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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 23, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 47
ArtsWest's Jane Eyre - The Musical an impressive production
Arts & Entertainment
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ArtsWest's Jane Eyre - The Musical an impressive production

by Paul Torres - SGN A&E Writer

JANE EYRE - THE MUSICAL
ARTSWEST PLAYHOUSE
AND GALLERY
Through December 23


The classic Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre novel about a long-suffering plain, young woman is revved up in this splendid musical by John Caird and Paul Gordon. ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery stages an impressive production. As the well-known story goes, Jane Eyre is reviled by her aunt, Mrs. Reed, and tormented by her cousin. Since she's seen as willful, she's sent off to boarding school where life isn't much better. When she completes school, she takes on a new job as a governess of a young girl at Thornfield Hall headed by Mr. Edward Rochester. Soon Jane and Edward become enamored of each other, but this house has secrets.

Jane Eyre - The Musical opens with the song 'Jane' and sets the maudlin tone hearkening to its Gothic era. As Jane, Chelsea LeValley's exquisite voice soars and pleasingly sets up the story. LeValley is a true treasure here. As Edward Rochester, Louis Hobson perfectly portrays the dark and mysterious gentleman of the house. He fleshes it out further with his rich vocals that add layers of dark thrills to this musical. The supporting cast also shines here. This cast includes Connie Corrick, Zoe Foster, Anasofia Gallegos, Mikko Juan, Ashley Koon, Tatum Poirrier, Christian Quinto, and an especially unforgettable vocal performance by Aaron Norman in the second act.

Some of the musical highlights include 'Forgiveness' which is a touching and almost Christian hymn with its refrains as a consoling prayer. 'Secrets of the House' is a perfectly English horror song that creeps and crawls into your senses. The 'Sweet Liberty' number brings Jane Eyre's feminist themes in these times as a sigh of modern release. 'In the Light of the Virgin Morning' is a memorable and sweet lullaby. It's a song to awaken your heart and then also to bedevil your soul. 'The Gypsy' number adds some frolic and levity while revealing some truths about Edwards' intentions for Jane. It's as much a musical highlight as it's the story's turning point. 'Brave Enough to Love' is a resounding anthem and pleasing closer with the full cast vocals elevating beyond the grassy hills of England, beyond the yellow pages of its source novel and gently pressing into our memories like dewy autumn leaves on a stone path.

The flawless technical aspects are especially superb in this production. Scenic Designer Lex Marcos' castle and grass set enliven each act with on-point lighting cues (and hues) by Lighting Designer Tristan Roberson. Without these, this musical would be missing a key character.

Jane Eyre - The Musical is guided by Director Mathew Wright's capable talents. His tight casting and blocking flow like a sweeping English breeze on a meadow. The narration by the cast speaking from the perspective of Jane is quite effective and tenderly moves the story along. Wright's keen perspective rejuvenates a tried and true subject matter and polishes it with cozy small-theatre panache. We are welcomed into the homes here and we feel every joy and fright.

The melding of 19th-century dialogue with 21st-century parlance lends a thoughtful and welcome balance that emphasizes its modern relevancy of feminism and liberty to this current age of overwhelming societal murkiness. Jane Eyre - The Musical wins for bringing a tale from a dark age into the light of these toxic days of 2018.

ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery is located at 4711 California Ave. SW (just south of SW Alaska St. at the Alaska Junction) and is conveniently located near Metro Transit's C Line. For more information and tickets, visit www.artswest.org or phone (206) 938-0339.

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