Facebook Twitter

Gothic ‘Jane Eyre’ is superb but lengthy musical

Also, ‘The Music Man’ hits (almost) all the right notes

SHARE Gothic ‘Jane Eyre’ is superb but lengthy musical

JANE EYRE: THE MUSICAL, Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City; continues through Oct. 21; 8:30 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays; Saturday matinees at noon & 3:30 p.m.; also 5 p.m. on Oct. 13 & 20. All seats reserved. Tickets range from $11 to $17.50. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes (one intermission).

THE MUSIC MAN, Rodgers Memorial Theatre, 292 E. Pages Lane, Centerville; continues through Sept. 23. Performances Mondays & Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. All seats reserved. Tickets range from $10 to $12. Reservations: 298-1302. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (one intermission).

Two superbly staged musicals have opened, both centered around strong-willed heroines and equally strong-willed suitors. Both are, essentially, intimate romances told against a backdrop of period costuming, big production numbers, fine music and insightful lyrics.

But the similarities, such as they are, end there.

"Jane Eyre," which HCT showcased in a "world premiere" presentation six years ago, features music and lyrics by Patricia York and Jerry Williams, while "The Music Man," Meredith Willson's American-as-apple-pie hit, has long been established as a Broadway classic. (Willson did it all — he wrote the music, the lyrics and the book.)

JANE EYRE, directed by John Adams, who also directed the first version in 1994, has been slightly revised for this revival, which is, basically, a "chick flick" for theatergoers.

This show also benefits greatly from the shift to HCT's technically enhanced venue, smoothly moving the action across 14 scenes, ranging from the austere Lowood School for Girls to Edward Rochester's palatial estate.

The upper levels of Thornfield Hall are cleverly depicted by moving a giant staircase into place from the bottom of HCT's "pit," turning the stage-level area into a rotunda, with the existing theater stairs leading up into the mysterious lair of what seems to be a demented ghost.

One of the central characters in this musical, based on Charlotte Bront's 1847 best seller, is Jane Eyre, who is dumped into a dreary girls' school by her hateful aunt and who eventually ends up as governess at Rochester's Thornfield Hall, where he is guardian of a young girl, Adele Varens.

Mark Gollaher, once again, gives a stunning performance in the demanding role of Rochester. He is single-cast for this production (with James Dale, his understudy, filling in for Saturday matinees only).

The opening night cast included Jennie Whitlock as the adult Jane, who is drawn to Rochester despite his aloofness.

Gollaher and Whitlock are terrific in such duets as "Lamp in the Dark," "Common Ground" and "Passionate Goodness."

There are also some nicely staged ensemble numbers. The kitchen staff and servants noting that "Prosperity's Got a Price" and "The Moors Are A-Callin' " add some color to the dark-edged, brooding tale of life at Thornfield.

Other featured players include Ron Johnson as the stern headmaster at Lowood, where he makes an example of Jane Eyre's rebellious ways; David W. Stensrud as John, Rochester's head servant; Brandon Cecala as John Eyre Rivers, Jane's distant cousin (who wants to make her "A Missionary Wife"); Giselle LaVoie in the dual roles of Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, and Mrs. Fairfax, who runs Thornfield Hall; Craig Bowen as the vengeful Mason; and Warren Holz as seamstress/watchdog Grace Poole.

Candida Nichols' costumes, Marilyn May Montgomery's choreography and Stuart Lewis' scenery capture the period feel of Bront's Gothic tale, but the production could still use some fine-tuning and some judicious trimming. It's just 10 minutes shy of three hours — and could easily be whittled back to two and one-half hours.

The alternate cast includes Diane Dayley as Jane Eyre, William Bisson as John and Mike Williams as Mason.

Sensitivity rating: Fine entertainment for youths and adults, especially those familiar with the novel, but much too long for youngsters.

THE MUSIC MAN — Maybe Professor Harold Hill's first performance by the River City Boys Band hits all the wrong notes in its hastily arranged concert version of "Minuet in G," but this rousing production of Meredith Willson's musical — directed by Leslie Warwood and choreographed by Georgie Marshall — hits all the right notes.

Well, mostly.

In spite of all the splashy production numbers, such as the high-stepping "76 Trombones," "Iowa Stubborn" and "Shipoopi," this is, at its very heart, the intimate tale of rascally con man Harold Hill and no-nonsense librarian/piano teacher Marian Paroo.

The setting is the small town of River City, Iowa, in 1912, where Hill is bent on selling the naive townspeople a lengthy bill of goods — shiny band instruments, instruction books and snappy band uniforms. He's also promoting his "think system" of learning music.

Willson's 1957 Broadway classic fits nicely on the Rodgers Memorial Theatre's small stage.

The Monday/Friday version of the double-cast production includes David Nieman as Professor Hill and Angela Maloy as Marian Paroo. Nieman's robust energy and Maloy's beautiful voice are a perfect combination for the show's central characters.

Some other noteworthy "River Citians" include Mayor and Mrs. Shinn, played by Bernett Baldwin and Marjorie Luke; Mrs. Paroo (Chris Brown); Winthrop (Taylor Davies); Marcellus (Glen Carpenter); and the feuding school board members — Jan Vanderhooft, John Morgan, Steve Harmon and Jim Gallagher.

There were a few sound problems on the night I caught the show, but nothing insurmountable.

The show's alternate cast includes Glenn McKay as Hill, Diane Elmer as Marian and Sterling Brimley as Mayor Shinn.