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.