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Theater Students Bring ‘Jane Eyre’ Musical to Orange County

'Jane Eyre: The Musical' Runs March 13-29 in CSUF's Little Theatre
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Update: Cal State Fullerton’s spring production of ‘Jane Eyre: The Musical’ has been canceled.

Period movement, voice, dialect and even corset training are part of Gabrielle Adner’s preparation for the lead role in Cal State Fullerton’s production of “Jane Eyre: The Musical,” opening March 13 at the Little Theatre.

Donning a long skirt, long-sleeve blouse and corset Monday through Friday, from 7-10 p.m., Adner was initially worried the corset would hinder her ability to sing. But, after a period of adjustment that included switching her meal times, she was surprised to find that the costume aligned her posture in a positive way.

“Corset training has actually helped my vocal technique,” says Adner, a theatre major who will portray Charlotte Brontë’s classic heroine. “My breathing comes from a different place, and when I sing, I feel more supported.”

To keep her voice healthy, Adner has been keeping to a strict regimen of increasing her water intake, taking vitamins, going to sleep by 11 p.m., minimizing the amount she talks during the day, avoiding caffeinated drinks, and not eating tomatoes or other acidic foods.

In addition to the daily three-hour rehearsals, Adner has invested hours of outside time preparing for the role — reading the libretto and book, listening to the musical score, memorizing lines, working on character development and even watching a documentary on the Brontë sisters.

“Being the lead of the musical can be emotionally and physically exhausting,” she says.

When she feels worried or anxious about the performance, Adner tries to remember positive moments in rehearsal and turns to her peers for support. “I try to calm myself by thinking about what I can do to make myself the best Jane Eyre I can be.”

Behind the Musical

Sixty students and faculty members are involved in the production, which began in November, on everything from the cast to costume, hair, makeup, lighting, sound, scenery and property design.

James Taulli, director and dean emeritus of the College of the Arts, says students are gaining classical training as the musical follows Eyre’s journey from a student at Lowood School to governess at Thornfield Hall.

“The musical is based on a classic piece of literature, which gives students an invaluable piece of source material to work from as research for their characters,” explains Taulli ’94 (M.F.A., theatre arts-directing). “Additionally, ‘Jane Eyre’ is a period piece, requiring students to learn the manners, behaviors and dialects of the early-mid 19th century British society.”

Lastly, he says, “The musical requires the students to really sing. The way music in this production is composed is reminiscent of both ‘Les Misérables’ and a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.”

Students are working with such faculty experts as Corey Hirsch, musical director and lecturer in theatre and art, as well as Anne James and David Nevell, professors of theatre and art who specialize in period movement and dialects, respectively.

Theatre major Enrique Duenas has been cast as Edward Fairfax Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall and Eyre’s love interest. “I am really intrigued by dark, mysterious characters like Mr. Rochester,” he says. “I feel like they have so many layers.”

Calling the experience “rough, but extremely rewarding,” Duenas shares that he is on campus every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. going straight from classes to rehearsals.

But the rigorous training is exactly what Duenas and Adner know will set the stage for future careers in acting. “I constantly want to be working and sharing my craft,” says Duenas.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the Clayes Performing Arts Box Office, 657-278-3371.