Jane Eyre at Edmonton Fringe Festival
The headline of the review is slightly misleading: the show was nominated for several Tony awards, not just the one.
With Jane Eyre HHH (Stage 5, King Edward school), we get to see a Broadway musical that picked up a 2000 Tony nomination for its Paul Gordon score, a version of the groundbreaking 1847 Charlotte Bronte novel. If director Ryan hadn’t taught us that the musical theatre trolls widely for its literary provenance, this would seem, on the surface, like an improbable source: a complex Victorian narrative heavy on exposition. Even if the results are mixed, it is fascinating to see what music brings to an enterprise that travels widely through the years, event-filled. No accident that Brit director John Caird, who wrote the book, is one of the Les Miz team.
What turns out to be a natural fit for people bursting into song is the wincing chemical combination of the repressed and the luridly melodramatic, in the lush tale of the plain and plain-
spoken orphan who overcomes her harsh upbringing and the brutal class system to prevail, a feminist scenario if there ever was one.
In truth, it all seems a little schematic, and the production sketchy, as we fly through Jane’s tumultuous biography en route to the headliner: the love story of Jane and the mysteriously moody Edward Rochester, interrupted by occasional appearances from the lunatic upstairs lodger.
Gordon’s songs, which veer from the gently melancholic (“there is a fever on my brow and I fear the time has come…”) to the climactic pop(ish) anthem Brave Enough For Love, are proficient without being memorable. But the production is welcome on its own behalf, and a talent scout’s delight. In addition to her luminous voice, Nicole Rowley brings intelligence and coiled tension to her role as Jane. The dithery half-deaf housekeeper, played by Myla Southward, gets the show’s wittiest number. Cody Michie possesses vocal chops; youth and bearing conspire against his creating a complex, enigmatic, haunted Rochester. The choral moments reverberate.