Kate Dion-Richard and Matthew MacDonald-Bain in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley. Photo by Sarah McNeil.
Kate Dion-Richard and Matthew MacDonald-Bain in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley. Photo by Sarah McNeil.

The holidays are steeped in nostalgia and tradition. What better time then for a Disney sequel to Pride and Prejudice? Austin’s characters return in this heartwarming story full of romance, wit, and more than a bit of fanservice.

Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melon, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley revisits the Bennet sisters a scant two years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet, now living alone at home with only her parents and piano for company, longs to experience the world beyond her meagre means. But a chance encounter with the recently inherited, and socially inept Lord De Bourgh offers our Miss Bennet a chance at not only freedom but love as well.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is a confection of the sweetest order. It froths with wit but lacks a depth of flavour needed to give it more substance. Heavy doses of fanservice, nods to the original books, and sometimes outright physical nods to the audience, clash with the sweetheart beating at the core of this show. But this is a show that knows what it is. It is not aiming to chart the depths of the human experience, and it does not need to. Like a Hallmark movie set in Georgian England, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley hits all the notes it requires to fulfill the needs of the season.

The performances are a delight. Tim Carlson and Chris Walters work seamlessly as Bingly and Darcy, respectively. The casual excitement when learning of Mr. De Bourgh’s infatuation is a highlight of the show.

But these performances pale in comparison to that of Kate Dion-Richard and Matthew MacDonald-Bain. Their physical precision and awkward chemistry are what make this show more than a fluffy piece of holiday slush. They bring heart and human connection to what sometimes veers into farce, particularly at the end of act one. Carmela Sison also shines as Anne De Bourgh in a challenging role that flows believably from caricature villainess to neophyte heroine.

The set design by Ted Roberts is gorgeous, and the music by Heather Kemski is nostalgic without being cheesy. Amy McDougall’s costumes are beautifully evocative without pulling focus from the relationships at play.

With excellent performances, stunning design, and gorgeous music, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley ticks all the boxes for holiday entertainment. It is nostalgic, beautiful, and not too deep. It is a Christmas cookie that crumbles when pressed. My advice? Don’t press it. Just sit back and enjoy a little snippet of holiday sweetness.

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley. Written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Directed by Roy Surette. On stage at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver) until Jan 4. Visit http://artsclub.com/ for tickets and information.