Jane Eyre, the musical seen two years ago in a major production in Toronto, resurfaces in a West Coast opening July 25 with mix of new and previous cast members -- among them, holdover Marla Schaffel in the title role -- at the La Jolla Playhouse in southern California.
The production's next step is a Broadway opening in late 1999.
Producers of the John Caird-Paul Gordon musical are waiting for a Broadway theatre to become available so Charlotte Bronte's searching, romantic heroine will have what's hoped to be a long-term New York home.
Previews began July 13 at the La Jolla Playhouse in coastal La Jolla, CA., near San Diego. The theatre also hosted the pre-New York engagement of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Jane Eyre performances continue to Aug. 29 in La Jolla.
* The fall 1999 Broadway staging of Jane Eyre will be produced by Annette Niemtzow, Janet Robinson, Pam Koslow, Jennifer Manocherian and Alan Novich, in association with Margaret McFeeley Golden.
Composer-lyricist Paul 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." Co-director and librettist John Caird (who also wrote additional lyrics for the piece) might be best known for staging Nicholas Nickleby and co-directing Les Miserables. He is currently represented in London by Candide.
The La Jolla cast, expected to be the same for Broadway, is led by James Barbour (Carousel, Beauty and the Beast) as Rochester, Marla Schaffel (a onetime Fantine from Les Miserables) as Jane, Mary Stout as Mrs. Fairfax, and Elizabeth DeGrazia as Blanche. San Diego native Tiffany Scarritt plays Young Jane.
Schaffel has been with the project since it was first seen in Kansas in 1995. She was Jane in Toronto, too.
The La Jolla company also includes Jayne Paterson (Jane's mother), Nell Balaban (Amy), Rachel Ulanet (Louisa), Lee Zarrett (John Reed), Bill Nolte (Mason), Bruce Dow (Robert) and Christopher Yates (Jane's father), all of whom appeared in a workshop reading of the show in New York in February 1999. Others in the La Jolla and Broadway cast are Anne Allgood, Marguerite MacIntyre and Don Richard. MacIntyre had a featured role in the York Theatre's revival of No Way To Treat A Lady, which was directed by Jane Eyre's co-director, Scott Schwartz. Schwartz, who co-stages the piece with librettist and co-lyricist Caird, is the son of composer Stephen Schwartz (Pippin).
Jane Eyre was previously seen with Schaffel and Anthony Crivello (Kiss of the Spider Woman) in December 1996 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. Holdovers from Toronto currently in La Jolla are Balaban, Elizabeth De Grazia, Dow, Nolte, Richard and Stout.
Technically, its world premiere was at the Wichita (KS) Center for the Performing Arts in December 1995. The show's first post-Toronto staging was to be September 1998 at Tennessee Repertory Theatre, but it did not materialize.
Songs in the workshop that were holdovers from Toronto include: "Deep in My Secret Soul," "I'm Painting a Portrait," "Oh, Sister," "Brave Enough to Love" and "Forgiveness." The convention of having the ensemble separately tell Jane's story in the first person (using the formal "gentle audience" greeting) is a holdover from Toronto, as well.
Jane Eyre is drawn from Charlotte Bronte's 19th-century novel of a plain woman falling in love with the mysterious, secretive Rochester in provincial England. A secret locked in his attic threatens to destroy all.
Insiders suggest this new version of the show is more of a traditional book musical than the sung-through, darkly-designed (by John Napier) production that played the Royal Alex in Toronto. A Toronto cast album had a limited release.
The Toronto leads played the same roles in the 17-performance world premiere in Wichita, KS, far from the glare of New York media.
The original Canadian-production designers recreate their work this year: Set designer John Napier (Sunset Boulevard), costume designer Adreane Neofitou (Miss Saigon) and lighting designer Chris Parry (Tommy).Tom Clark and Mark Menard are sound designers.
According to a spokesperson, Napier has designed a new set, now including three turntables.
The Canadian producers Ed and David Mirvish are no longer involved with the project.
For La Jolla ticket information, call (858) 550-1010.