Dark Jane Eyre at SMT
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Dark Jane Eyre at SMT
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Jane Eyre
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through March 1

Jane Eyre is a novel written by Charlotte Bronte in 1847, full of brooding English manner and mystery. Paul Gordon and John Caird took on this project as a musical and premiered it in 1996 in Toronto. It went on finally to Broadway in 2000, closing in June of 2001. Interestingly, Caird and Gordon are working on a slimmed-down, revamped version they hope to open on Broadway sometime this year. The version playing currently at Seattle Musical Theatre is the larger cast - 26, in fact.

The leads of this production, Danielle Barnum as Jane and James Padilla as Edward Fairfax Rochester, do their roles justice. Vocally and visually, they fit well in this gothic musical. Both have been part of other productions for SMT, in large, but not starring roles. They deserve the spotlight in this show.

Other notable performers include Walayn Sharples as Mrs. Fairfax, a character done as comic relief in this somber story, Carissa Meisner Smit in the mad role of Bertha, Jasmine Boerner as the adorable Adele, Doug Knoop in a tiny role as a servant who steals the stage with the roll of an eye, and Olivia Spokoiny, a teen acting prodigy who gets to sing the most "memorable" song in the program, about forgiveness.

The other singing standout is the lovely Jenny Shotwell, who proclaims herself as comfortable with opera as musical theater, and gets a showy soprano aria to demonstrate her beauteous ability. She is fun to watch as the would-be wife who really only wants someone rich.

The Reader's Digest version of the plot is that Jane is an orphaned and mistreated young girl who somehow survives beatings, abusive relatives and an orphanage to become a governess in a mansion with an absentee lord. When he returns, they fall in love, but there is a terrible secret that is revealed. The master is already married, having been tricked into marriage to a beautiful but mad heiress. Jane leaves the manor in distress, eventually to return to find that the manor was set ablaze by the mad woman and, in Edward's heroic efforts to save his staff, Edward has lost his sight from the blaze. The happy ending redeems this grimness, as they marry and start a new family.

The musical itself is a bit ploddy and repetitious. It's a newer style, where music is woven so securely into the scenes that there are generally no big production numbers. The musicians in this small band, led by music director, Paul Linnes, do a wonderful job, keeping it light and lyrical. It's a joy to listen to.

The stage is hauntingly arrayed by Carl Bronson, who also took care of well-executed costumes. Lighting was by Richard Shaefer and sound by Dustin Morache. Overall, if you don't expect a musical to be happy and light, this is an excellent production.

For more information, go to www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org or call 206-363-2809.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.