  ...A CHARMER.”  -- Variety


“Gordon's upbeat score with its cascading piano and airborne strings moves into pop hit territory. Generally, you can count on musicals for fluff…but Emma makes all that disappear in its overall lightness of being.”  -- San Jose Metro


“Emma is a happy surprise, finding a way to translate Jane Austen into a contemporary theatrical idiom without sacrificing the essence of the original work. …(Gordon) has created a score that sounds fresh and at times catchy without betraying the period setting. And the manner in which the music is integrated into his reworking of Austen's prose feels both natural and illuminating.”  -- Bay Area Reporter


"Gordon has his own voice, which smoothly melds with the world Austen first created.  …YOU CAN PUT EMMA SQUARELY IN THE COLUMN
MARKED "HITS."  “It's hard to overstate the success of this play. THE MUSIC THROUGHOUT IS FANTASTIC, BROADWAY-QUALITY STUFF: Funny, moving, catchy, and somehow it manages to do all that without drifting into caricature or melodrama. Adaptor and composer Paul Gordon infuses his songs with the hooks and riffs of pop music while keepings the lyrics emotionally sophisticated and the score musically so.  -- Mountain View Voice

“Emma, with music, lyrics and book by Paul Gordon, is simply charming. Featuring a superb cast, lovely set and costumes, and strong direction, this is a show for any fan of Austen, musicals or love.  The show itself is very well written. The music is beautiful, and lyrical without being cloying.. ….And the plot is skillfully cropped to fit the needs of a two and a half hour show, without leaving out too much.”  - San Francisco Bay Times


“EMMA, the 50th world premiere by TheatreWorks…. IS SURELY HEADED FOR BROADWAY.” -- Theatreworld Internet Magazine



“‘Perfect’ is a word I usually reserve for a well-glazed creme

brulee. But it is the only apt modifier for this production.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a favorite novel is musicalized, we are bound to have to endure at least a few false notes. Not so in the musical "Emma," currently playing at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts under the superb direction of TheatreWorks' founder, Robert Kelley.”  -- The Country Almanac


“Paul Gordon's book preserves much of the novel's scintillating dialogue, yet incorporates enough of his own to let us know that, unlike our dearly departed Miss Austen, he is very much alive and in tune with the 21st century. His memorable musical score plants us firmly at the intersection of Broadway and Austen.”


“Paul Gordon’s vivacious new musical adaptation of Austen’s a lovely, sugar-dusted confection in musical form...


“Numerous other qualities contribute to Emma's broad, feel-good appeal, from Gordon's judicious mixture of language lifted directly from Austen's text with his own witty lines, to his use of caricature for supporting roles.”  -- San Francisco Weekly


“When one watches such musical classics as My Fair Lady, A Little Night Music, Evita, Porgy and Bess or Kiss Me Kate, one might ask oneself, "What will be the next musical to equal one of these masterpieces?" EMMA IS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE MOST DELIGHTFUL MUSICAL TO HIT A BAY AREA STAGE IN YEARS.  …If the public ever gets an inkling as to how enjoyable this show is, there will never be an empty seat in the house.   …Recrafting the novel by Jane Austen into a script, Paul Gordon has brought the wry wit of Austen up to the gleaming genius level of Shaw or Wilde or Noel Coward.” --  San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle


 “As far as world premieres go, Emma is in remarkably good shape.

GORDON’S SCORE — an easy-on-the-ears kind of chamber pop, orchestrated for violin, cello, oboe/English horn and piano— HITS ALL THE RIGHT NOTES” -- Oakland Tribune


“‘Emma,’ a one-man musical by Paul Gordon (music, lyrics, book—the whole shebang), is DELIGHTFUL, CHARMING, ENTERTAINING.” -- San Francisco Examiner



“Paul Gordon has successfully appropriated the three sections of Jane Austen's book into an enchanting musical. He has an understated knack for writing outstanding melodies. Many are passionately poetic, such as "Emma" and the comical "Mr. Robert Martin." One can hear a Sondheim mode in several of the songs, such as the complex "The Conviction of My Indifference," "The Recital" or "This is How Love Feels." "Humiliation" is an unforgettable song about Harriet's touching, comically recurring feelings when no one asks her to dance. GORDON'S TREATMENT OF THE MATERIAL IS FANTASTIC. The songs just flow into the action of the characters throughout the two-hour and 30-minute production.” -- Talkin' Broadway



"Do yourself a favor and return to a gentler time and re-live what musicals used to be. Emma will cast a very welcome spell over you and draw you in to this very magical world of Jane Austen."  KFUO FM, St. Louis


"Devotees of Jane Austen book clubs, movies and television miniseries likely will find much to savor in this sumptuous staging ofEmma, the lilting musical adaptation of Austen's 1816 novel about self-delusion, class decorum and the perils of meddlesome matchmaking. So much visual splendor provides an apt setting for the ebullience of Paul Gordon's music and lyrics, which are readily accessible on a first hearing. In tune with the show's rustic motif, a small chamber quartet (piano, oboe/English horn, cello, violin) perches above the set. The orchestrations are graceful and civilized; charm and lightness is the order of the evening." -- St. Louis Riverfront Times