Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

November 11, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:27 pm

Wow… it’s true… (ie, Jane Eyre at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto).

Yes, another post about Jane Eyre the Musical. I have finally been able to download the three CDs of demos and performance audio from its early days. And, well, I think I will be busy for quite a while, despite any notions the U of T might have against studying musicals- I defy them! So there. Besides, I already have spent a year on this. And what a year it has been- very strange indeed. I’m not truly someone who is terribly fond of musicals. I don’t follow them, I have never been to a Broadway show. I do enjoy some of them, but it isn’t something I normally indulge in- I’m certainly more inclined towards classical music. But this show is different. I think I found out about it when I mentioned in my personal blog how much I enjoy Jane Eyre. A new friend of mine then asked if I had heard of the show. I said something about how I knew of it, and that I should go and see it some day- thinking it was still playing in Toronto! …When it closed there nearly 10 years ago. She directed me to this website, and so it began.

I believe all musicals tend to go through a wild, chaotic journey on their way to the big stages of the world. It is also my understanding that they never stop changing. Each venue alters, even the most seemingly perfected shows. Again, this show is different… it changed drastically, and often. That first conversation about the show laid the groundwork in my mind for viewing the different versions: the earliest- Toronto- was “like a musical version of a BBC drama” while Broadway was far less comprehensive in scope. This is a positive way to view it. I’ve read many of the reviews, which tend to be extremely negative: the dense, vibrant Toronto show was nominated ‘bloated’ and critics complained that it seemed to include ‘everything from the novel’. many others simply didn’t like Jane Eyre to begin with, and criticised the show on that ground.

I am meandering a little. What I wanted to say is that, now that I have heard most of these early drafts, I guess they ought to be called, I have to agree: it is like a musical BBC drama. In fact, it is better than most dramas, which is remarkable. How difficult it is to compress the novel into a 3 hour production is one thing, but how about with the demands of a live audience and staging concerns? I would think it would be a nightmare, an impossibility. But, it worked… splendidly. More than once! I have far too much to comment on at the moment, but there are a few things I would like to note now, about the Toronto production (with Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre and Anthony Crivello as Edward Rochester):

The scenes concerning Jane’s youth are excellent. It is a shame that these were seriously compressed in the later versions. The pacing is just right, while covering everything it seems: Jane sings of her reading in Bewick’s before the Reeds come in, taunt her for being: ugly, poor, dependent, and ungrateful. John strikes her, she fights back and is thrust into the Red Room where she is haunted by fears. Julia Severn is singled out at Lowood- only the second time, in the history of such adaptations I think. There are problems- mostly with sections at Thornfield. By comparison with her earlier life, and her time with the Rivers’, Jane’s relationship with Rochester is rushed. It also seems like Orson Welles was a model for this early conception of his character- his appearances and lines sometimes are accompanied by loud, rumbling, dramatic cues.

Listen to the Gateshead scene here.

Probably the most surprising element of the production, at least from an audio point of view since this is all I have to go on, is the inclusion of John Eyre as a speaking character. After Jane reads his letter, we hear- at least- him singing:

John Eyre:
I had a dream of a child;
tossed in the world, bereft and alone.
I wish to share with this child
the life that I’ve lived, the fortune I own.
And now, in my twilight years, I long to see her face…

Listen to this scene here.

Several moments made me smile, or surprised me. Mr Rochester’s first entrance at Thornfield was delightful. It recalled the passage where Mrs Fairfax explains that they always keep the house in readiness because she had ‘observed’ that Mr Rochester was ‘put out’ to find the house swathed up, and a bustle of activity when he arrives. Well… now we get to see what Mr Rochester is like when ‘put out’:

Mrs. Fairfax:
The master is coming! Quick, air out his room!
Send for the steward, the butler, the groom!
Must I do everything by myself?
[…]open the [sluice?]
the longer he waits, the […] the excuse!
[…] don’t you know?
Look for Adella and see that she’s dressed!
Get her out of her pinafore, into her best!
Send for the baker, […]
Must I do everything by myself-

Mr Rochester: *with byronic fanfare*
WHAT FATE WAS IT MADE ME RETURN to pace this […] miserable place?
I could be in Paris, or-

And then, I believe, the partially deaf Mrs Fairfax assures him about finding him some pheasant for supper while he tries to get her to understand that he hates pheasant. It is futile. I wonder if she has gone deaf from the dramatic music? But it ends on a subdued, comic note:

Mrs Fairfax:
[…] Just leave it to me-
I see you appear to have injured your knee!

Mr Rochester: …My ankle, woman.

Listen to this scene here. Be sure to go to Paul Gordon’s website here to hear his latest work!

Another favourite scene of mine… ‘why the deuce should you journey so far? What good could it do her?’

ETA: And here is you may listen to the scene with Julia Severn.


November 8, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 6:16 pm

Downloads, and more downloads…

My friend thisbeciel has been kind enough to upload the files from our favourite audio version of Jane Eyre- with Megwynn Owen and Patrick Allen.


This is quite a time for downloads! She also bought recordings from the very early days of Jane Eyre the Musical! Links for those will be up shortly as well- but one thing at a time. At the moment, I am listening to clips from a preview in Wichita, Kansas and transcribing as I go. When I finish the transcription I will probably set up a website for it, and others- since there’s a lot of matierial that hasn’t been transcribed before! Most of it never made it beyond this stage of rough draft, I think. But some of it was surprising. For example:

Female chorus 1: My mother took the same infection from my father and died within a month of him.

Female chorus 4: Thus was I brought as a tiny infant to the house of my uncle-

Male chorus 4: John Reed.

Female chorus 4: At Gateshead Hall.

Female servant: Excuse me sir, but there’s a letter for you. And something else that you should know about too.

John Reed Senior: I’m trying to read, could you please be more discreet?

