Friday, September 27, 2013

Jane Eyre (The Musical): A Dream Cast by Melody and Amy

Thirteen years ago there was a new musical on Broadway, the leads played by Marla Schaffel and James Barbour (pictured on right).  This musical, as you have probably all apprehended, was an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic Jane Eyre.  They made a gorgeous cast recording, but that, precious few pictures, and some low-quality videos from camera-sneakers are all that are left to show for it.  Since then the musical hasn't been resurrected besides various high school productions, songs being performed at recitals, and so forth. 

And why, we ask?  The music is lovely (much of it very delightfully accurate to the novel--you can listen to the complete playlist here) and the story is a timeless winner.

As to Jane Eyre itself--oh sure, there are about ten film adaptations out there, so somebody must have finally perfected it, right?  Um, wrong.  The sad fact is that with all those movies (and even several miniseries), none of them are without lots of negative points.  Nobody has really captured the novel yet--the newer ones seem intent on either giving it a fresh and new (or just different) perspective, or they just don't make it long enough to get the details.  On one hand, this is almost nice because even if you've seen some of the movies you can read the book and discover that it's even better. 

But still.  Such a famous work of literature deserves a outstanding adaptation, and yet they've almost dabbled around too much to ever do it now.  It would be kind of like "a new Jane Eyre, again? What will they do to it this time, for pity's sake?" (Not to say we still wouldn't enjoy the elusive close-to-perfect adaptation, though.) 

So this is what we think: the people responsible for such things should take this hidden gem of a musical and make it into a movie.  That would be so different that it wouldn't seem redundant, yet because of how good the musical is, it would definitely count among the others as an adaptation of the book.  It would be that fresh perspective they keep trying for without changing the book and dismally failing in the eyes of the Jane Eyre fans. 

To the point.  As part of Miss Dashwood's "Celebrate Musicals Week," she and Melody have decided to compile a dream cast (and other tidbits on what they'd do could they be in charge of such a production).

So, without (even) further ado... ladies and... well, probably mostly ladies... let's welcome The Cast!

Mr. Rochester

Ramin Karimloo.  The end.

Just kidding, there's no way we're leaving it at that, but going on further presents a great danger of gushing because we are reallyreallyreally excited about this choice.  Seriously, HE WOULD BE SO PERFECT.  The only objection we could think of is that he... isn't ugly. :P  But hey.  He can be dark, mysterious, and brooding, without looking that way all the time (Mr. Rochester is moody, which means, you know, that his mood varies, and he can be humorous many times as well).  Also emotional and dramatic.  (We've seen Ramin as The Phantom so we know very well that he can do this.)  Plus, his looks are rather irregular, and during that time period this didn't seem to be considered handsome.  So we're satisfied. :D

See, look, he's brooding.
Besides, this idea was what got this all started to begin with.  The two of us were watching this video when Amy pipes in with "You know, he would make a good Rochester..." and so it went from there. 

Did we mention about his voice fitting the role perfectly?  No?  Well... THAT TOO.  (If you want to hear one of the Mr. Rochester songs, go listen to "As Good As You," and of course he's in others that will be linked to throughout.) 

Jane Eyre

We had some struggles finding the perfect actress for Jane.  There are lots of incredibly talented young women singing on Broadway and the West End and whatnot-- we briefly considered Jennifer Damiano, Sofia Escobar and Cristin Milioti, even bandying Claire Foy's name about at one point though she's not a singer.  Yet we still couldn't find a petite, preferably dark-haired actress who wasn't strikingly pretty, could sing in a comfortable mezzo/alto range without sounding too modern and was the right age to play Jane (under 25 at least, but ideally we wanted someone 18-21).

So guess what we did?
We cast Melody.

