On the same morning Jane Eyre got her cast album release in record stores, Nov. 21, it was announced that the John Caird-Paul Gordon musical would open a week later than previously planned.
Due to technical issues, the Broadway opening night of the Charlotte Bronte-inspired show would be delayed by one week (from Dec. 3 to a new opening of Dec. 10). Since October rehearsals, the production team has been making adjustments and fixes to a massive computerized scenic carousel that floats scenic elements and facilitates many atmospheric projections into the darkly romantic show. Previews began Nov. 9, two days later than expected.
"While we are extremely pleased with what audiences are seeing on stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, we recognize that we are responsible for bringing a new technology and design to theatre audiences," said lead producer Annette Niemtzow. "Therefore, we are willing to meet out creative team's request for an additional week of previews (and an additional week of very hard work) to bring their design to a final finish."
The Broadway cast album of Jane Eyre was recorded Oct. 5-6, a month before a note of the new show was heard on Broadway. Previews began Nov. 9 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and opening is set for Dec. 10, representing a delay from the original opening date of Dec. 3. The company of the Charlotte Bronte-inspired musical is led by Marla Schaffel, James Barbour and Mary Stout, as Jane, Rochester and Mrs. Fairfax, respectively.
The single disc is on the Sony Classical label and was fast tracked for release Nov. 21 to coincide with the early performances.
Recording a cast album before opening isn't unprecedented. A cast record of Lionel Bart'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.
Tracks include "The Orphan," "Children of God," "Forgiveness," "The Graveyard," "Sweet Liberty," "Secrets of the House," "Perfectly Nice," "As Good As You," "Secret Soul," "Finer Things," "The Pledge," "Sirens," "Things Beyond This Earth," "Painting Her Portrait," In the Light of the Virgin Morning," "The Gypsy," "The Proposal," "A Slip of a Girl," "Sirens" (reprise), "Farewell, Good Angel," "My Maker," "Rain," "The Voice Across the Moors," "Poor Sister," "Brave Enough for Love."
The denizens of the alternately dark and lushly romantic world of Jane Eyre will include Barbour, Schaffel, Stephen R. Buntrock (as St. John Rivers, the man who helps the title heroine find her way back to true love), Mary Stout (as quirky housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax), 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, Schaffel and Stout played Rochester, Jane and Mrs. Fairfax, respectively, at the La Jolla Playhouse, where the musical was a smash in the summer of 1999.
Designers are John Napier (set), Andreane Neofitou (costumes), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting) and Mark Menard and Tom Clark. Larry Hochman orchestrates, Steven Tyler is musical director and handles vocal and incidental arrangements.
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.
A tryout at the La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California was embraced by audiences July 13-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 the Broadway 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.
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. Caird said the show is more like a book musical and less like a so-called pop opera.
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.