This show gets slightly more respect for its ‘originality’ than it actually merits, given that in both subject matter and musical sound it’s pretty closely modeled on the Nineties musical version of The Secret Garden, but it is nonetheless an impressive musicalization of the beloved Victorian novel. Paul Gordon wrote the music, and his work here reminds me strongly of another composer with the same surname: a description of the work may make it seem like a Les Miserables-style pop opera, but the legitimately classical sound of the score is much more reminiscent of the work of Ricky Ian Gordon. The main character is brought to impressive musical life in the mournfully optimistic credo “Forgiveness” and the stunning aria “Sweet Liberty”. Rochester, one of the era’s great romantic antiheroes, is equally well musicalized in the regretful “As Good As You” and the monumental declaration of love “The Proposal”, and they duet thrillingly on “The Pledge” and the bittersweet finale “Brave Enough For Love”. There are also some impressively vicious villain-songs, like the poisonous opening number “Children of God” for Jane’s life-denying guardians, or the gold-digging coloratura waltz for her romantic rival, “The Finer Things”. The show had merit, but one has to ask why it was such a quick failure. Frankly, for all its virtues, the show was simply too depressing for mainstream success, especially at this point in history, when audiences were tiring of the heavy seriousness popular in the Eighties and Nineties and their tastes were moving more toward old-fashioned musical comedy. Here, the only up-tempo or comedy numbers we get are the lively plot number “The Gypsy” and the quirky “Perfectly Nice” and “Slip of a Girl” for the housekeeper. The show might have done slightly better sometime in the previous two decades, but with its classical sound and intellectual, literate libretto, it might have been just too ‘special’ for mass success even then. However, it is an impressive and important theater composition, and still certainly more accessible than the other two avant-garde cult flops that season (see below), and its cast album is essential listening for fans of serious musical theater.