I mean, hello, she's definitely on the shorter side (5'3", which isn't quite as small as we imagine Jane to be, but good enough especially considering how tall Ramin Karimloo is), she can sing in a lovely classical style (yes, she can, don't let her tell you otherwise), she's dark and has an old-fashioned look about her AND she's quite familiar with the role and could play Jane as she ought to be played.  To perfection.  Jane needs to be portrayed by someone who can put the proper amount of emotion into "Secret Soul" and "Painting Her Portrait," someone who also has a good sense of humor and can banter with Mr. Rochester without seeming overly somber, someone who can bemusedly tolerate the old gypsy woman and then be justly annoyed when the fortune-teller's identity is revealed.

We think Melody is the best choice.  (Well... Amy does.  Melody agreed as a last resort, having only brought up the idea as a joke in the first place.)

However, if you have other suggestions for the part of Jane, please do share them in the comments! That goes for any of these choices, of course-- well, except for Mr. Rochester.  Ramin Karimloo's our final decision.  :D

{As you've probably guessed, Amy wrote the above segment.  Just so you all know that Melody is not in the general habit of going around and boasting about herself.  And yes, Melody is writing this bit right here.  Your powers of deduction are astounding.}

Blanche Ingram

Another choice we're excited about.  This time we've decided to cast a Regular Actress and dub her voice, so we're going with Emily Blunt to act the part, and Sierra Boggess to sing it.  (We considered having Sierra play the part in general, but we know very well that people would then be of the opinion that Mr. Rochester should have married her, cough cough cough, and That Isn't Happening.)  Emily's role as Queen Victoria is what originally made us consider her (it's around the same time period, you know), but we can really see her pulling off the facial expressions and snobbishness while having the general grace and beauty that is Miss Ingram.  And she looks like she could be twenty-five even if she's actually a bit older.  As for our Voice Choice, Blanche requires a strong classically-trained soprano (this is apparent in "The Finer Things," and she also sings with Jane in "In the Light of the Virgin Morning") and Sierra Boggess has the right sound.

Mrs. Fairfax

Mrs. Fairfax's character in the musical tends to annoy us--she's really quite different from the Mrs. Fairfax of the book, but unfortunately we can't make any major changes to her character without changing her songs as well, and we don't wish to do that.  So we'll just have to deal with what we've got.  We picked Angela Lansbury for this part--she may be a bit older than what Mrs. Fairfax is supposed to be, but she still has a pretty strong voice and we think she could do an excellent job with "Perfectly Nice" (the song that annoys us the most, haha) and "A Slip of a Girl" (in which Mrs. Fairfax is, er, more unkind than she is in the book).

Mr. Brocklehurst

For the stern, affectedly pious, just plain mean and excessively irritating superintendent of Lowood School, we chose Philip Glenister.  We've seen him in Cranford as Mr. Carter, who isn't a mean character, but we definitely think he could do it.  (In most pictures of him he looks stern and scowling as it is.)  Mr. Brocklehurst's part does require some singing in "Children of God," and for that we want James Barbour to do the dubbing, as he played Mr. Rochester in the original play.  Bit of fun trivia-ish-ness, you know, and besides, he has a very good voice.  (We won't bother linking to a song for him because you can just go listen to Rochester's songs, after all.)

St. John Rivers

We do not like St. John Rivers.  St. John is stupid.  In fact, to paraphrase Mr. Palmer, St. John is as stupid as the weather. (No offense, weather.  You're pretty nice right now, at least where Miss Dashwood lives.)  But despite our dislike of the character, we understand that it's important to cast someone who can manage to look saintly and preferably kind of Grecian-ish, and though St. John's singing part in the musical isn't our favorite, he also needs to be a good singer.  Killian Donnelly has played Enjolras on the West End, so he has the Greek god thing down pat, and he manages to look Youthful and Innocent and Idealistic and all that as well.  Plus he has a great voice.  The only danger here is that we (read: Miss Dashwood) might end up liking St. John by the end of the movie.  Ooopsie. 

