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Thursday, 22 February 2007

Jane Eyre - The Musical - in Dorset
























One of the South’s largest youth theatre companies has embarked on its most ambitious project yet, and it’s leaving nothing to chance. The Big Little Theatre School brings new levels of professionalism to its production of the Broadway show Jane Eyre - The Musical Drama with West End directors and state-of-the-art stage effects and set design.

John Caird (Les Miserables) and Paul Gordon’s musical adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale of passion, tragedy and forgiveness won the show no less than five TONY award nominations on the occasion of its Broadway premier in 2000.

Now, some of the West End stars of tomorrow are bringing Brontë’s Gothic romance to life in one of the first performances to be staged here in the UK.

Directing is Graham Hubbard whose impressive achievements include directing West End productions of Amadeus, Sweeney Todd and Mack and Mabel. “The challenge of producing Jane Eyre - The Musical for Big Little was irresistible,” says Graham. “The company’s talent belies their age, and who better to bring Charlotte Brontë’s classic love story to a new generation than performers from that generation itself."

Musical Director Colin Billing of the London School of Musical Theatre has long been associated with The Big Little Theatre School. His professional credentials include musical direction of Beauty And The Beast, Beggar’s Opera and Creatures of The Night. “Forget everything you ever feared about youth productions," says Colin. “The huge vocal talent and natural acting ability of the cast is more than a match for the moving lyrics and sumptuous musical score.”

Natasha Barnes from Ringwood plays Jane Eyre. Now 17, she has progressed through the ranks of Big Little since the age of 6 and is no stranger to lead performances both amateur and professional. Her credits include the title role in The Diary of Anne Frank, Laurel in The Chalk Garden, Cosette in Les Miserables in Concert with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hope in her school production of Anything Goes, Marta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the title role of Annie in Fastlane’s Touring company for the National Youth Music Theatre.
Natasha is operatically trained by Jon Andrew and works locally with him and the Silhouette Opera supporting local charities.

The part of Rochester is played by John Sandberg from Bournemouth who also has worked through the ranks of BLTS, becoming a prominent member of their ‘Vision’ Cabaret group. John recently performed as the lead, R.P McMurphy in One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and has also received operatic training with Jon Andrew. John also played Seth/Shem as one of the few selected to perform in Children of Eden, the Steven Schwartz Broadway hit as produced and performed by BLTS in 2006.

A total cast of 45 young people, selected through auditions from the 250 strong main company are involved in bringing Jane Eyre – The Musical to the stage, and the production will benefit from 21st Century imagery and sensory set design to create an authentic feel for the period. The set has been designed to transport the audience seamlessly from the cold dormitories of Lowood School, through bleak English moorland, to the interior of a Gothic mansion. Superb costumes reflect the fashions of the 19th century by recreating authentic colours and fabrics from the Brontë era.

Broadway and West End musical theatre pedigree, soaring melodies, imaginative sets and contemporary innovation, lavish costumes, prodigious young talent and a classic love story by one of the most popular English writers of all time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Big Little Theatre School’s production of Jane Eyre – The Musical Drama is being staged at the Regent Centre, Christchurch, Dorset from April 11th – 14th. Tickets are available from the Regent Centre box office on 01202 499148.

Julie Barnes

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