Lockdown musicals: the Brontës

Today’s look back at musicals made available during the 2020 lockdown brings together two titles related to the Brontës: first, Southwark Playhouse’s production of Wasted, a story of the sisters and their brother; and secondly, a musical of Jane Eyre by Jay Richards, made available by Stagescripts Ltd.

Emily, Anne, Branwell, Charlotte - Siobhan Athwal, Molly Lynch, Matthew Jacobs Morgan, Nstasha J Barnes
Emily, Anne, Branwell, Charlotte – Siobhan Athwal, Molly Lynch, Matthew Jacobs Morgan, Nstasha J Barnes

Wasted, was an important new British rock musical. When I saw this show live in 2018, I was blown away by how inventive it was, a loud and powerful piece about the three Yorkshire sisters known for becoming successful writers and dying young, and their brother who couldn’t settle at anything.

The story of the Brontë family has been adapted many times: in film, on television, on stage, even as a ballet. Yet in Adam Lenson’s production of the show composed by Christopher Ash with a book and lyrics by Carl Miller, the sisters come to sharp life as progressive and bad-ass feminist icons in their own right.

Filmed far beyond the usual one static camera approach, this recording more than does justice to the musical as it was experienced live, and the songs remain excellent, as do some aspects of the staging.

Jane and Rochester - Karlee Heap and Kent Braddy
Jane and Rochester – Karlee Heap and Kent Braddy

Jane Eyre has been made into a musical at least three times (plus into an opera at least twice). Charlotte Brontë’s gothic romance works well with the addition of songs (music and lyrics by Jay Richards), and both Karlee Heap and Kent Braddy do well in bringing the key characters of Jane and Mr Rochester to life.

With more than twenty film and television versions of the classic novel to choose from, Jane Eyre is a constant source of inspiration. As well as a strong heroine who echoes the determination of her creator, the story includes secrets, horror, madness, illegitimacy and religious fervour.

The musical may have sparse sets, and some sequences are necessary trunctated (there is no fortune teller, for example), but an added mirror duo below stairs adds humour and the score is pleasantly delivered. The show was filmed in Utah at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in 2013.

At the time of writing, Wasted can be viewed at https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/archive-2018/wasted/ and Jane Eyre at https://youtu.be/xR8YlSYX4RM.

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