BYU is offering some excellent musical fare with its current production of "Jane Eyre." Based on Charlotte Bronte's book by the same name, this musical version has a beautiful score and is cast with some fine talent and ultimately presents a very enjoyable night of theater.
This musical follows the story found in the book as closely as the time will allow. The romance centers around Jane Eyre (Michelle Marquis) who grows up at a girls school and then takes work as a governess at the home of a man named Rochester (Jeremy W. Hoop). Over time, she falls hopelessly in love with the man, while he also becomes enamored with Jane's frankness and intellect. However, a dark secret eventually threatens their chances at happiness together.The music is quite good. Much of it is beautifully composed, and it is all beautifully sung by the cast.
There is a good contrast of romantic, emotional songs and some fun, upbeat tunes such as "Prosperity Has Got a Price" which is sung with gusto by Rochester's servants. The choreography during this number is quite fun, with Alex Gray as John doing an excellent job singing the solo parts and heading up the group.
The leads do a superb job, particularly Hoop as Rochester. He is appropriately brusque and abrupt, causing some humorous exchanges between him and Jane. He also has a wonderful voice and a good range of expression as he sings. Marquis is also good as she presents some demanding vocal solos and acts out her emotions of love, frustration and despair.
The set is quite simple and well-done; one of its major features is a wonderful, large spiral staircase that easily glides into place for one scene and smoothly disappears for the next.
Another effective set element are huge curtains reminiscent of those used in "Phantom of the Opera" which can be quickly pulled aside for a draped effect or hung down to hide a scene change. The curtains add color and create the luxury of a large home without the need for a lot of additional set pieces.
Pacing is generally very good, with the action and scene changes moving forward at a good speed. One exception was the reprise of "Prosperity Has Got a Price," which immediately followed the servants' performance of the entire version of "Prosperity." This section seemed awkward and unnecessary.
There were a few defects in the production. Occasionally, when the pre-recorded backup music swelled to a climactic point, the vocals were lost in the heightened volume. There were also a few times in the second act when the songs seemed a bit too contrived in their placement, like they were added at certain points simply because it was an emotional moment and therefore needed a song.
Also, the costumes worn by Rochester's female visitors during the first act were ill-chosen. The coloring of the dresses was unattractive next to the large curtains used in the set.
Blanche Ingram's red dress looked more clownish than beautiful while Jane's dress in this scene looked a bit too fancy; this hampered the important contrast drawn between Blanche's physical beauty and Jane's plain features.
In such a large, ambitious production, these problems can be fairly easily overlooked. For "Jane Eyre," audiences are encouraged to get tickets early. It is an enjoyable production with some beautiful musical numbers, a talented cast and a touching story.