Dear Reader Episode 10: All That Victorian Jazz

Season Finale!

Grab your Playbills and pens and meet me at the stage door of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, as I look at the history of, and review, the 2001 Broadway musical "Jane Eyre,"starring Marla Schaffel and James Barbour, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, and book by John Caird.

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2 responses to “Dear Reader Episode 10: All That Victorian Jazz

  1. i have of course not seen the musical, but thanks to national Theatre Live, I DID see the 2015 stage adaptation. I didn’t like it much, but I thought you’d like to see the capsule review I wrote at the time:

    There is a type of theater that really annoys me, and I’m afraid National Theatre Live’s 2015 adaptation of Jane Eyre falls in that category: Plays that want to be movies. The chief sin of these plays is providing a continuous score, which I find trite outside of musical theater, even if the production is lavish enough to have a orchestra on stage with the actors. I gnash my teeth when the other gimmicks come out: Freeze frames and slow motion and other effects. In Sally Cookson’s Jane Eyre, there are even more gimmicks – dynamic lighting cues, abstract set designs, fire effects, actors voicing Jane’s thoughts, lyrical dance, pop songs and hymns sung on stage, people playing animals, and ok enough already. A couple of these would have been clever. All of them together is particularly exhausting. It’s too bad because some of it is quite clever, but overall too gimmicky for me. And here’s the thing. Novels can do things that plays aren’t very good at. An adaptation OF a novel means a certain level of sacrifice. This production doesn’t want to sacrifice anything. I struggled through the first act showing us Jane’s life from infant to child to school girl – adults playing kids for a good hour – and the play doesn’t start to be interesting until Rochester shows up (and Felix Hayes gives a fun performance in the role). If they’d boiled it down to Jane’s life at Thornfield, integrating her earlier life in stories told through dialog, I would probably have been less impatient with it. Final rating: Humbug.

    And now for the congratulatory comment on you finishing this maxi-series – I will miss my monthly dose of podlit – you did an outstanding job with it and brought the material to life even for those with more cursory knowledge of Jane Eyre. You had some surprising choices in there, which I loved. Season 2 is going to be a play? Hm, I really wonder what it could be, and am excited to find out (as a Network insider, I guess I’ll be among the first). Now I’m trying to think of what plays have enough adaptations to warrant the treatment… Many of Shakespeare’s, of course. The Importance of Being Earnest, perhaps. Cyrano de Bergerac (but maybe not if you take out the original French). Peter Pan?! Or maybe it’s a musical, as per your predilections. I’ll bide my time, but again, congratulations – I loved the trip to Thornfield.

  2. I checked in with my brother, and it turns out that he did not get to see the Jane Eyre musical. He ended up on childcare duty, while his wife went to see the show. I didn’t get any details, but she did enjoy it.

    Thank you for this episode and for this show. I’m glad to hear that you were renewed for a second season.

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