Though a revised version of the Paul Gordon musical, Jane Eyre, had a workshop in October -- featuring nearly all its original Toronto cast -- its Broadway plans are still uncertain.
According to Mirvish Productions publicity director John Karastamatis, the only thing keeping Jane Eyre out of New York in this packed season is the lack of an appropriate theatre. "It needs a certain stage depth and 1,100-1,200 seats to make sense financially," said Karastamatis. He confessed that Mirvish, like other producers, is anticipating the closure of two current Broadway musicals and one Broadway play before the spring season -- though all three are hanging on tenaciously. Given the scarcity situation, the producers are now also considering bringing the show to London first, even though they haven't given up hope of opening Jane Eyre on Broadway during the 1997-98 season.
Here's the back-story on Jane Eyre so far:
Margaret Sirotich, publicity associate at Mirvish Productions, told Playbill On-Line July 11 that the Broadway opening was postponed from fall 1997 while the director searched for just the right Broadway theatre: "The stage has to be fairly large. We don't want to re-size our set. There are only four Broadway theatres that can hold the show, and they're all booked." John Napier's set design runs 38 feet deep. As for keeping the Toronto cast, "When we closed there," said Sirotich, "they all expressed interest in staying with the show, but because of the delays, we can't be sure who'll be available at this point."
Rumors that composer Steven Schwartz (Godspell, The Baker's Wife) had been brought in to doctor the show were based in truth but, according to Schwartz, greatly exaggerated: "John Caird was doing a workshop recently with Paul Gordon, the composer of Jane Eyre in NY, about a block from my apartment. They asked me -- as a friend -- to say if I had any thoughts about the show. Certainly it was not a formal arrangement. These people are perfectly capable of doing the show without me."
Continued Schwartz, "I do this ASCAP Workshop about writing for the musical theatre. We deal with structure, and whether you're getting full bang for your buck out of specific numbers. For Eyre I had thoughts about construction issues and where they might find some cuts. But I have no idea what if any suggestions of mine I took. There are wonderful things in the show, and they're hard at work on it. I didn't do ANY writing at all. Or rewriting or show-doctoring. This is just giving opinions and suggestions to Paul Gordon and John Caird."
"I was always told in the theatre that's what people did," said Schwartz. "There are famous stories of Jerome Robbins making the suggestion that led to "Comedy Tonight" that saved Forum; or Neil Simon suggesting changes in the book to A Chorus Line. It's a tradition in the theatre, a collegial thing."
Those hoping to keep track of the show's progress might be interested in a new newsletter, The Jane Eyre Quarterly, to be put out by LGS Marketing Consultants starting Oct. 1997. The free periodical is available by writing to LGS at 1767 Main Street, Northhampton, PA 18067 or to the e-mail address, EmKnightly@aol.com. Interviews with Gordon and Caird, plus a feature on actors who starred in the film version of Jane Eyre, are set for the premiere issue.
Anthony Crivello and Marla Schaffel starred in the musical by Paul Gordon and Caird, which is based on Charlotte Bronte's novel. The original Toronto cast world premiere recording of the musical Jane Eyre was been released by Mirvish Productions and is available exclusively from TicketKing, Toronto, (800) 461-3333 [(416) 872-1212 for local callers] and the Song & Script store at 1200 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2A5 tel: (416) 923-3044, fax: (416) 923-7879.
Caird described Jane Eyre as "a story of a woman's heroine." Charlotte Bronte wanted to write about Eyre's growing stature because of her inner life. She has nothing and learns everything. Rochester is a man who has everything, but, drawn through Bronte's lens, is a man of great moral and spiritual confusion. Eyre has a lot to say to us about moral and spiritual values. What is interesting these days is everything is blamed on our past and our parents. Jane Eyre focuses on a different, more traditional approach, that of learning to forgive, and getting on with life."
Marla Schaffel was chosen to play Eyre for her open emotional quality and vocal talent."The cut and jib of characters is how they are acting," said Caird. "When she is unhappy, she will be 'plainer' [the actress Schaffel is quite attractive], and when she's happy, she will appear less plain, as the story will make her beautiful."
Caird maintains that the ensemble, so vital in this production, speaks for Jane. "You can't listen to Jane telling the story objectively and then try to relate to her subjectively."
It was a slow process of selection for the cast and in making the musical. Originally workshopped at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and in Los Angeles and then Wichita, KS, the production cast several people at a time.
"This production has been in the works for a number of years," Caird said. The process that has brought us to Toronto has been a long and selective one. This city has a great theatrical tradition an enormous talent pool. Toronto is where we want to be."
