By Kenneth Jones
16 May 2001
Hours after the announcement May 16 that Jane Eyre, the musical, would close May 20 after a six month run on Broadway, news came that singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette was injecting $150,000 into the show, allowing producers to take down the closing notice for a week.
It is not known how long the Tony Award-nominated show will last, but May 20 is not the closing date. It's thought the show will continue at least to May 27, allowing more Tony voters to see the work, which earned five Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Actress (Musical), Best Book, Best Score and Best Lighting.
"Ms. Morissette is a friend of the composer and a huge fan of the show," according to a statement.
The turnaround was so surprising that a press rep anticipated a question from Playbill On-Line and replied, "No, it's not a joke."
Performances continue at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Morissette's largesse is not without tradition. Last season, film star Kevin Spacey stepped forward as an angel for the Off Broadway show Cobb.
Despite a handful of major Tony Award nominations for Jane Eyre, the announcement was made May 16 that May 20 was to be the show's final performance at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. As late as 1 PM May 16 producer Annette Niemtzow told Playbill On-Line how painful the close was, but said a tour was being explored and noted the show will eventually be available for stock, regional and school productions.
The tuner by book writer-director John Caird (and co-director Scott Schwartz) and composer lyricist Paul Gordon struggled for an audience but did find a loyal following among returnees who were dubbed "Eyre Heads." For the week ending May 13, the show played to 56 percent of capacity.
Niemtzow conceded the financial loss was high, but said a tour was expected for the future, using some elements of the scenic design but not the complicated, multi-ton scenic carousel that creates the mysterious atmosphere of the staging (using screens and projections). Niemtzow also said she hopes Jane Eyre will also find a home in London (Caird and novelist Charlotte Bronte's turf). The original novel is a United Kingdom treasure.
The pop musical starring Marla Schaffel, James Barbour and Mary Stout, retells the gothic romantic story first read in the 19th-century novel by Bronte. The story concerns a plain governess drawn into the tormented world of Edward Rochester, a man with secrets.
The show was Tony nommed for Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Schaffel), Best Score (Gordon and co-lyricist Caird), Best Lighting Design (Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer), Best Book (Caird).
Despite the award nominations, ticket sales failed to pick up in recent weeks, prompting the initial closing notice. "We are honored that the Tony Awards committee has recognized our efforts with five Tony nominations," Niemtzow said.
Previews began Nov. 8, 2000, with an opening of Dec. 10. A cast album was released Nov. 21, before performances began.
During the run, the denizens of the alternately dark and lushly romantic world of Jane Eyre included Stephen R. Buntrock (as St. John Rivers, the man who helps the title heroine find her way back to true love), Stout (as quirky house matron 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).
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 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.
For ticket information, call (212) 307-4100.