Jane Eyre Opens Dec. 3

News   Jane Eyre Opens Dec. 3
The Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, which was supposed to open Nov. 22 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, will premiere Dec. 3, after more fine-tuning during previews.


The Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, which was supposed to open Nov. 22 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, will premiere Dec. 3, after more fine-tuning during previews.

David and Ed Mirvish are presenting the musical, budgeted at $6 million, at the Royal Alexandra for a limited run through Feb. 1, 1997, before its scheduled arrival on Broadway March 16, 1997 at a theatre to be announced. Marla Schaffel and Tony Award-Winner Anthony Crivello lead a 30-member cast.

Asked the reasons for the 10-day delay, production spokesman John Karastamatis told Playbill On-Line, the show simply ran out of time to do tweaking and tuning. "They got it ready to a certain point for the first preview, but six previews just wasn't enough time to do the job well for opening. The decision to postpone was made right after the first preview."

So what were the problems necessitating extra work? "Orchestration was a factor. There was a lot of time-consuming work, like copying the sheet music, that had to be done by hand. There are no time-saving devices to help with that. Now everyone's busy, but at least not frantically."

Karastamatis also confirmed information offered by a watchful Playbill On-Line reader that the show ran into a footwear problem, sending the cast scrambling to the Stratford & Shaw Festival costume shops until the custom-made period shoes were ready. "We suspected that the fellow in London making the shoes had a nervous breakdown," Karastamatis said. "He called us a week before previews and said, `Um, I've been meaning to phone you that I haven't had a chance to get started yet...' But we've got them now." It has also been rumored that a part of the set's stairway had to be rebuilt because it didn't take into account the size of the period dresses, but Karastamatis said, "No, that's not correct. As far as I know, no part of the set had to be reconstructed."

Karastamatis did say that adapter/director/librettist John Caird is taking the extra time to make numerous small changes in the script. "We've shortened the show a little, and it now runs 2:40. It would be easier to cut a big number or two, but John's been cutting dialogue, thirty seconds here, ninety seconds there. That's easy in a straight play, but since music plays through the entire show -- it's completely underscored, the music's relentless in a pleasant, mesmerizing sort of way -- little changes take a long time. I suspect the show will be longer by the time he's through, maybe 2:45-to 2:50. The story deals with the interior life of people, so you can cut but you then have to go back and make things clear."

With the cast healthy and intact, Jane Eyre does predict smooth sailing to its new, Dec. 3 opening. The show will run at the Royal Alexandria only to Feb. 1, 1997, because the next production is already booked: a revival of Death Of Salesman directed by Gloria Muzio (Other People's Money and starring Judd Hirsch (I'm Not Rappaport, Conversations With My Father, Talley's Folly, TV's "Taxi").

John Caird, recently involved in the controversy over pink-slipping the majority of the Broadway cast of Les Miz, is a former associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (for 12 years) and collaborated on both Les Miz and Nicholas Nickleby with Trevor Nunn. Canadian born in Edmonton, he grew up in Montreal and was educated in England, where his stage work has earned him an international reputation. Because of his Shakespeare experiences, Caird has been repeatedly asked to relocate to Stratford (the Canadian Shakespeare Festival in Ontario), but is unable to make himself leave his extended family in England.

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 is looking at 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.

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