Sunday, September 7, 2008

20 Great Broadway Songs of the Past 10 Years: “Painting Her Portrait”

I don’t know if there is a more beautiful Broadway score than Paul Gordon’s work on Jane Eyre. The music is like a well-tended garden, a mountain landscape, or a north woods forest—a never-ending vista of beauty.

It’s no secret that Jane Eyre, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon and additional lyrics by John Caird, is my favorite musical. Months before I ever thought about seeing the show, I was first captured by the OBCR and its sheer beauty, which was closely followed by my attraction to its story.

“Painting Her Portrait” is one highlight is a show filled with riches. In the song, poor ugly Jane Eyre torments herself with the thought of the ravishing Blanche Ingram who seems to have her claws deeply implanted into Rochester’s heart. Jane knows that she has nothing that the Victorian world deems worthy in a woman—beauty, wealth, breeding, or even a superior education. Lacking all, she knows she has no hope of ever having a life with the one man who has ever shown her genuine kindness, whose personality fits with hers.

As Jane paints her own portrait, the song is woven with a haunting melody that underscores Jane’s tormenting lyrics. Jane’s observation of Blanche’s portrait, however, is orchestrated with delicate strings and fragile beauty, all of which is quickly shoved aside when Jane begins to vehemently reprimand herself at the end of the song, the pace of the music speeding up, the fragile beauty meeting the haunting melody, building to Jane’s hurling of the lyrics back at herself with anger and frustration, singing, “Don’t even dare anymore to compare/ Say a prayer for your sorry soul, / Jane!” It’s those final lines that hit home Jane’s agony, the internal rhyming of the words dare, compare, and prayer sending the lyrics hurling back at herself in an unrelenting pace.

There’s other great beauty in the score of Jane Eyre that is worth noting, such as “Forgiveness,” “The Graveyard,” “Secret Soul,” “Sirens,” “In the Light of the Virgin Morning,” and “Brave Enough for Love,” to name a few.

On a recent trip to Barnes and Noble, I noticed that the OBCR of Jane Eyre has recently dropped down to $11.99, which is a real deal for any great Broadway score, let alone one as satisfying as Jane Eyre.

the Broadway Mouth
September 7, 2008

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