Mrs. Reed

For the horrid "Aunt Reed" we have chosen to cast Polly Walker. Just because she was the best candidate we could find at the time, haha.  (We've both seen her in Emma (1996) as Jane Fairfax, and Melody has also seen her in The Mayor of Casterbridge (2003) and a random episode of Poirot which she doesn't remember very well.)  We thought Stephanie J. Block could do a good job with the vocals for this role (skip to 1:20 in the video to actually hear her sing), as she has the "belting chops" necessary to make Mrs. Reed sound somewhat frightening as she ought to be.

We also intend to change up Mrs. Reed's part a little in our version of the musical-- she should just be In It more in general, and we want to have Jane's uncle leave her the money instead of having Mrs. Reed do that.  Because, hello, that's totally out of character and completely different from the book.  And in case you hadn't noticed, we believe in sticking to the book at all costs.

Bertha Antoinetta Mason

Nope, your eyes don't deceive you-- we chose Anne Hathaway for this role.  She might not be the first person to come to mind when one thinks of Mr. Rochester's crazed first wife, but we think a fair amount of makeup could give her the proper scary face.  (With a lot of wild, frizzy hair in the face.)  Plus, Bertha is supposed to have been very beautiful when Mr. Rochester first married her, and in some film versions they portray her as still beautiful (though this isn't accurate to the book).  Bertha doesn't sing much on the cast album, but she does have a cadenza of sorts in the background at the end of "Sirens," and she also appears in a few songs that aren't on the album (snifffff...) such as "The Fire" and "The Scream."  And, of course, after Les Mis came out last year we definitely know that Anne Hathaway can sing.

Richard Mason

We considered casting a singer for this part, because he does have a song, "Poor Master," towards the end.  However, that's just in the cast recording, and in the actual play apparently it's Mrs. Fairfax who tells Jane what happened to Mr. Rochester, and we would prefer it that way (even though in the book it was just a random guy in the village who ran the inn or whatever).  So we poked around at actors and decided on Rupert Friend (Wickham in P&P05 and Prince Albert in The Young Victoria). Just because we wanted to.

Young Jane & Helen

Ha... we really have no ideas here.  We're really rather ill-versed in the subject of young female singers and actresses.  We considered Lucy Boynton for one of them at first, but to our chagrin remembered that she's actually old enough to play Adult Jane now.  Heehee.  Suggestions from our lovely readers?  Hmmmm?


Nine-year-old Ava Della Pietra is our choice for Adele-- she looks a bit young for the role, perhaps, but have you any idea how hard it is to find good actresses/singers under 14 these days?   No?  Obviously you were not paying attention during the paragraph about Helen and Younger Jane, then.  Anyways, Ava Della Pietra played Little Cosette in the stage production of Les Miserables that Miss Dashwood saw earlier in the year, and she has a fantastic voice for such a wee thing.  Plus we think she has a good face for Adele. 

Miss Scatcherd

Miss Scatcherd doesn't do much singing, so we thought it reasonable enough to cast a non-singing actress who could then be dubbed for her brief appearance in "Children of God."  So we chose Juliet Aubrey, whom Melody has seen in The Mayor of Casterbridge, to do the acting bit.  As for who should dub her, we thought Christine Andreas could do a good job with the Mean Vocals.  Heehee.  Her voice has a rather operatic quality, but Miss Scatcherd could totally sound diva-ish if you think about it.

It's a pity that we aren't Real Professional Movie-Makers, because this film has the potential to be sensational.  We'd make a few changes to the original libretto, of course--one thing being that it would be tweaked wherever possible to include more quotes from the book; even in some of the songs, during the dialogue where they're not actually singing. For instance, in "The Proposal,"  Jane says, "For here I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, what I delight in... with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. * But I see the necessity of departure, and it is like looking on the necessity of death."  The line could be straight out of the book, if this was added where the asterisk is placed: "I have known you, Mr. Rochester, and it strikes me with terror and anguish to know that I absolutely must be torn from you forever."

