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Sean Southerland
Brittni Bills Smith is Elizabeth Bennet and David Smith is Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice: A Musical."

Say the words "Pride and Prejudice" and you're likely to get some sort of reaction.

"I had no idea how many people would say it's their favorite book of all time," said Ann Kapp Andersen of the immensely popular Jane Austen novel.

Andersen (composer) and her writing partner Deborah Morris (book and lyrics) are getting ready to open their new musical version of Austen's love story, "Pride and Prejudice: A Musical."

The original work will have its world premiere this week at the SCERA Shell in Orem and will head to Brigham Young University's Education Week afterward.

"Daunting is a good word. You want it to be as good as the book, if you can," Andersen said.

If the name Kapp rings a bell, there is a reason. The popular composer of LDS music, Janice Kapp Perry, is Andersen's sister.

"She is the real musician in our family," Kapp Perry insists of her sister, who has spent most of her years living with her military husband in Alaska, Germany and Belgium before settling in Idaho.

"When I was Germany, I met Deborah, who is also a musician," Andersen said. "Deb had the basic version of the script for a few years and asked me if I'd like to collaborate. The story is so wonderful, I didn't have any trouble saying yes."

Since both Andersen and Morris have husbands in the military, it wasn't long before they relocated. "We've communicated, for the most part, over e-mails and phone calls."

The women held separate focus groups with theater folks and musicians to get feedback. "Deb had one in Germany, and my sister, Janice, offered to host a focus group for me. We assigned everyone a character to read, and we did the songs, and that was really helpful."

"I got my start as the choir director at my church in Alaska," Andersen said. "We had a big branch but a small budget. So, I took hymns and arranged them for the choir."

Though this is a first attempt at a full-length musical for both women, they're no strangers to music and theater; both have earned bachelor's degrees and upper level degrees, as well as working the bulk of their careers in related fields.

"There are a lot of people who like to write words, but Deb is so musical it's easier," Andersen said after explaining that for this composing team the words come first.

Living in Idaho, Andersen is close enough to come down to watch the progress, "but not too often — only if a big decision needs to be made."

Most recently, Andersen made the trek as the cast recorded the soundtrack.

"Deb just moved back to Virginia, and she's driving across the country to be here for the opening. I have friends coming in from Arkansas for the opening, and folks from all over. It's so exciting."

The duo, both of whom are from Utah originally, is looking to get the word out, "to let people know about it — hopefully this will be a springboard."

And they're hoping to venture into a second musical together. "We're just really, really excited. I think we'll be there every night."

Jerry Elison and Robert Barham are directors of the SCERA production.

If you go

What: World premiere of Pride and Prejudice: A Musical

When: Friday through Aug. 16

Where: SCERA Shell, 699 S. State, Orem

How Much: $8-$14, grass and reserved seating available

Phone: 801-225-2787

E-mail: [email protected]