Jane Eyre, the
Until March of 2018, I had heard only vague
references to a Jane Eyre musical that had once run on Broadway. But then my observant wife saw a notice
in our local newspaper, announcing that Jane Eyre would be performed soon in a small Philadelphia theater.
I immediately ordered a ticket (just one, as she would be out of town).
Arriving at the venue — the Drake Theater in
Philadelphia — I was surprised to find it a tiny space that held mere dozens of audience members. No seat was far
from the stage!
The cast that performed Jane Eyre was also
smallish, with some members handling multiple roles. However, they were impressively talented singers. I didn't get
to see them do much "acting" because there wasn't really a set; characters spoke their dialogue in an open area,
then walked to a nearby bank of microphone stands (and often referred to printed lyrics) when it was time to sing.
The rehearsal process had apparently been abbreviated, perhaps in light of the small number of tickets that could
be sold. Hence, the play was not visually impressive.
As a stage-musical version of the Jane Eyre story, though, it worked. It
had a reasonably true storyline, and some of the songs were memorable, though the clever lyrics were sometimes
dotted with banal rhymes. (Afterward, I bought the Broadway Jane Eyre soundtrack on CD, and I've enjoyed getting to know the songs better while driving to and from the school
where I teach. Definitely worth a listen; if you're a Jane Eyre aficionado, you can follow the
storyline easily through the songs.)
Jane Eyre — which opened on Broadway in
December of 2000 and closed after six months — couldn't muster enough public interest to become Rent or
Hamilton. But it is a worthwhile piece of art (presumably even moreso if scenery and movement are
added), and I recommend seeing it if it is produced in a convenient location.
(P.S. Kudos to the 11th Hour Theatre Company, which did a quality job with this musical. Readers near
Philadelphia, I recommend that you take in one of their other shows.)