Jane Eyre Loses First Preview Nov. 7; Romance Begins Nov. 8

News   Jane Eyre Loses First Preview Nov. 7; Romance Begins Nov. 8 A complicated technical-rehearsal period is keeping Broadway's Jane Eyre away from audiences for one performance — its scheduled Nov. 7 first preview — but the gothic musical romance will begin previews 2 PM Nov. 8, a spokesman said.

A complicated technical-rehearsal period is keeping Broadway's Jane Eyre away from audiences for one performance — its scheduled Nov. 7 first preview — but the gothic musical romance will begin previews 2 PM Nov. 8, a spokesman said.

The musical adapted from the 1847 Charlotte Bronte novel and co-directed by John Caird, with a score by Paul Gordon, officially opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre Dec. 3. Caird, who had such success co-creating stage versions of Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickleby, stages the new musical with Scott Schwartz.

Even before previews were to begin, a Broadway cast album of Jane Eyre was recorded Oct. 5-6. The disc, from Sony, is expected in stores Nov. 21, prior to the show's opening.

Marla Schaffel, James Barbour and Mary Stout lead the company as Jane, Rochester and Mrs. Fairfax, respectively.

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 hit run at the La Jolla Playhouse in summer 1999. Songs include "Secret Soul," "Sweet Liberty," "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.

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.

Designers for the Broadway staging are Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting), John Napier (set) and Andreane Neofitou (costumes), Tom Clark and Mark Menard (sound).

Steve Tyler is music director and vocal arranger, Larry Hochman is orchestrator.

*

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 the 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 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 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 has 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. Call (212) 307-4100 for ticket information.

*

The Modern Library will release "The Official Broadway Edition" of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" Nov. 14, coinciding with the run of the new Broadway musical.

The 717-page softbound volume's cover reflects the musical's logo and art, which shows Marla Schaffel and James Barbour as Jane and Rochester, respectively, standing by a reflecting pool but not making the passionate connection that the classic novel — and new musical — promises. The English countryside is seen in the background, with a horse running free.

The tie-in book edition is $7.95 and features a new introduction by Diane Johnson, author of "Le Mariage" and "Le Divorce." The easy-read type is larger and cleaner than other editions of the novel from other publishers. The book also includes notes, commentary and discussion questions for reading groups. The book first appeared in 1847 under Bronte's pseudonym Currer Bell. The novel tells of a plain but smart woman — a governess — falling in love with the mysterious, secretive Rochester in provincial England.