WASHINGTON CITY – One of the greatest love stories of all time is blossoming in Washington City five nights a week in February at one of the most charming theater venues I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
Entering Brigham’s Playhouse is like stepping into another world – a turn-of-the-century setting that is beautiful inside and out, with ornate craftsmanship and visual details that unmistakably hark back to a simpler time in Southern Utah’s history. Being inside that theater, I truly felt transported.
While the theater venue itself is impressive, theater-lovers might be wondering, “But what about the performances?” On this, my first trip to Brigham’s Playhouse, I was most pleasantly impressed with the quality of what I saw and heard Wednesday night in Washington City.
Currently playing in this charming, tucked-away theater is a musical version of “Jane Eyre,” adapted from Charlotte Brontë’s timeless novel.
“Jane Eyre” is one of my favorite books of all time, so that could have been a good thing or a bad thing for purposes of my review; I could have been predisposed to like the show because it’s based on one of my favorite novels – or I could have had extremely high expectations and been hard to please for the exact same reason. But the cast and crew can rest easy, either way – I was impressed and delighted by their efforts, and the show was wonderful.
The quality of the production – from the sets to the singing – was superb. Some very talented singers and actors have come out of the woodwork of Southern Utah to grace the stage at Brigham’s Playhouse.
A musical adaptation of Brontë’s novel, “Jane Eyre” is double-cast – meaning different performers appear in the roles on different nights. Wednesday night’s show was led by husband-wife team Tamera Merkley and Tim Merkley in the starring roles of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. I was utterly charmed by the Merkleys. The couple filled their roles with strong dramatic presence – and they filled the theater with their absolutely gorgeous singing voices.
The collective vocal quality of the cast members blew me away. From start to finish, the characters brought professional-quality musicianship to the stage – just gorgeous vocals throughout the show. There were many standout vocalists. With the double-casting issue, I don’t dare name names for fear of naming the wrong performers, but, to the cast: Just know you truly impressed and delighted me.
Everything about “Jane Eyre” screamed polish and professionalism. For my money, the Brigham’s Playhouse thespians rival the likes of the Utah Shakespeare Festival in quality and poise.
The one and only hiccup for me – and it was a scripting matter and absolutely nothing the cast or directors had any control over – was the ending of the show had to be fast-tracked in a big way. The playwright essentially took hundreds of pages from Brontë’s novel and condensed them into about 10 minutes of action in order to reach the end of the story in a timely manner, sacrificing several characters and plot points in the bargain. But I can see the necessity of it – keeping all that detail would have equaled a five-hour show. Somebody who hasn’t read the book likely wouldn’t notice anything amiss – and it truly didn’t detract from how wonderful the production was.
The bottom line is, “Jane Eyre” is a touching and expertly executed show. Those who aren’t familiar with Brontë’s novel can fall in love with her masterful work for the first time – and those who know the book can fall in love with the characters anew.
I heartily recommend Brigham’s Playhouse and its ongoing lineup of family-friendly shows for every Southern Utah theatergoer. If you miss Brigham’s Playhouse, you’re missing a theatrical treat.
- What: “Jane Eyre”
- When: Continues through Feb. 28 | Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m., with Saturday matinées at 2 p.m.
- Where: Brigham’s Playhouse, 25 N. 300 West in Washington
- Tickets: Brigham’s Playhouse website | Box office: 435-251-8000
- Details: Brigham’s Playhouse | Facebook
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