Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

December 19, 2005

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La Jolla Jane Eyre Part Two

And here's the rest of the show! I hope you all enjoy it.

Disc Two

track 1
track 2
track 3
track 4
track 5
track 6
track 7
track 8
track 9
track 10
track 11
track 12
track 13
track 14
track 15
track 16
track 17

And…

Disc Three*

track 1
track 2
track 3

*I remember one of my friends trimmed a few tracks so that the whole thing fit onto 2 discs. If anyone would like the trimmed version let me know. I think it cut off the applause and things like that.

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La Jolla Jane Eyre

Happy Holidays to all! Just in time for Christmas, and thanks to Lillie, Santa's special Jewish helper, I bring you one of my favourite recordings of the Jane Eyre musical. Well, disc one so far. There are two in all. This comes from roughly half-way through it's professional growing pains and just before the Broadway version (confused?). Just enjoy it. It has come to my attention that this has been for sale on ebay recently. My personal feelings on selling these unofficial recordings is that it's not on. I think if they were not professionally released then they should only be shared, as I am doing. It seems only fair, and it helps to spread appreciation for the show. This recording features Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre and James Barbour as Mr Rochester. The show is substantially different from the earlier Toronto version and the Broadway version, although there are also a lot of material shared between all three. For example, 'The Governess' is a hold over from Toronto, but 'Adele's Opera' is now a spoken scene which continued into Broadway. And lastly, there are parts which are unique only to this recording, such as the song 'Child in the Attic', and the …terrible 'The Chestnut Tree'. One last note, this recording was made from the sound boards so the effects are very loud and sometimes strange to the ear.

As always, these will be available for a week only.

Disc one

track 1
track 2
track 3
track 4
track 5
track 6
track 7
track 8
track 9
track 10
track 11
track 12
track 13
track 14
track 15
track 16
track 17
track 18
track 19
track 20
track 21
track 22
track 23

October 18, 2005

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Marla Schaffel on Jane Eyre

Copyright 2000 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)
November 26, 2000
Sunday, FINAL / ALLSECTION: SUNDAY ARTS; Pg. 2I

HEADLINE: GIVING VOICE TO JANE EYRE';ACTRESS DEVOTES FIVE YEARS TO MUSICAL FINALLY SET TO OPEN ON BROADWAY

BYLINE: By ALEXIS GREENE; NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Nobody promised Marla Schaffel it would be easy.

It was 1995 when Schaffel, a dark-haired actress with an enticing soprano voice, performed the role of Jane Eyre at the first public reading of John Caird and Paul Gordon's musicalization of the Charlotte Bronte novel.

Now it is 2000. More readings, several workshops and two pre-Broadway productions later, "Jane Eyre" will finally open at the Brooks AtkinsonTheatre in New York Dec. 3, and Schaffel will star in a part to which she has devoted much of her young career.

"It's been very hard," says Schaffel, talking about the last half-decade during an interview at her Jersey City, N.J., apartment. Schaffel, two rambunctious Australian shepherds named Hotspur and Illyria, and one intimidated cat recently moved from Manhattan to a row house here. "Thehighs have been great, and the disappointments have been great. I'm not avery excitable person anyway, but we're on Broadway, and I think I should begoing Whooeee' – you know, dancing in the street. But it's just another day in a show that I love dearly. Because it has been five years."

Musicals are notoriously difficult to birth, requiring skilled collaborationas well as large numbers of dollars. But "Jane Eyre" has had a harder labor than most. A 1995 workshop in Wichita, Kan., led Canada-based producer and theater owner David Mirvish to take the show to Toronto in 1996, with an eyetoward Broadway. But mixed reviews returned the creative team to the drawingboard.

By the time "Jane Eyre" had its second pre-Broadway stand in 1999, at LaJolla Playhouse in California, Caird's book and Gordon's score had gonethrough numerous changes, and American Scott Schwartz had joined EnglishmanCaird as co-director; James Barbour had replaced Anthony Crivello in the leading role of Edward Rochester, the moody, secretive owner of Thornfield Hall, where the orphaned Jane Eyre is hired as a governess; and Mirvish had departed.

