Jane Eyre the Musical: Irving, Texas Fan Review
Brontëana reader, Rinabeana, has taken the time to write her impressions of the production now playing in Irving Texas (details here). This is a long excerpt from her review at the League of the Extraordinarily Rochester Obsessed, which explains some of the short cuts here. If possible I will post the rest in a convenient way.
The prelude is a backlit stage with Rochester calling Jane, Jane, Jane across the moors. I was about to have a heart attack thirty seconds into the show I was so excited! The basic set was a large ramp platform, with additional ramps leading to each side of the stage. The large central ramp was tilted to the side so one side of the front end had a step and the other went down to the stage. They lowered windows and doors and moved furniture often to set the different scenes. It was fairly sparse, but you could definitely get the idea. If I recall correctly, the original production had a giant circular rotating stage, but that was definitely not the case here. Much lower budget, I imagine.
I don't know how many of you have seen the show, but I was absolutely SHOCKED at how much music was not included in the original cast recording. I'd say that at least half of the songs were new to me. I marked all the new material with stars on the program (which I scanned and included below) and it's a lot! Plus, there is quite a bit of dialogue without music. I was overjoyed that much of that was straight out of the text! Imagine my glee when Rochester referred to Jane's "fairy ring" and the "men in green"! Pretty much all of Mrs. Fairfax's additional songs were to the tunes of Perfectly Nice and Slip of a Girl. In fact, I didn't hear a lot of new music, just lots of new lyrics. They definitely put the most important songs on the original cast recording. WHY COULDN'T THEY INCLUDE IT ALL, THOUGH??? I was sold at the scene after Hay Lane when Rochester sings Captive Bird while inspecting Jane (by sort of gimping around her) and it was positively smoldering! WHEW! Also, if you aren't familiar with the story (which doesn't apply to anyone here of course), it's quite choppy to go from Perfectly Nice to As Good As You. I love the in between stuff!
I think one of my favorite parts with Jane is definitely Painting Her Portrait. I know this is a community for the Rochester love, and I do like his and his and Jane's songs the best, but I still adore Jane. Painting Her Portrait so perfectly encapsulates her passion and inner turmoil. It's perfect that no one else is involved in the scene at all because she rarely lets anyone else see her emotion. The actress did a great job fiercely drawing and then tearing the pictures when she was done. My poor Jane!
The Gypsy scene cracked me up! I definitely got a feel for how it would be staged from listening to the original cast recording, but it's so fun to see Rochester in his woolen shawl and floppy hat mocking all the snippy girls! They certainly played up their parts, huffing away when he insulted them. Blanche nearly had a temper tantrum, which was fabulous! And who couldn't love the part when he reveals his identity to Jane? I did think it kind of went too far when he asked her how Blanche reacted and Jane told him that she flounced off looking upset. Our smart Jane would have realized that he was playing a trick on her and not been quite so incredulous at the proposal. It was funny, though.
I already mentioned the St. John part, but I can't stress enough how much I disliked the set-up. That's really my only major complaint with the show. Jane NEVER fell for him and he certainly didn't love her! The implication was that she had given up on Edward and was all set to go to India as a wife. There was no psychological manipulation and then the twit tells her she's formed for labour and everyone is on to his game. I think that's why everyone laughed, since the set-up was so incongruous with the denouement in that scene. Of course everyone was rooting for Rochester, even if they didn't know the story! The Voice Across the Moors always gives me chills anyway. I wanted to shove St. John off the stage because he's so extraneous there! HEE!
The return to Thornfield was amazing. After Fairfax explained what had happened, Robert helped the blind (and disfigured!) Rochester to a little bench. That nearly broke my heart. Though Jane didn't sit on his lap (pooh!) the chemistry between them in this scene was wonderful! I totally lost it when Rochester sang to the baby, too! Of course, after that the baby got whisked off stage (through Jane, then Adele, then the maid/nurse) right quick! If it wasn't for Jane's ridiculous huge puffy sleeved dress, that scene would have been perfect!
From the program it also looks like severals songs were renamed. Before Jane leaves Thornfield, the song 'Sirens reprise' has been renamed 'Sail Away' which sounds like an '80's pop tune… Other items from the review: the audience appears to be aware of Bertha before Jane is. The audience sees Bertha attack her brother, but it is the butler not Jane who tends Mr Mason. There was also an unwise blending of the characters of Miss Scatcherd and Miss Temple- not a doubling, a blending, and St.John was unappealing but vaguely a love-interest (which disturbs this fan and others in the audience who burst out laughing at him).
ETA: Ah, also, Rinabeana reports that Mr Rochester (Greg Dulcie) is 'a giant bear of a man', at least a foot and a half taller than Jane. From the program I see that he indeed has played Goliath in a play King David. His credits also include: "costarred with a streaking sheep in the number one ranked Super Bowl commercial for Budweiser." Did he tackle it?