A Broadway cast album of Jane Eyre is being recorded Oct. 5-6, a month before a note of the new Paul Gordon score is heard on Broadway.
The company of the Charlotte Bronte-inspired musical begins previews Nov. 7 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, but the troupe records "Secret Soul," "Secrets of the House," "Brave Enough for Love" and the show's other lush, mysterious melodies this week in a Manhattan studio.
The disc will be on the Sony Classical label and is being fast-tracked for release Nov. 21, prior to the Broadway opening Dec. 3.
Recording a cast album before opening isn't unprecedented. A cast record of Lionel's Oliver! was released before the show reached Broadway, and concept albums preceded Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. The Jane Eyre disc will reflect the most up-to-date version of the score, including tweaks and revisions made since its run at the La Jolla Playhouse in summer 1999. Songs include "Perfectly Nice," "Painting Her Portrait," "Brave Enough for Love" and more. *
The denizens of the alternately dark and lushly romantic world of Jane Eyre, drawn from the Charlotte Bronte novel, will include Stephen R. Buntrock (Martin Guerre, Les Miserables) as St. John Rivers, the man who helps the title heroine find her way back to true love.
Caird co-directs with Scott Schwartz. The score is by Gordon (whose pop songs have been sung by divas including Bette Midler), and the book and additional lyrics are by Caird, who may be best known for co-directing and co-adapting Nicholas Nickleby and Les Miserables, both projects with Trevor Nunn.
The cast features Nell Balaban (as Grace Poole), Sandy Binion (ensemble), Andrea Bowen (Adele), Bradley Dean (ensemble), Elizabeth DeGrazia (Blanche Ingram), Bruce Dow (Robert), Gina Ferrall (Mrs. Reed), Rita Glynn (ensemble), Gina Lamparella (ensemble), Marguerite MacIntyre (Bertha), Bill Nolte (Richard Mason), Jayne Paterson (Helen Burns), Don Richard (Brocklehurst), Erica Schroeder (ensemble) and Lee Zarrett (John Reed).
Barbour, Marla Schaffel and Mary Stout played Rochester, Jane and Mrs. Fairfax, respectively, at the La Jolla Playhouse, where the musical was a smash in the summer of 1999.
Steve Tyler is music director and vocal arranger, Larry Hochman is orchestrator.
The show's sprawling set (by Cats designer Napier) needs 32 feet of wing space, which the Atkinson has. The show has 36 changes in scenery, including the "burning down" of Thornfield Hall.
Jane Eyre is drawn from Bronte's 1847 novel of a plain but smart woman falling in love with the mysterious, secretive Rochester in provincial England.
Tryout previews began July 13, 1999, at the La Jolla Playhouse in coastal La Jolla, CA, near San Diego. It closed Sept. 5, 1999.
The Broadway producers of Jane Eyre are lead producer Annette Niemtzow (The Kentucky Cycle), producers Janet Robinson, Pam Koslow (Jelly's Last Jam) and Margaret McFeeley Golden, and associate producers Jennifer Manocherian and Carolyn Kim McCarthy. Variety reported that capitalization as $6.5 million.
Composer-lyricist Gordon's work has been sung by Bette Midler, Amy Grant, Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle and more. He wrote the chart topping songs, "Next Time I Fall" and "Friends and Lovers." Caird's recent London staging of Candide was hailed a fresh adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's problematic classic.
The La Jolla cast was led by Barbour (Carousel, Beauty and the Beast), Schaffel (a onetime Fantine from Les Miserables), Stout (The Night Governess) and DeGrazia.
Songs in the Broadway score will include "Secrets of the House," "Perfectly Nice," "Painting Her Portrait," "Secret Soul," "Farewell, Good Angel" and "Brave Enough for Love."
In its long development, Jane Eyre had test runs in Wichita, KS, and Toronto, Ontario, and has been significantly revised and refined. Caird told Playbill On-Line the visual aspects of the piece are less dark and gloomy than what was seen in Toronto, and the show feels less like a so-called pop opera and more like a genuine book musical.
In its development, Jane Eyre has been seen in three different productions — in Wichita, KS, Toronto and a hit staging in 1999 in La Jolla, CA. Changes were made over the years.
In a summer 2000 Playbill On-Line interview with co-director and librettist Caird, he said the changes were not "fundamental," but "in many peripheral ways, I think it's changed."
He said, "The story's the same but it has changed in that it's a lot smaller cast. We sort of grew too large in Toronto largely because we were in a very big theatre and we had a very large ensemble — a lot of people who weren't really necessary to the story. We gave ourselves the challenge of shrinking down to something more like a chamber musical rather than a mega blockbuster."
In Toronto, audiences saw a gloomy and looming scenic design, but the creative team lightened up the show's visual elements since then, according to the co-director.
"The set's completely different," Caird told Playbill On-Line. "That is radically different. We decided we would lose the idea of having a sort permanent storytelling environment in which everything was more or less the same, and go for a completely different system, which is a black box idea which we'd fill with scenic devices whenever they're necessary. It's actually very colorful. It's against a black background, like Les Miz, but it's intensely colorful when we need it to be."
He added, "It's a clean space into which we bring the important scenic elements. The only thing that moves in space in Les Miz is people, other than when the barricades come on and a few bits of furniture. But in Jane Eyre we've got a very cunning scenic device that allows us to deliver particular objects into the space — windows, doors, bits of furniture — as [designer] John Napier calls them, "intensely jewel-like images." [They are] chartered into the space by a device that is actually quite revolutionary, that allows us to fly things through the air in three different dimensions. It's very beautiful. The effect we're trying for is like a Chagall painting, where the objects fly together to make sense once they've arrived."
The Brooks Atkinson is at 256 W. 47th Street in Manhattan. Tickets range $50-$86 and are also on sale by phone at (212) 307-4100.