The Evolution of Jane Eyre: The Musical, Part 4- La Jolla
This production features a massive revisioning of the entire work. It is odd how much is it and is not the same musical. All of the major songs remain, but the way the novel is treated has completely changed. The previous production was a ‘musicalised BBC mini-series’ this one is a feature film, an art film perhaps. And for the first time Bertha is drawn deeply into the domestic levels of the piece. It is evident that the show is concerned now with psychology, and with eliciting as much sympathy for Bertha as possible. Sometimes this goes over the top, sometimes it is done very well.
The change is immediate. The opening now begins with a music box playing the theme of the new ballad, ‘Child in the Attic.’ The lines ‘in everyone’s life there is darkeness and light’ are changed to ‘in one woman’s…’ and of course we are never sure which is ‘the’ woman, but of course they both are. We first see young Jane being hauled to, not the Red Room, but the attic of Gateshead. We don’t see her rage, she simply asks what she has done. Her aunt says that she is willful and talks back. Following this is a scene in the attic in which the chorus emphasise over and over again that she is in THE ATTIC, attic, attic, attic, in the attic, the dark and ghostly attic attic attic. This would be one of the over the top parts. Got that? Attics will be important later on. Another interesting bit here is the rag doll. I do not know what was done on stage for this production but in all later ones Bertha has such a rag doll. When Jane meets her, Bertha is whinning for it and Jane hands it to her. Then they curtsy to eachother before Bertha walks off. The scene continues with the narrating Jane wailing- and, yes, this wail will be taken up by Bertha. John Reed appears to torment Jane, and suggesting that she kill herself. He mutilates her ragdoll with a pair of siscors. Both Janes sing over it, making the doll their sympathetic child as well as double. The sympathy will extend to Bertha as well.
The Gothic has been turned up. Thornfield has gone from ‘a rambling manor on the northern hills’ ‘in a silent glade’ to ‘a dark, looming manor’ in a ‘silent valley’ surrounded by ‘lowering’ ‘misty hills’ and ‘mighty old thorn trees.’ It never really recedes. Perhaps the closest it comes to receeding are in the scenes with the company or Mrs. Fairfax’s songs. Suffice to say, all of the domestic scenes are cut. In Hay Lane, the rider introduces more gothicism into the tale- denominating Jane a witch, and himself ‘a thoroughly unpleasant, violent fellow.’ There is also more humor although it is a bit obvious. When Jane says that she is from ‘just below’ Rochester says: “Ah hah! I see! From just below. From some nether region of spirits! Some horse-terrifying limbo of darkness, eh?”
Adele’s Opera is now a spoken scene. And it is cute, comedic, and extremely and obviously another device to amplify sympathies between characters and Bertha. In this version Celine was not a dancer but a tragedian, and Adele wants to be ‘tragique’ like mamman. She runs around wearing some curtains, and basically, acting out the novel. When Mrs. Fairfax calls out to her, Adele cries: “What voice speaks to me, through the raging storms?” Once Jane arrives things get worse. Threatened with her Latin lesson she cries: “I warn you! I will climb up to the battlements and throw myself to death!” “To ‘my’ death, shouldn’t it be?” say Mrs. Fairfax. No, to Bertha’s, but nevermind. Adele then takes on Ophelia just as Rochester comes in. As soon as she catches sight of him she exclaims: “Oh! Hamlet! My prince!” After Rochester bellows for her to take off the rags and ‘learn something useful’ she switches into French, saying he’s a beast and she hates him.
Bertha seems to say ‘shh! It’s okay! It’s okay!’ before singing the wail Jane first uttered at Gateshead, laughing, gibbering and muttering, and finally whining and snarling over Rochester. After she has set the fire, she starts to sob and Jane’s chorus says: ‘in one woman’s life there is darkness and light’ as Bertha’s crying melts into hysterical laughter before she runs off and Jane runs in. The song ‘Sirens’ features Rochester but also Jane and Bertha. Another element here is Mr. Mason. Previously he merely says that he can remember a time he could do some good for her. Now he emphasises her suffering much more: “I tried to stay away, forget her agony, but when I close my eyes it is her face I see.”
Skipping well ahead now, there are slight changes to the scene of Bertha’s revellation. In the time it takes them to get into the attic the audience may already be there. In later versions the audience is plunged into the attic immediately and we see Rochester, Jane and the others enter. Bertha is sobbing and wailing up a storm up there before they enter. Another change are Rochester’s first lines. Previously, Bertha would attack less than 5 seconds after he had opened the door and he had only just time to snap ‘just a few moments, Grace!’ Now Rochester sings quite a bit: “The secrets of the house are right before your eyes! You stare at fate’s abhomination! How gruesome is the sight of God’s forgotten soul, so deep in her despair! How far beyond repair!”
Sadly, I haven’t had time to touch on how Blanche has changed (and that the connections between she and Jane are also amplified). One last thing! Jane never goes to Morton- she ends up back at Gateshead where St.John is taking care of Mrs. Reed (who leaves all of her money to Jane).
Songs: Secrets of the House, The Fever, the Orphan, Naughty Girl, Forgiveness, Helen’s Death, The Graveyard, Sweet Liberty, Perfectly Nice, Hay Lane, The Governess, As Good As You, As I Retired for the Night, The Rescue, Sirens, The Aristocrats, The Finer Things, How You Look in the Night, The Pledge, Secret Soul, Sympathies, Sirens, Painting Her Portrait, In the Light of the Virgin Morning, The Gypsy, Second Self, The Chestnut Tree, Slip of a Girl, The Church, Gypsy Reprise, Farewell Good Angel, The Fever/My Maker, Child in the Attic, Forgiveness Reprise, In the Light of the Virgin Morning Reprise, Voice Across the Moors, Poor Sister, Brave Enough for Love.