"After Toronto," Schaffel recalls, "there was a reading where I felt I nolonger had an active character to play. And I was very clear to them at the end of that reading that we were not going in the right direction. And partof that has been the struggle about whether and how the ensemble should bethe voice of Jane. But Jane just became an incredibly passive character. And that's not for me."

Bound for the arts

Inaction is not Schaffel's approach to life, onstage or off. Raised in what she describes as the "cultural wasteland" of Miami, Schaffel nonetheless decided that she wanted to be in the arts. She just didn't know which art to choose.

"I started studying piano at 6; I wanted to be a classical pianist," the32-year-old actress relates about her childhood exuberance. "I started studying ballet and I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I always sang, and Iwanted to be an opera singer."

"When I was 10 or 11," she remembers, "I saw Teresa Stratas perform Mimi inLa Boheme' at the Metropolitan Opera. It rocked my world. She was the most spectacular actress I had laid eyes on. She was so vulnerable, and her physicality was so beautiful. When the sound came out of her, and she was hunched over, it just came from her bowels. She threw caution to the wind when she was performing. I decided I wanted to be that kind of actress."

In 1990, Schaffel graduated from the acting program at New York City's Juilliard School. Four years later, with hard-won credits on her resume, including a stint as Fantine in the endlessly running "Les Miserables," sheauditioned for Caird, who had directed "Les Miz." He was looking for a singer-actress to play Jane Eyre for a reading at Manhattan Theatre Club.

"I remember wearing my hair up for that audition," says Schaffel, "and trying to be as small as I possibly could. Jane Eyre is supposed to be very short. Bronte herself was not even 5 feet. And she is supposed to be plain.I wore flats and a dress and no makeup whatsoever."

"I sang my normal songs," Schaffel recalls, "which is one really high soprano number and one big belt number, and then John asked for a monologue- I had been asked to prepare a Shakespeare monologue. It was some compilation of Portia's lines from The Merchant of Venice,' and I went up on my lines in the middle of it. And John totally fed me the lines, to help getme on track. I was stunned. And I was mortified."

Only one choice

Schaffel was the only actress Caird called back for the role."I saw all the qualities of Jane in Marla," the director said during arecent telephone conversation. "Spiritual and emotional intensity and intelligence. The actress playing Jane has to be able to think and convey to an audience that she is thinking. Marla has the clarity and analytical powers essential for playing a Bronte heroine."

Because of Schaffel's commitment to "Jane Eyre," at times it feels as though her career is on hold while she waits for productions of "Eyre" to materialize. Even after La Jolla, months passed before the producers found a suitable, and available, Broadway house, and last summer Schaffel used the time to star in "Enter the Guardsman," an off-Broadway musical.

Finding her way into the role after a hiatus also brings challenges. "Jane's openness and vulnerability are the hardest things to get back to," says Schaffel. "I'm not generally a very vulnerable person, and it's hard for me to open myself every time we start the show again. Also, I've changed so much in five years, and my life has changed drastically – I was married around the time I got the show and now I'm no longer with my husband – that I have to remind myself to remember the unjaded, youthful side of Jane. Each time it becomes a process of tearing down my walls."

It has continued to be difficult," says Schaffel, "but it has continued to be great."

Marla Schaffel woreflats, a dress, no makeup and her hair up to audition for the part of Jane Eyre, a role she not only won, but also has been working on for five years in changing versions of the musical, "Jane Eyre." The show based on the Charlotte Bronte novel of the same name is finally set to open on Broadway Dec. 3. James Barbour stars as Edward Rochester.

(above right: Mary Stout as Mrs.Fairfax, and Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. Blogger is not allowing me to post the other pictures at the moment, so check back in the morning to see how Jane changed from Toronto to Broadway).

ETA: (above left. Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre with young Jane played by. Publicity photo for the La Jolla production. Bottom Right. Marla Schaffel as Jane Eyre from the Broadway production).

