Saturday, January 12, 2013

Books to Music: Jane Eyre the Musical

Musicals make up a large part of my iTunes content,  so I wanted to try out this possible weekly feature on my blog where I talk about a cast recording or sometimes one song that is from a musical based on a book.  I really want to focus on the music and not the stage show, and talk about how the music captures the novel for me.

Jane Eyre was my gateway musical to theatre love.  I liked a couple of musicals before I listened to this, but I wouldn't say I generally liked the genre.  Being the obsessed Jane Eyre fan, I finally got around to listening to this recording and at first wasn't too impressed! There were aspects and a song or two that I liked, but I feel like the transition from straight story to story told through song does need getting used to.  There is something in me that clicked after a few repeated listens in which the beauty of the story shone through the lyrics and music of the songs.  Now it's almost always that way for me.  If I see the show for the musical, it is much more likely I will add the cast recording to my collection.  I need the context, because my understanding of the story and the emotion behind the scene can transfer to how I enjoy the songs.

With Jane Eyre, the mood of the music is the first thing that drew me in.  It's haunting and meditative, and dark and intense at times.  It matches the power and passion of the novel, and with Marla Schaffel's glorious mezzo-soprano voice, she brings that down to earth, proper quality that fits Jane's character so well.  Her voice does sound more mature than I would wish Jane to sound, but the passion Marla brings to the character makes up for that.  James Barbour's powerful baritone is perfect for Rochester and sounds fantastic matched to Marla.  I love the inflections that James brings to certain songs as well - especially when imitating Celine or teasing Jane in the Proposal song.

Some songs adapt some surprising scenes.  The Gypsy song - a scene often omitted from adaptations of the novel - is included and captures Rochester's whimsy as he talks to his guests and then to Jane in song.  This musical also makes the interesting choice to have a 'greek chorus' narrate Jane's story at times, with interstitial songs sung by the cast that help build the Gothic, sometimes foreboding tone of the music.  It's a wonderful atmospheric recreation of the story that is often more faithful to the book than some of the film adaptations.

Song Spotlight:  Brave Enough For Love
This song isn't my favorite from the album (that would be "Sirens") but I picked this song because the themes that have been building throughout the musical - of love and forgiveness - are woven together perfectly in this finale.  And the title "Brave Enough For Love" echoes musically and lyrically Helen Burn's advice to Jane from the song "Forgiveness".  Beautiful call-back!  This song completely captures the lessons and experience that Jane and Rochester have learned throughout the show, and that is why I think this song is a fantastic example of the beauty and intelligence of this musical.

14 comments:

  1. I had no idea there was a musical! I'm going to check the songs out on youtube.

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    1. Oh yes, there is actually more than one, but this is the big Broadway one by Paul Gordon and John Caird. I think it's the best, though I'm sure I'll talk about the other Jane Eyre musicals on this blog some time. :)

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  2. Love this! Very cool idea for a meme! :) I love Jane Eyre the musical! I think my favorite song is 'painting my portrait' because I think it capture Jane's feelings at that part of the story so beautifully!

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    1. Thank you! Painting My Portrait is a great one - I especially love the desperate way she ends the song "say a prayer for your sorry soul, Jaaaannneee." So moving!

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    2. I think Marla just does such an amazing job with the song! I feel so sorry for her at that moment!
      I was looking at wiki and there are 152 musicals that are based on books, crazy but it means you won't be struggling for content!
      I will be tuning in each week!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Musicals_based_on_novels

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    3. Wow this list is really helpful! Thanks for this Alisa! And I definitely have a lot of musicals to listen to! :)

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  3. I love musicals, so I'm definitely going to check this out! :) Great post!

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

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    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the future posts and you'll probably have heard of a few of them (so many musicals are based on books!)

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  4. I'm interested to check this out :) Great post!!

    I've nominated you for a lovely blog award :) Happy reading!

    http://megzmaddreadz.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-blog-award-nomination-so-sweet.html

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    1. Thank you for the nomination and for stopping by! :)

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  5. Ooh. I have to check this our. The timing of your post is perfect. I just read Jane Eyre for the first time this week and am currently reading Jane, the modern retelling. Thanks for the informative post! :)

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    1. Oh wow, I really look forward to reading your thoughts on both books, but of course I hope you really enjoyed Jane Eyre the most. :)

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  6. This is a lovely idea for a post. I hadn't realized that Jane Eyre was responsible for sparking your love of musical theater, though I can see why. I do agree that the musical does an excellent job of capturing the themes of the novel.

    I'm hoping you continue this series and look forward to seeing what other musicals you might talk about! :)

    (My favorite song from the show is the not-particularly-true-to-the-tone-of-the-novel-but-heaps-of-fun, Perfectly Nice)

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    1. Thank you! I definitely hope to keep this up for a bit, and it'll probably push me to listen to more musicals which is a good thing. Perfectly Nice is not an obvious choice, but I really like that song too! It plays very well on stage - a little comic relief with Mrs. Fairfax is a nice addition to the show.

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