OREM — Charlotte Bronte's novel “Jane Eyre” has seen many iterations and been told in many formats, and it’s headed next to Hale Center Theater Orem, where a musical version will be performed April 21-June 4, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon with a book by John Caird.
After being orphaned as a girl and brought up first by unloving relatives and then in a harsh boarding school, quiet yet willful Jane Eyre takes a position as a governess in the home of Edward Fairfax Rochester.
When Jane and Edward meet, they develop a relationship that has many faces and secrets, leading Jane to encounter mystery and love, laughter and heartbreak, trial and triumph.
“It’s a pretty true adaptation from the book to the stage,” said Elizabeth Dabczynski-Bean, one of two actresses playing adult Jane. “There’s a couple little tweaks just to help things make more sense and streamline the story a little bit, just to squish it into a two-hour time frame, but the facts are still there, the story’s still the same.”
Dabczynski-Bean said she had a particular interest in being a part of the production because her mom played the role of Mrs. Fairfax in a production at HCTO several years ago, and she sat backstage at many of the performances.
“I love how complex it is, I love how intricate it is, and so it was really a motivation to audition and ultimately try and be a part of it because it has meant a lot to me,” she said.
Also performing as Jane is Kenna Lynn Smith, who likewise was excited to get the role.
“I fell in love with the story a few years ago, and it’s my favorite book,” Smith said. “So it’s been an absolute dream to kind of explore ‘Jane Eyre’ in even more depth. … She is one of the only female characters in literature that I’ve ever identified with personally, because she’s not only strong, but she also needs love and gives love, which I think is the mark of a very strong woman.”
Stepping into the role of Edward is Dallyn Vail Bayles, a member of the Actors' Equity Association. He will act in most of the performances, with David Matthew Smith performing in the role on Tuesdays.
"(Edward is) a very somber, serious man, he’s very passionate, and you need to tap into that, but there’s also a very playful side to him as well," Bayles said. "It’s just wonderful to be able to show that part of his character where he desires to hope for a better life, and ultimately, thankfully, he does receive it, but there’s a lot of trial, and a lot of heartache that happens in the meantime.”
Hale Center Theater Orem's smaller size lends itself well to "Jane Eyre," the actors said.
“I love the intimacy of it," Bayles said. "It’s a very intimate environment, but you lose none of the production values.”
Having the audience members so physically close to the stage is particularly helpful with the narrative nature of the story, Dabczynski-Bean said.
“There’s a lot of breaking of the fourth wall, where Jane will address the audience directly and tell them what’s going on and tell them her story,” she said. “I think that’s really going to benefit audiences in this theater specifically because it will make it more personal, it will feel more immediate.”
Each of the actors identified lessons and messages that can be taken from the story, including what it means to really love someone, what forgiveness is, and the complexity of ethics and faith.
Dabczynski-Bean said Jane herself teaches the audience important things simply through the example she sets and the person she is.
“She doesn’t back down, she kind of doesn’t let anything stop her, and that, I think, is a really excellent lesson to learn,” she said.