October 15, 2005

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Filed under: Fan Letters,Jane Eyre,Jane Eyre: The Musical,Media,Music Theatre,Reviews — by bronteana @ 12:51 am

U of Maryland JE Review: I'm so glad to have such dedicated friends! My informant at the U of Maryland has seen their production of Jane Eyre twice now- once on opening night- and is planning on seeing it again. I refrained from reviewing the show after the first performance because things got off to a poor beginning. The biggest problem being that the actor playing Rochester is very ill and yet they did not bring in an understudy. Out of sympathy for him I did not want to pass along the review. The good news is that this performance was "MUCH better" in almost every respect. In a previous Brontëana post I quoted James barbour on the difficulty of the Rochester role, which puts tremendous demands on the vocal range of a performer. I can imagine the frustration of having to perform such a taxing role while even slightly impaired. I once lost my voice in the middle of a vocal recital. To him much respect for not only pulling through but coming back stronger this time around- even while he is still unwell. A few things from her earlier review that I really want to mention: "Mostly, I just felt bad for the guy and wanted to burst out singing his lines for him. But a soprano Rochy would've been weird. Plus all the people sitting around me would've not been thrilled." I actually have a recording of her singing one of Rochester's songs. (Hey, they're catchy!) Other observations (from the shakey opening night): "Jane (Joanna Howard) – She was decent. Not spectacular, but she could sing, at least. Unfortunately, she is a soprano with absolutely NO lower range (or no confidence in it, anyway), so she transposed a damn lot of notes. That made me cringe quite a lot, because it just wasn't done very well. She was at least solid enough to hold the show together, though. Once she got comfortable and stopped concentrating so hard on singing perfectly and put some feeling behind it, she really was a good actress. I suspect she's heard the OBC quite a lot too, which really isn't a complaint. Helen Burns (Elizabeth J. Zimmerman) – She was wonderful! I would've been kicking myself for not auditioning had Helen been bad, but this was a good Helen. She wasn't as strong an actress, but she has a lovely voice. Her weak points were that she kept bobbing her head, and she didn't seem to bring young Jane in as well as she could have. She also played Mary Ingram. Richard Mason (Christopher Wilson) – Oh! He could sing! it was sad they cut his song to Bertha at the end, because he could sing! Not a bad actor either. St. John Rivers (David Fair) – He could *really* sing! It's a *double* shame they cut his song in half! ๐Ÿ˜› He would've made a nice Rochy u/s too, so I really have no idea why they didn't train him up for't. ::sigh:: I have a hard time hating musical!St. John as much as I hate novel!St. John, though. Methinks it's because he started off as Stephen Buntrock, so he's become too nice. Oh well. Edward Fairfax Rochester (James Gardiner)Unfortunately, the poor boy was SICK AS A DOG tonight. He ended up having to speak most of his sung lines. It was truly tragic–both for the audience and, I suspect, for him. He gets kudos for going on stage anyway, but it was truly wretched. Most of the time, when he got into a duet, he'd back off some of his lines altogether and let the girl sing by herself, which messed up some of the dynamics. He did try to speak most of the important lines, though, but it was sometimes hard to hear him. He does sound like he might have a very nice voice when he's not sick, though. And he sure tried hard!! But such things can ruin shows, and I'm trying to figure out WHY ON EARTH they didn't have an u/s." And for the second viewing: Jane: "Was absolutely wonderful for the most part. They seem to have solved her pitch problems by giving her starting notes in the orchestra. The orchestra: "Fab." Mrs.Fairfax: "Was a *riot*" Blanche: "Was very cute. I think, actually, she's holding back because she's opera trained and worried about busting the mic. Helen: "Isn't doing the head-bob thing nearly as much, which is nice." Rochester: "Rochy's still sick, but he managed to sing a bit more of "Sirens," at least. I must reiterate that he's a wonderful actor and pulls off the spoken lines well. Also the Rochy/Jane chemistry was MUCH better tonight." And: "The other thing I'd forgot to gush about yesterday was the set. They did some really kick-ass work with that, so kudos to them!" In closing, she would like to say "Good luck to Rochy" and "the conductor was fab." ๐Ÿ™‚

October 14, 2005

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Wuthering Heights in 5 Parts and more news for Jane Eyre: The Musical

*NB: It has been brought to my attention that part two of WH had been omitted by mistake. I've tried to correct this. Please let me know if there are any problems.

