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Theater review: 'Jane Eyre' by FCLO Music Theatre

October 21, 2010 |  3:55 pm

JaneEyre They're hero and heroine of a grand romance, yet they're really a bit difficult to love. Life has made the central figures in "Jane Eyre" wary, caustic and downright prickly. Then again, it's also made them admirably independent-minded and tenacious. So when we realize that their sharp edges fit together like puzzle pieces, we root for them to trespass socioeconomic boundaries (he's master of the house, she's the governess) and find true love.

Such is the power of Charlotte Brontë's novel that, 163 years later, it continues to inspire adaptations into other mediums, including a new musical version being introduced by FCLO Music Theatre in Fullerton.

FCLO commits wholeheartedly to this sprawling, "Les Misérables"-like venture, giving it a big set, a big cast (36) and a pretty big orchestra (20). The material, however, resists this devotion.

In Patricia York's book and lyrics, as further adapted by director Jan Duncan, we witness too few of the minute armor cracks that, over time, enable the central characters to see each other fully. Rochester's charm, at least as entrusted to curt, stubborn T. Eric Hart, is particularly hard to discern. Would-be humor, provided by a merry band of servants, eats up time that would be better spent with the main figures.  

At an opening-weekend matinee, the heroic endings of Jerry Williams' vaguely old-fashioned, vaguely pop melodies induced the biggest applause -- but even then, the response was merely polite.

The main reason to seek out this show (not to be confused with the one that played on Broadway in 2000-01) would be to meet its Jane Eyre -- level-headed, warmly insinuating and sunshine-voiced as embodied by Melissa Lyons Caldretti. Her, we can cheer for.

-- Daryl H. Miller

"Jane Eyre," Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. this Sunday, 2 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31. Ends Oct. 31. $27-$55. (714) 879-1732 or www.fclo.com. Also at California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Nov. 5-7. (800) 988-4253 or www.artcenter.org. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Photo: From left, T. Eric Hart as Rochester, Kim Van Biene as Mrs. Fairfax, Jade Patteri as Adele, Melissa Lyons Caldretti as Jane and Rick Cox as John. Credit: Kurt Jarrard / FCLO Music Theatre.

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