Caird said Jane Eyre has always fascinated him because "it is the first piece of 19th century literature bold enough to articulate a woman's romantic passion. It marked the beginning of a sort of feminism. Seeded throughout the work is Jane's feeling that women are forced into subservient and unimaginative roles. Jane is a woman with a mission in life. She wants to make a difference in some way. I'm very much attracted to her as a heroine because the story is very much a woman's view of the world. She's not a heroine seen through a man's eyes - most romantic heroines written by men are beautiful, weak, and always need a man to help them out. There is none of that in Charlotte Bronte."
Incidentally, Caird has taken a bit of liberty with the role of Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, introducing a lot of humour to the character.
Caird isn't surprised that 19th century authors like Bronte and Austen are experiencing a renewed wave of popularity in film, television and theatre. "They represent moral certainties in what today is a morally confusing age. The 19th century romantic tradition reminds us of some of the absolute spiritual values that exist in the human heart and reminds us that such values are possible to live by."
The Creative Team ofJane Eyre:
Composer and lyricist Paul Gordon is a Los Angeles-based songwriter who has had his songs recorded by such artists as Amy Grant, Bette Midler, James Ingram and Quincy Jones. His hits include "Friends & Lovers" and "Next Time I Fall." This is his second musical; his first, Greetings from Venice Beach was performed in LA.
Set Designer John Napier (Cats, Les Mis, Miss Saigon) has won Olivier and Tony Awards for Nickleby, Cats, Les Mis, Miss Saigon and Sunset. For Jane Eyre, he has created a world of gothic, multi-dimensional, deeply hued interiors and exteriors with a few visually thrilling surprises in store.
Costume Designer Adreane Neofitou (Les Mis, Miss Saigon) has gained an international profile for her designs, recreates the splendor and intricate detail of 19th century attire. From the opulence of life at the Rochester's manor house to the austerity of the orphanage, her costumes set the mood.
Lighting Designer Chris Parry (Tommy) won a Tony for Tommy for his innovative lighting, and brings state-of -the-art illumination to Jane Eyre. His canvas is Napier's complex and evocative set and the rich fabrics of Neofitou's exquisite costumes.
Sound Designer Tom Clark (Seven Guitars), former head of sound for the prestigious Santa Fe Opera, brings the expertise he is well-known for on Broadway including The Goodbye Girl and The Piano Lesson.
The musical direction is by Steve Tyler, with orchestrations by Larry Hochman. The choreography is by Kelly Robinson.
Jane Eyre is produced in association with Janet Robinson and Pam Koslow. (Incidentally, providing family support at the press conference was Pam's husband, none other than Gregory Hines, in town shooting a cable TV movie with Judd Hirsh, who also made an appearance) .
Marla Schaffel (Jane) has starred on Broadway in such musicals as Les Mis (Fantine), National Tour of Evita (Eva Peron) and top regional theatres in Top Girls, Fool for Love, A Little Night Music, Paint Your Wagon, Summer and Smoke, Twelfth Night and others. She has appeared in the films The Eyes Prove and French Intensive. Currently she is recording the soundtrack for the upcoming animated feature The Prince of Egypt. She is really looking forward to her role as Jane, and is "convinced it is a 14 tissue show" Bring your Kleenex!
Anthony Crivello (Rochester) won a Tony for Kiss of The Spider Woman, and has also appeared in Les Mis, Evita, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Frankie and Johnny. Crivello was last seen in Toronto in 1992 in Kiss of the Spider Woman. His work has spanned all theatrical mediums, his talents ranging from the live stages of Broadway to the sound stages of Hollywood. Crivello has starred as Che in Evita and Javert in Les Mis. His portrayal of Killer in The News earned him the prestigious Carbonell Award. He also starred in Measure for Measure at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. He recently received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Arnaud in Chicago's Goodman Theatre production of The House of Martin Guerre. Film credits include The Lost Capone, Spellbinder, Crocodile Dundee II, Shakedown, Slaves of New York, The Bet, Dillinger and Capone with F. Murray Abraham and Martin Sheen, Independence Day,Twisted, Frankenstein Sings, The Glass Cage, Alien Avengers and Not of This Earth II. He is frequently seen in such television series as "Law and Order", "Dark Justice", "Miami Vice," "Murder in Black and White," "919 -5th Avenue," and "Star Trek Voyager."
Crivello says his biggest challenge in the role is to "create the multi layering of the character with his black moods and changes of heart without giving too much of Rochester's whole personality away too fast."
The cast also includes Brooks Almy, Nell Balaban, Elizabeth Beeler, Beth Ann Cole, Elizabeth De Grazia, Frannie Diggins, Bruce Dow, Lavonda Elam, Gina Ferrall, Aloysius Gigl, Angela Lockett, Toni MacRae, Ariel Grace Martin-Smith, Peter McCutcheon, Kevin McGuire, Bill Nolte, Jade Padua, Jane Patterson, Kelli Rabke, Don Richards, Mark E. Smith, Mary Stout, Danian Vickers and Jen Waiser.