Biedroneczka, who brought us Mystery Theatre Jane Eyre, has also kindly posted a five-part BBC radio adaptation with Amanda Root as Cathy and John Duttine as Heathcliff! I haven't listened to this particular version. My computer really cannot handle large downloads.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

ETA: "'Jane Eyre' failed on Broadway because the economics of musicals do not allow for maturity." An article on article about a current production of the show:

JANE EYRE: THE MUSICAL. By John Caird and Paul Gordon. At CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale, through Oct.23. Tickets $16-$28. Call 631-218-2810.

October 10, 2005

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Monsieur Heger sighting?

As I updated my blog, looking at the image from the UMaryland production of the Jane Eyre musical, a had a vague sense that I had seen this all somewhere before. It didn't really have time to bother me before I realised what was so familiar about the actor playing Mr Rochester- he looks like Constantin Heger. No really. See?

That's M. Constantin Heger on the left, and James Gardiner on the right (from the photo by Stan Barouh). The image on the left is a detail from a large photocopy a friend sent me of a portrait of the Heger family. M.Heger was Charlotte Brontë's teacher while she was studying abroad in Belgium at the Pensionnat Heger. It's my understanding that she based much of Mr Rochester's character on monsieur. They certainly both have a penchant for cigars and bonbons at any rate ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it goes without saying that he is the model for the fabulous Paul Carlos Emmanuel, of Villette. I've always wanted to know more about him, but the books I have on hand have been printed in the 1890s and it looks like there had been some censorship going on. Over and over again it is asserted that Charlotte was never in love with the married Heger, but obviously many believed this was so. What the current evidence for either case is, I don't know not having any more recent works for comparison!

The 1970s Yorkshire TV mini-series The Brontes of Haworth certainly asserts that she was in love with Heger. So my guess is that the letters she wrote to him have been widely published, and I just haven't come in contact with them yet.

October 7, 2005

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Filed under: Academic,Anecdotes,Bronteana,Jane Eyre: The Musical — by bronteana @ 10:46 am

The quest for grad programs continues…

I have spoken to 4 professors about grad school programs. So far, the consensus is that I should apply to Toronto. Other schools include McGill, Concordia, and Queen's. Finding the right one for Bronte studies in particular is very difficult. It is very encouraging for them to recomend me to these top schools but I don't feel that they would be right for me. One of my advisors has told me that my project of studying the Jane Eyre musical as an intertext would not be appreciated at Toronto and that I should come up with something else. This bothers me for a few reasons. I've read criticism which points out that there are gaps in the criticism of adaptations of Jane Eyre–in particular there are none which take visuals, and music into account (in the case of film). With my background in all of the arts, and with my enthusiasm for this story and for the theatre I know that I could really take control of this issue and run with it. I have the proof too. I sat down one day to see just how far I could push it, and I came up with 8 pages of notes just on Bertha. Only last week BronteBlog reported that a new book of Jane Eyre stage adaptations from the Victorian period is being published soon. Surely music theatre is fair game for study as well?

But, what to do? I don't want to abandon the work I've already done, and choosing something else might lead to less satisfactory results but would increase my chances of getting to grad school in the first place–in theory. It's all so confusing.

This explains my relative silence over the last few days. I've been trying to sort this all out!But I do have a little announcement to make, thanks to a friend I have Stateside. The musical that is the source of my woes is opening next week at UMCP! I will be posting a link as soon as I can find one (I also hope someone will be able to see it and report back to me in full! *hint*).

ETA: The theatre department. Where to get tickets. Thanks to my secret informant, "Shrew." By the way, I think the poster is adorable.

August 27, 2005

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Jane Eyre the Musical to make its UK Premiere, and the Wierd Circle.