Not too much in that song, unfortunately, could be added without the background music being changed, but there could at least be small things like that; and then towards the end (around 5:04) Jane should do a little of the asking if he is in earnest and having him swear it before she does the "I will marry you" bit.

After the wild success of the live singing in the 2012 Les Miserables film, we think that as much of this movie as possible should be sung live.  Of course the bits that are dubbed by other singers ("Children of God," "The Finer Things," &c.) will have to be prerecorded, but songs like "The Proposal" and "The Pledge" ought to be sung live if at all possible since they are so interspersed with dialogue, and whichever ones require more Acting. This will give the actors a better opportunity to be Emotional and Dramatic during those songs.  Lovely soaring orchestrations, of course, will be added later. 

As for the rest of the creative team on this project, we need to find a good director who has experience with musicals but understands about staying true to the book... Tom Hooper, perhaps?  We're not allowing Joel Schumacher (directer and writer of the 2004 Phantom of the Opera movie) within a fifty-mile radius of this film, of course, even if we are writing the script ourselves.  It wouldn't be a bad idea to have a BBC period drama director on board as well, just to balance things out and be sure the film stays accurate (though Andrew Davies and his silly Scenes of Sensationalism will be banished along with Joel Schumacher).  Filming will all take place in the English countryside, naturally.  And since Amy's rather jealous of Melody getting to costar with Ramin Karimloo act in such a delightful movie, she is going to be Wardrobe Mistress and design/create all of the costumes.  She is currently planning a delightful sort of waistcoat for Mr. Rochester to wear... red and gold go together quite well, yes? ;)

We just wish it could really happen... do we have any multimillionaires in the audience who might care to fund this project and convince all our stars to play the parts?  Hmmm?

And what think the rest of you?  Would not this be delightful?  Do any of our choices please you?  Have you listened to any of the musical in question?  Because if not, you should. :)


Miss Dashwood said...

*Amy rereads post with pleasure, can think of nothing to say, so calmly scrolls down and subscribes to comments and scrolls back up again.*

Oh, wait, I did think of something to say-- we forgot to mention that OUR version of the musical will NOT feature a bearded Mr. Rochester at the end. Teehee.

Lady Éowyn said...

I think you have the makings of an absolute classic... I'm not a millionaire, but if I was I'd quickly be investing! :)

Lady Eowyn

Sarah said...

Ramin Karimloo -this is perfect. He would be an amzing Rochester!

Ginny said...

I've read JE a zillion times and taught it almost as often (I'm an English teacher), and I agree -- no movie is as good as the book!

That said, I think the 2011 movie is the closest to the spirit of the book. Michael Fassbender actually understands that Rochester's bitterness is the result of his own self-loathing; he's not just an angry jerk (as others have portrayed him). The movie doesn't get the St John Rivers part right, alas -- but then, none of them do, and it comes closer than the others do to showing him as a counterpoint to Rochester.

I do have the CD of the musical soundtrack, too -- it's quite lovely. I like how it didn't shy away from the religious aspects of the novel.

How fun to find another JE fanatic! :)

Quinlyn said...

I love Jane Eyre!! I have yet to listen to the musical songs, though. Thank you for reminding me to do so.

Ramin Karimloo as Mr. Rochester...I agree. That's it. No arguments. None.

Anne Hathaway as Bertha? Love it.

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

"And since Amy's rather jealous of Melody getting to costar with Ramin Karimloo act in such a delightful movie." Ha-ha love that part. One word R-A-M-I-N. YES,YES,YES a million times YES. Oh and I loved the part about the beard. Beards are GROSS with capital G.

Jane B said...

Great casting! Never heard of this musical. Looks great! Jane Eyre's one of my favourite books.
Haha! Awesome to see Melody cast as Jane Eyre. However, I think Jane had light brown hair. At least Mr Rochester describes her with hazel hair & hazel eyes.

Melody said...

INDUBITABLY. No beard, nohow. :D He'll have to have long sideburns or whatever, but not beard. Nope. Not even at the end.

