Jane Eyre, set in England,
in the early 19th century, begins with the death of Jane's parents
after her father, a pastor working in an urban slum, is exposed
to typhus. Jane goes to live with her only known relative, Mrs.
Reed, the widow of her maternal uncle. Mrs. Reed and her children,
however, have little use for the orphan Jane and treat her with
open contempt. When Jane rebels against their ill treatment,
she is sent away to Lowood, a nightmarish charity school run
by the tyrannical Mr. Brocklehurst.
Eventually, Jane escapes Lowood, taking a position at Thornfield
Hall where she serves as governess to Adèle Varennes,
the young ward of the absent master of Thornfield, Edward Rochester.
One winter's night, Jane encounters Rochester, returning home.
The two are immediately drawn to one another. But as Jane grows
to love Rochester, she begins to suspect that the house and its
master harbour a dark secret.
The musical was conceived by Paul Gordon, an L.A. based songwriter,
while browsing through a paperback kiosk at the Los Angeles airport
on New Year's Day, 1991. Reading the backs of various great classics,
the fifth or sixth synopsis he read was Jane Eyre, and
he was immediately intrigued by the Gothic overtones of Charlotte
Bronte's classic love story. With the help of Anthony Crivello,
who played Rochester in the Toronto premiere, Gordon put together
a demo tape and sent it off to librettist John Caird. Although
Caird was skeptical at first, the two began toying with the project
over the next few years.
Jane Eyre celebrated its world premiere at Toronto's
Royal Alexandra Theatre on December 3, 1996. It then moved to
the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, and on December
10, 2000, the show opened on Broadway with Marla Schaffel as
"Jane Eyre," James Barbour as "Edward Rochester,"
and Mary Stout as "Mrs. Fairfax." The production was
directed by librettist John Caird, a Tony Award winner for Les Misérables and Nicholas
Nickleby. The set was designed by John Napier, a five time
Tony Award winner and designer of Les Misérables,
Cats and Miss
Saigon. Costumes were designed by Britain's Andreane
Neofitou, designer of Les Misérables and Miss
Saigon. And the lighting was designed by Chris Parry, a Tony
Award winner for The Who's Tommy and Tony nominee for
Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
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