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Friday, October 06, 2006

Poor Mrs Fairfax...

Christmas came a little early for Bronteana. Lily, one of my readers, unofficial research assistant and Santa's Jewish Helper sent me the special edition DVD of Jane Eyre: The Musical Classic (not to be confused with Jane Eyre: The Musical - or the six or seven other productions of that name). The parcel also enclosed a short note: "Enjoy. I guess. Good luck getting past intermission!" How I laughed... but, it is a good thing I don't have a kitchenette in my dorm because I was tempted to bake some muffins during act one.

I have actually seen worse acting. I defy anyone to find worse acting than the cast of Amazons and Gladiators. It will explode any delusions you have about what bad acting is like. The acting in JE is suitable for a middle-school production, I think. The blocking is very bad, and the performances remind me of my high school's productions. I think one of the problems here is that these actors are obviously singers, not actors who can sing- or, alas, singers who can act. They can sing very well (most of them). There is only one poignant moment and this is during the gypsy scene, but even then how seriously can you take a man when he looks like he is wearing his grandmother's underwear on his head?

One truly interesting element of this production is the treatment of Bertha. She gets a whole song. The song doesn't make too much sense, and is mostly an ear-piercing 'AAAAAAAAAASHES!' and 'pretty, pretty FIRE!' but there is some character work at least... She doesn't like being in cold, damp England so I assume this is why she likes the fire so much. She comes downstairs after the first interview, sings, then goes back wherever she came from. It also wasn't long before I realised that this show is based on the 1996 film with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt. Although it isn't credited, several pieces of dialogue were lifted directly from the film.

Generally, the show was super camp Jane Eyre. The guests were especially campy and made the show somewhat bizzare. What is Blanche Ingram exactly? A whore with a heart of gold? I'm not sure. She swaggers around talking about going to 'see the har- ohh! I mean starletts!' at the opera and actually pinching one of the men. The men, by the way, sing a cheery little ditty about cuckoldry and debauchery before grabbing their suspenders and having a good laugh. The ladies advise eachother to appear as dumb as their hats. The sight of Blanche and Rochester doing the tango was only bettered by Rochester dragging Blanche across the stage when she falls into his arms. She witnesses the exchange between Jane and Rochester after the fire in his room, and she and Jane then sing a duet 'He Was Nearly Mine' in which she laments losing the man she... loves? Wants because she can't have? She looks sick as she hangs, clinging desperately to the railings and eventually ends up in a heap on the landing. This song also has a seemingly endless passage with nothing but the two crying "If only I was the one to touch him!" When he finally proposes, he calls in Mrs. Fairfax and forces the poor woman to dance with him, he's so giddy.

I think its his red housecoat. I can't see any other reason why these women keep throwing themselves at him, unless they want his house with its drywall and poster paint walls.


ChrisV said...

Just think of how bad the acting would have been had it not been the special edition.

At least Bertha has a foil in Frankenstein..."Fire, BAAAAAAD"....

Brontëana said...

I shudder to think. I tried not to base my opinion on the acting but the songs were feeble too. Alas!

You know it's a bad sign when the open credits include 'peach seller.'

ChrisV said...

but does that peach seller have a jaunty little song too?