Lady Eowyn,
Why thank you! Wealth is wasted on the wrong people isn't it? ;P


Right... I like 2011 too, even though it does have a number of problems. Including the St. John thing--not enough of them get that right, it's true!
I agree... I love how they have Jane seeking the Lord's guidance here and there. :)
Quite flattered to have an English teacher stop by, heehee. ;)

Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the casting and I hope you enjoy the songs!

HAAAA, that made me laugh. :D About the Beards. ;)

Jane B,
It's true about the hair! Which I mention to Amy but we can't include all our ramblings in the post, haha. They'd probably be-wig me, anyways, so that could solve that problem. And there's also temporary hair dye. :P Although a brown-haired Jane seems to be the stereotype... and I do think darker looks are more suitable than, say, a blonde.
But Jane has green eyes--remember, she corrected Mr. Rochester when he called them hazel, and so it's possible her hair wasn't either and he was romanticizing it, haha. (I'm thinking it was probably a nondescript sort of light brown.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I know you guys love Ramin Kamirloo but don't you think Richard Armitage would make a great Mr. Rochester? It's not as if he can't sing either as his performance in The Hobbit shows although I'm not sure if his voice is quite good enough for a musical.

Your choice for Adele is perfect! I like Richard Mason and Bertha too.

I don't know of many current singer actresses but Abigail Breslin would be almost the right age but maybe a bit too old. Apparently she can sing but I haven't heard her so it may not be the singing you need for musicals.

- The Elf

Anonymous said...

Why not Richard Armitage? Because then we couldn't hear Ramins beautiful voice. Speaking of Ramin he would make a excellent Heathcliff, Oh snap, I forgot he isn't british. Well if he was I would cast him as Heathcliff and Keira Knightly as Kathy in a heartbeat. Oh wait I just remembered that Wuthering Heights is a tragical and kinda bad story, so maybe not :P

Lady Éowyn said...

I hope you are having a wonderful day! Just to let you know, I nominated you for the “Versatile Blogger Award”. :) You can see it here

Lady Eowyn

Jessica said...

Very entertaining post. Hope you find your wealthy sponsor. hehe
Anne Hathaway as Bertha- hilarious. hahaha I'm sure she will be greatly flattered at the invitation. Love it...

I was also thinking that Richard Armitage could be a good Rochester.
And I'm relieved that Rochester is to remain beardless. ;-)

Melody said...

The Elf,
Well, I could see Richard Armitage getting some aspects of Mr. Rochester's character, but I think our choice would be more suited to a musical adaptation. After all, just because RA can't not sing doesn't mean that he could hold a candle to Ramin Karimloo. :P

Ha, well, I know nothing of Heathcliff, I've yet to read Wuthering Heights. ;) I do not think I will like it, but it might be good for a laugh. :P

Lady Eowyn,
Thank you!

Hahahaha, your comment made me laugh.
I was thinking the Bertha choice would amuse you. Heeheehee. ;) It was my idea. Amy didn't like it at first but apparently she changed her mind. :P
I'm really not sure Richard Armitage could get the non-brooding-and-serious part of Rochester's character, but then I haven't seen him in very many things. Maybe for just a regular adaptation.
Oh, yes. We will have no beards. Indeed not. :)

Hannah said...

Hello! Melody, I found your blog via Amy's. I still don't know the 'Jane Eyre' musical (yet!) but I loved this post. If a film came out and with this cast I would definitely see it! The book is one of my all-time favourites and - although I do really love the 1983 miniseries and the 2011 film - you are right. Those versions aren't without their negative points.

I particularly love your suggestion of Ramin Karimloo for Rochester. Yes, there's no getting around the fact that he's far more attractive than Book Rochester but then so were Timothy Dalton, Toby Stephens and Michael Fassbender. It's very hard to find actors who are tall, dark and NOT attractive I think!

Would you rather hear the story...

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