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Jane Eyre becomes a dream musical role

There's no horse but the two main characters still meet on the road in "Jane Eyre."
There's no horse but the two main characters still meet on the road in "Jane Eyre."
Jessica Spencer and Art Anderson, photo by Erik Stuhaug.

When Jessica Spencer steps on stage as the Gothic heroine Jane Eyre, she doesn’t feel old-fashioned. "I love Jane, because she’s one of those early literary females who isn’t afraid to experience a range of emotions," said the star of Taproot Theatre’s current production of "Jane Eyre." The musical by Paul Gordon and John Caird sticks close to the plot of Charlotte Bronte’s groundbreaking novel.

Spencer first heard of the musical in college. She used pieces in her senior recital but hoped to have a chance to play the orphan governess unafraid to answer back those who see to oppress her.

“Jane’s not afraid to get angry, but she also has this inner peace,” observed Spencer. “She moves forward with hope.”

When Spencer learned that Taproot doing the musical this summer, she was delighted. “It is one of those lesser known gems. People who have heard the music love it,” she said. “It’s also challenging. The woman who originated the role of Jane had a three octave range and she could fly between three octaves. I’m mezzo-soprano or soprano with strong belt. Jane was definitely on my list. It’s a dream for me.”

Although Jane’s journey becomes bound up with the mysterious Mr. Rochester, winningly played in this production by Art Anderson, Spenser’s actual sweetheart plays a variety of other gentlemen in the production.

“My husband (Randy Scholz) plays Jane’s cousin John Reed and Sinjin, the minister who offers to marry Jane and serves as another foil to Rochester,” she said. As busy actors in the Seattle musical scene, “it’s always nice to be on the same schedule.”

The pair met while performing in summer stock. “I’m from Indiana, Randy is from Texas. We did a few years of touring, but we were tired of traveling,” she said. “Our personalities weren’t suited to New York, and we tried Chicago for awhile. We were really city shopping a few years ago when we met Karen Lund (the director of “Jane Eyre”). At the time, she said ‘I don’t have a job for you but I think you’d fit in very well in Seattle.’ It was like the voice Jane hears in the show, summoning her home across the moor. We love it here.”

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“Jane Eyre” continues through August 16 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th Street.