Female Servant: Excuse me, sir but there is someone you should meet…

Chorus: What do we do with her? Never even knew of her! God has forsaken this child! We give to charity with great regularity but why should we take in this child?

Mrs. Reed: How can I cope with this new hungry creature? [With eyes that look] weary and worn?

John Reed Senior: [I hear] she’s the poor orphan girl of my sister. My love and protection are sworn.

I haven’t yet marked which lines are sung and which are spoken, and at a few points the performers are singing or speaking so quickly that the words are mumbled and hard to make out. I’ve put my best guesses in square brackets.

November 6, 2005


Filed under: Audiobooks,BBC,Brussels,Charlotte Bronte,Downloads,Media,Productions,villette — by bronteana @ 4:46 pm

Villette Audio Adaptation

Right here: starring Catherine McCormack as Lucy Snowe, James Laurenson as Monsieur Paul Emanuel and Joseph Fiennes as Graham Bretton! Thanks to Biedroneczka! However am I going to study for the Classics midterm now?Life is good, notwithstanding that distressing review of Polly Teale's Bronte. 😉

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

November 5, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:48 pm

Marguerite MacIntyre goes Gothic and a National Tour for Jane Eyre: The Musical?

How frustrating… I somehow managed to delete an entire post wherein I transcribed this very interesting article, sent to me by Esther. For ease of transmission I will transcribe it again, when I get over the disappointment of it all. For now, here is the image itself. Thank you for your contributions, Esther! Details about the early versions of Jane Eyre: The Musical are very difficult to find, so every allusion is significant. I have even had difficulty in finding images to illustrate the text with. I have nearly 2 000 files on Bronte related subjects and only 3 or 4 suitable images.

Marguerite MacIntyre played Bertha Rochester, Miss Scatcherd, and “Claire Dent.” From what I can gather from various sources, doubling (or tripling, in this case) seemed to increase with each new version of the show. Originally I believe there were only a few doubled roles, which led to the show having a huge cast (especially since the earliest cast list I have obtained lists just about every character from the novel. Even John Eyre makes an appearance!) The doubling, then, was originally not wholly for the sake of economy. The show is designed to reflect Jane’s narrative retrospection. The later versions increase this conception to the point that the show is extremely oeneric. Anyway, regarding doubling, the only positive doubling in the early versions that I know of is that the same actors played Jane’s father, and Mr Rochester; and Jane’s mother, and Miss Temple. A clue to why this choice was made is Jane’s opening speech (sung by members of a chorus as well as Jane- / marks a change in voice.):

“My name is Jane Eyre./ My story begins, gentle audience, a long age ago/ in the home of a poor clergyman/ and his wife;/ my parents./ There is my father, as I now imagine him,/ and there my mother./ And there I am; Jane Eyre, a baby in my father’s arms.”

Lastly, there seems to be hope that Jane Eyre: The Musical will at last go on its first national tour, according to its creator, Paul Gordon.

November 1, 2005


At last! JE 1973 to be released! (and Nanowrimo).

Thisbeciel's work to spread the word on the BBC version of Jane Eyre from 1973 has finally paid off. She recieved this unsolicited email today, which answers all of our hopes:


I’m writing to let you know that Acorn Media is finalizing an agreement with the BBC to release the 1973 adaptation of Jane Eyre on DVD for both North America and the UK. No firm release date has been set as that will depend on the details that are being finalized, but it will most likely happen in 2006.

Best regards.
Donald Klees
Director of Program Planning
Acorn Media

I am informed that Acorn Media often include extras on their DVDs- dare I hope for such things? Considering how acurate the production is, relative to the text (for example, we finally get to see little Julia Severn at Lowood) and in other respects (Rochester actually rides off from Hay Lane with his injured foot hanging out of the stirrup!) any little bit more would be appreciated. There are two surviving homemade copies of the show- one made in America and one in Canada. The Canadian version includes the first episode which was sliced off of the American broadcast for whatever reason. Part of the dialogue in the Hay Lane scene was also cut (in this production Rochester says 'the deuce' even more than in the novel!). In short, this version makes me giddy and blissful, and this is very very very very very good news.

(The first scene of the American version: "Hitherto I have narrated…" Adult Jane is about to break away from her life at Lowood.)

More information on the 1973 production can be found here, from the Internet Movie Database, and there are lots of images, sound clips, and information at Thisbeciel's website, which is listed on the side bar.

It's that time of year again… nanowrimo: national novel writing month. During the month of Novemeber, thousands of insane people around the world attempt to write a 50 000 word novel. I have attempted to write a "nanovel" twice, and both times I very nearly lost my mind. It caused me to resort to speaking in very short sentences. It is not for the faint of heart… nor anyone who would be pained by writing truly awful prose. This is relevant for the Brontëverse because my last year's attempt was a reworking of The Professor. It didn't get beyond two chapters, but parts of it were pleasing. Strangely my 'OC's (Original Characters) took over the story. One of them was a governess named Miss Smyth(e). She was supposed to be entirely incidental, but the moment I said so, she suddenly stole the plot entirely and I had to send her away into the backstory before she did something crazy like marry one of the main characters (or that tutor… I don't know what he was up to). She wasn't the favourite amongst my readers… It was an interesting experiment because my readers had not read The Professor and didn't know which characters were entirely mine, and which were my imitations of Charlotte's. The favourite character by far ended up being the poor 'shuffling' little spinster Miss Sedler! (I conjured her up to work for Mr.Hunsden).

Is a third attempt in store for me? Will Miss Sedler get her own novel or will Miss Smyth strike again? Well, I'll give it a try. Anyone else up for a Brontë-inspired nanovel? If I can survive until I reach chapter three, I think I will count it a great victory!

Details on Nanowrimo can be found here:

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