Evolution of Jane Eyre: The Musical Part Two- Wichita
I have to confess that my notes are nowhere to be found. I do wish to move on, so I will simply have to catch up later. Another reason for my silence resently is that I am graduating tomorrow and I have been running about making sure everything is coordinated for the event.
So, this version is probably properly called a demo. The performers are clearly not yet comfirmed in their roles (only the regular leads- Marla Shaffel and Anthony Crivello are featured). It is, however, from a live performance onstage unlike the previous recording we looked at in the previous post. I do know something about the staging at this point- there was a basic sort of scafold stage, and that this design was ‘blown up’ for the Toronto staging due in part to a lack of time to rework the setting- apparently.
The show has started to look more like what will become the standard set of songs for the remaining versions with a few important exceptions. This version generally features greater hyper-fidelity to the novel than the demo. In this version Jane’s parents have a song but Jane’s uncle Reed also! The scene illustrates Jane’s arrival at Gateshead as an infant. ‘How We Pity Her’ is titled by myself. It consists entirely of the Reeds heaping abuse on Jane- and was thankfully a song never seen again. The chorus now comes further out of the background. They now feature in ‘Jane’s Letter’ for instance.
The gem of this work is clearly ‘Silent Rebellion.’ It seems to be the descendant of ‘My Hope of Heaven’ although the tune is entirely different. This is the ‘feminist on the roof’ scene once again. The music is lovely, the lyrics also. I suspect, however, that negative reviews in the press led to the song being toned down and reworked into ‘Sweet Liberty’ (several reviewers claimed, with wild inaccuracy, that the show imposed radical feminist ideas onto the text of Jane Eyre- the offending items being, in fact, direct quotes or paraphrases from the novel). The same charge was levelled at ‘Sweet Liberty.’ The song survives to Toronto. I prefer these earlier lyrics for their way of capturing the inner imaginative life Jane has for herself on the 3rd floor.
‘The Governess’ is a delightful song which survives to Toronto and then La Jolla but was cut before the show went to Broadway. Imagine Jane and Rochester’s first interview set to music which highlights the teasing banter as well as some of Rochester’s changes of mood in that scene. ‘Wild Boy’ has been shifted to the moment when Rochester has just revealled Bertha to everyone. There and then he tells his story, followed by ‘Gypsy Reprise’ which is Rochester trying to persuade Jane to stay. It is a good song, except for one troubling bit of incongruity- he keeps referring to her as ‘sister’ which is stretching things a bit. I would have even preferred ‘Janet.’ For those familiar with ‘The Gypsy’, Rochester’s pursuasion is sung with this tune but Jane has a separate melody which sometimes jars- appropriately marking a disjunction between their intentions. A sample of the lyrics:
Rochester: I am a scoundrel, we know this to be! The floodgates of tears are now open to me! Now, you intend to fly off- to be free! Oh sister!
Jane: And I could lie there by his side, his little Jane, his little elf. And who would care? Well, I declare ‘I care for myself!’
Rochester: My little friend, you’re a comfort to me! Dear sister!
Jane: What friendship exists in your lying to me? Dear master.
Lastly, and I know how you have been waiting for this, we get to St.John Rivers. In the demo, he is a remarkably well-rounded character. In fact, his character is far better delineated in the demo than in more than a few films I’ve seen in my travels. He loses some ground here, but not much. If anything he is a little too loathesome, or more loathesome in this version, but less genuinely pious. The previous ‘Standard of the Cross’ was clearly not only about his devotion to God, but his inward stuggle against his own nature and inclination. This version is very much about the ‘White Man’s Burden’: “All my hopes and joys, the powers of my race, are held within the light of Jesus shining from space,” (at least that’s what it sounds like he is saying). We are further encouraged to dislike him when he, quite rightly, is mortified that Jane wants to travel to India unmarried. It is faithful to the novel, yes, but without the softening of knowing his own struggles and his genuine faith it comes across as even more repulsive. His final musical line is rather Satanic in tone. The register is very high, and the words remind this little reader too much of the Temptation of Christ: “Giving your soul to me would be like giving your soul to God! I tell you this to purchase your Heavenly bliss, by yeilding to destiny’s holy kiss.’ Thankfully Rochester’s voice comes in just in time! The characterisation is still far superior to the very benign, cute- even- St.John Riverses of the cinema.
And, look here! I actually uploaded something all by myself! Here, for your listening pleasure is ‘Silent Rebellion.’
Songs: Secrets of the House, Parents’ Theme, Gateshead, As I Lay Myself Down to Sleep, How We Pity Her, Naughty Girl, Children of God, Forgiveness, My Maker, Jane’s Letter, Perfectly Nice, Silent Rebellion, The Governess, As Good As You, Painting Her Portrait, The Gypsy, Secret Soul, Second Self, The Chestnut Tree, Slip of a Girl, Wild Boy, Gypsy Reprise, Farewell Good Angel, The Standard of the Cross/Morton, A Voice Across the Moors, Finale, Brave Enough for Love.