Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

October 15, 2005

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Filed under: Fan Letters,Jane Eyre,Jane Eyre: The Musical,Media,Music Theatre,Reviews — by bronteana @ 12:51 am

U of Maryland JE Review: I'm so glad to have such dedicated friends! My informant at the U of Maryland has seen their production of Jane Eyre twice now- once on opening night- and is planning on seeing it again. I refrained from reviewing the show after the first performance because things got off to a poor beginning. The biggest problem being that the actor playing Rochester is very ill and yet they did not bring in an understudy. Out of sympathy for him I did not want to pass along the review. The good news is that this performance was "MUCH better" in almost every respect. In a previous Brontëana post I quoted James barbour on the difficulty of the Rochester role, which puts tremendous demands on the vocal range of a performer. I can imagine the frustration of having to perform such a taxing role while even slightly impaired. I once lost my voice in the middle of a vocal recital. To him much respect for not only pulling through but coming back stronger this time around- even while he is still unwell. A few things from her earlier review that I really want to mention: "Mostly, I just felt bad for the guy and wanted to burst out singing his lines for him. But a soprano Rochy would've been weird. Plus all the people sitting around me would've not been thrilled." I actually have a recording of her singing one of Rochester's songs. (Hey, they're catchy!) Other observations (from the shakey opening night): "Jane (Joanna Howard) – She was decent. Not spectacular, but she could sing, at least. Unfortunately, she is a soprano with absolutely NO lower range (or no confidence in it, anyway), so she transposed a damn lot of notes. That made me cringe quite a lot, because it just wasn't done very well. She was at least solid enough to hold the show together, though. Once she got comfortable and stopped concentrating so hard on singing perfectly and put some feeling behind it, she really was a good actress. I suspect she's heard the OBC quite a lot too, which really isn't a complaint. Helen Burns (Elizabeth J. Zimmerman) – She was wonderful! I would've been kicking myself for not auditioning had Helen been bad, but this was a good Helen. She wasn't as strong an actress, but she has a lovely voice. Her weak points were that she kept bobbing her head, and she didn't seem to bring young Jane in as well as she could have. She also played Mary Ingram. Richard Mason (Christopher Wilson) – Oh! He could sing! it was sad they cut his song to Bertha at the end, because he could sing! Not a bad actor either. St. John Rivers (David Fair) – He could *really* sing! It's a *double* shame they cut his song in half! 😛 He would've made a nice Rochy u/s too, so I really have no idea why they didn't train him up for't. ::sigh:: I have a hard time hating musical!St. John as much as I hate novel!St. John, though. Methinks it's because he started off as Stephen Buntrock, so he's become too nice. Oh well. Edward Fairfax Rochester (James Gardiner)Unfortunately, the poor boy was SICK AS A DOG tonight. He ended up having to speak most of his sung lines. It was truly tragic–both for the audience and, I suspect, for him. He gets kudos for going on stage anyway, but it was truly wretched. Most of the time, when he got into a duet, he'd back off some of his lines altogether and let the girl sing by herself, which messed up some of the dynamics. He did try to speak most of the important lines, though, but it was sometimes hard to hear him. He does sound like he might have a very nice voice when he's not sick, though. And he sure tried hard!! But such things can ruin shows, and I'm trying to figure out WHY ON EARTH they didn't have an u/s." And for the second viewing: Jane: "Was absolutely wonderful for the most part. They seem to have solved her pitch problems by giving her starting notes in the orchestra. The orchestra: "Fab." Mrs.Fairfax: "Was a *riot*" Blanche: "Was very cute. I think, actually, she's holding back because she's opera trained and worried about busting the mic. Helen: "Isn't doing the head-bob thing nearly as much, which is nice." Rochester: "Rochy's still sick, but he managed to sing a bit more of "Sirens," at least. I must reiterate that he's a wonderful actor and pulls off the spoken lines well. Also the Rochy/Jane chemistry was MUCH better tonight." And: "The other thing I'd forgot to gush about yesterday was the set. They did some really kick-ass work with that, so kudos to them!" In closing, she would like to say "Good luck to Rochy" and "the conductor was fab." 🙂

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2 Comments »

  1. Hi! I was googleing myself I found this fabulous article! Thank you so much for your kinds words on our production of Jane Eyre at the University of Maryland. James is a fabulous singer and he caught a terrible cold, so you’re very sweet to say what you did about him. Chris has a big and powerful instrument and believe it or not, I don’t believe he had done that much singer before our show. I can only imagine the greatness he’s done with that sound at this point.

    Jane Erye is such a beautiful and haunting tale and the musical certainly does it justice! We were so proud of our production and were so happy it was received so well! At that point, that was the best selling show in the UMD Department of Theater’s history.

    Thanks for the support!

    Comment by David Fair — October 24, 2008 @ 6:57 am |Reply

  2. So sorry for those typos! (Just got so excited, I just hit “Submit” without thinking!) But I think you could catch that I meant that Chris hadn’t done that much *singing* before our show.

    Comment by David Fair — October 24, 2008 @ 7:11 am |Reply


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