Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

June 13, 2006


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

Evolution of Jane Eyre: The Musical, Part Three- Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, Canada.

By necessity, this post will pass over some very important information and observations. Firstly, because all that seems to remain is an audio recording of only fair to poor quality, which contains several gaps, and of course there is no indication of what was going on onstage. I can speculate, but I would rather have more solid proof. Secondly, this recording is over 3 hours long, and a proper analysis would simply be too long for this post.

In short, it has been said that this version is a musicalised BBC miniseries, and that truly is the best way to describe it. It is not sung-through, but it comes close to it. It was a task to come up with a list of the songs because characters very often sing for a few bars between songs, but sometimes I chose to include these pieces as proper songs because I felt they were too important to pass over without comment. A very many scenes which only appear in mini-series length productions are included- there is even a sung-through scene when Rochester haggles with Jane before she leaves for Gateshead. The hyper-fidelity of the previous adaptations is still present. Uncle Reed has lost his song, but now we have Jane’s uncle John Eyre singing a reprise of ‘Dream of a Child.’

What I like particularly about this production is its sense of balance. There are so many adaptations which take one element and blow it up to obscure all others that some have come to think it is not possible to be more subtle. This, the first fully dressed setting of the work hits on a nice balance between the gothic and the domestic, between romance and philosophy, between drama and comedy. We can see this in the treatment of Thornfield Hall. Jane’s chorus describes it to us against a swell of uplifting music as ‘a rambling mansion on the northern hills’, and Jane completes the sketch with “in a silent glade. I’m alone in a strange new place, and I am not afraid.” The gothic story inhabits the third floor, the story of Jane’s domesticated life of tedium inhabits the school room, and the story of her developing romance the drawingroom and her bedroom.

Sorry- I cannot resist one more observation. This production answers a question I’ve had about later versions. I saw this picture* below, and wondered why on earth Mr Rochester would be in Jane’s room. Later I saw a recording of the Broadway show which only told me that the scene was his ‘Wild Boy’ speech (which usually takes place in the garden). The scene had been cut short. In this version, after the ‘wild boy’ speech, Mr Rochester finds the portraits Jane painted of herself and Blanche. He reads the inscriptions, comments on them. It is only after this that he asks if she will sit up with him. So, problem solved except that there’s a maddening silence in the middle of the scene! He has just finished saying ‘she is a rare one, is she not Jane?’ when there’s a very long silence until he whispers back “goodnight, Jane.” And I have no idea what is going on there! (incidentally, the later version turns the ending into a farce. In place of the dramatic tension of this scene, Rochester says: “I would be lonely here without you, my little elf!” and then thumps her on the back like a footballer saying ” ‘Night m’Jane!” So, no clues there…)

I had a very hard time deciding which song to upload. My computer is very slow, so I settled for a shorter clip- a Lowood scene. You can listen to the entire highlights CD here. It is out of print, so if you’d like to purchase it, you will have to hunt for it on Ebay. One note for anyone readapting this- fewer reprises would be nice.

Songs: The Secrets of the House, The Parents’ Theme, Gateshead, As I lay Myself Down, Naughty Girl, Children of God, Forgiveness, Lowood Hymn, What You Prove Yourself to Be, Presentiments and Signs, Helen’s Death/My Maker, Perfectly Nice, Upper Floor, Restless, Silent Rebellion/Hay Lane, The Master, The Governess, Adele’s Opera, As Good As You, As I Retired for the Night, The Rescue, Next Morning, The Aristocrats, A Perfect Match, How You Look in the Night, Painting Her Portrait, Mr. Mason, The Pledge, Upper Floor Reprise, Portraits Reprise, Secret Soul, Dream of a Child, The Gypsy, Fifteen Pounds, Return to Gateshead, Dream of a Child Reprise, Forgiveness Reprise, In the Light of the Virgin Evening, Second Self, The Chestnut Tree, Slip of a Girl, The Wedding, Upper Floor Reprise, Wild Boy, Gyspy Reprise, Farewell Good Angel, My Maker Reprise, Morton, In the Light of the Virgin Morning Reprise, The Revelation, Portraits Reprise, In the Light of the Virgin Evening Reprise, A Voice Across the Moors, Return to Thornfield, Poor Sister, Finale, Brave Enough for Love.

*Pictures to come soon. I am having trouble with Blogger this morning.


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