The long journey of Jane Eyre, the musical begun by librettist-director John Caird and composer-lyricist Paul Gordon more than five years ago and seen in various regional stagings, was to end up on Broadway Nov. 8, but technical issues are prompting the postponement of the first performance to Nov. 9. The 2 PM and 8 PM Nov. 8 shows (and a previously hoped-for Nov.7 first preview) were cancelled.
A spokesman said the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Jane's home, will be aglow Nov. 9.
Since its debut in a formative staging in Wichita, KS, in 1995, the show matured, changed, grew and picked up new theatre professionals along the way, including co-director Scott Schwartz.
The musical adapted from the 1847 Charlotte Bronte novel about a plain governess challenged by her lot in society and her attraction to her boss, the mysterious Edward Rochester, officially opens Dec. 3. A complicated technical-rehearsal period kept Jane away from audiences Nov. 7, and then the Nov. 8 dates fell away due to the teching of the gothic musical romance. Caird, who had such success co-creating stage versions of Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickleby (both with Trevor Nunn), stages the new musical with Schwartz. Caird also contributed additional lyrics to Paul Gordon's score.
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 as 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 in 1996, and said the show feels less like a so-called pop opera and more like a genuine book musical.
Marla Schaffel, James Barbour and Mary Stout lead the company of 19 as Jane, Rochester and Mrs. Fairfax, respectively. The denizens of the alternately dark and lushly romantic English world of Jane Eyre include Nell Balaban (as Grace Poole), Sandy Binion (ensemble), Andrea Bowen (Adele), Stephen R. Buntrock (as St. John Rivers), Bradley Dean (ensemble), Elizabeth DeGrazia (Blanche Ingram), Bruce Dow (Robert), Gina Ferrall (Mrs. Reed), Rita Glynn (ensemble), Gina Lamparella (ensemble), Marguerite MacIntyre (Bertha), Lisa Musser (Young Jane), 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.
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 Dec. 3 opening.
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," "Finer Things," "Forgiveness," "A Slip of a Girl," "Children of God," "As Good as You," "Perfectly Nice," "Painting Her Portrait," "Brave Enough for Love" and more.
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.
In a summer 2000 Playbill On-Line interview with co-director and librettist Caird, he said the changes since 1996 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.
For more information, consult janeeyreonbroadway.com.