Finally there is news about my favourite musical! Details can be found here: Jane Eyre the Musical's UK Premiere.

I've been very busy lately, preparing to return to school, but I have also been at a loss to decide exactly what to post about- there's so much to choose from. Firstly, just as July was our impromptu Villette month, August is Jane Eyre month. I usually read the novel all at once in a day, or two at most. I picked up on a lot of things that I usually gloss over while reading it slowly over the month. Probably my most interesting 'discovery' was that Helen Burns doesn't have a grave marker for a certain number of years. It seemed very odd that this time frame would be given. After thinking about it, and tallying the passage of time based on the events in the novel I believe that it's plausible to assume that Jane returned to Lowood with her son and Mr Rochester- because it would have to have been when her child was 3 years old. There might be another explaination, but I found this one intriguing!

I love to do inter-textual analysis, and so I also made a list of each and every book mentioned in the novel. ๐Ÿ™‚ That will keep me busy for quite some time in the distant future. My wonderful friend Thisbeciel has also overwhelmed me with her Brontean bounty! I now have full texts of The Cottage Poems by Patrick Bronte! And many terrific images, and illustrations such as… This picture of the madwoman's room at Norton Conyers! I think that if I was shown such a room I'd probably write a novel as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

I ALSO got to hear a strange little adaptations of Jane Eyre and of Wuthering Heights. I believe these date to the 1950s- which is even more interesting to me because I haven't been able to see any of the films of Jane Eyre from that decade (yet). The group was called Wierd Circle. Imagine, if you will, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights performed in half an hour. Does it make you smile? Yes, it was awful- but awfully funny. Jane Eyre was especially terrible and has now become the source of many jokes among my friends.

Wierd Circle Jane Eyre included such interesting elements as:
-The landscape being terrifying in and of itself.
-No Mrs. Fairfax. The housekeeper is now a Mrs. Campbell who has a really creepy voice and is always saying things like: "You think you'll be happy here? ha ha ha Really, Miss Eyre? Happy? ha ha. You'll see… yes, you'll see. Ha ha ha". That isn't a direct quote, but this is: "We've had other governesses come before but they never stayed. No. Never…" And she tells poor Adele that she's "a child of the devil".

-Mr Rochester is really not that bad. But he's a few leaves short of a chestnut tree sometimes. During his first chat with Jane he says that he has learned a lot about Jane: that she's an orphan, likes children, and that he loves her: "You're an orphan, like children, and I love you." They sort of pretend that didn't happen, because she is still surprised by his proposal! When Jane asks him why no one is allowed upstairs he replies glibly that "it saves fuel." When Jane points out how this doesn't make sense he says: "Let's say it saves fuel and go with that." When asked about the articulate voice shouting threats in the distance he says: "It's the wind". When Jane objects he replies: "Let's say it's the wind and leave it at that."

-Mrs. Campbell: "You won't be married for another three days, and there's a lot I can do in three days!"

-I will now spoil the ending. Bertha is revealled- and this part really was creepy, I must say. But it still suceeded in ruining the effect of Bertha's demonic cries and laughter. While she laughs and cries out that she likes to see death, Mr Rochester informs us that he adopted Adele because he was lonely and needed something to love- which, you know, inevitably makes me think that a cat would have probably been a better idea. And so that really ruined the moment. But it was very funny. Bertha's death is also comically undermined. Mr Rochester tells her to not jump, and we hear her do a "la la la- whoop!" and hear Jane inform us that Bertha has slipped off of the roof (Jane witnesses the fire- I forgot to say… Thornfield bursts into flames as soon as she leaves). And lastly, the framing device of Jane's diary is reintroduced. Jane is at Mr Rochester's bedside in the hospital. He's alive but IN A COMA. He's been in a coma for the last few months. And since Jane has begun to speak in a slow creepy Mrs. Campbell sort of way, we are left with the knowledge that he won't ever wake up- probably.

I know how much you must have enjoyed that- and so, next time I'll have Wierd Circle Wuthering Heights to discuss!

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