Jekyll & Hyde—The Musical

 

Jekyll & Hyde—The Musical

 

By Gary Murray

Music by Frank Wildhorn

Book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson

Starring Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox and Teal Wicks

 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was one of the first silent films I screened as a kid.  The story of the split personality, the Freudian Id versus the Super Ego tale of a man going beyond the bounds of science was just the kind of work a horror geek kid craved.    It is also about the horrors of drugs.  There have been many versions of the tale told over the years, both serious and comic. 

In the 1990’s the Alley Theater in Houston staged a musical version of Jekyll and Hyde.   The play took the town by storm and generated national buzz. This work, in various forms, has been both coast-to-coast and on Broadway.   A new version takes stage at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House.

The portal stage is lit with bright lights that frame the actions.  During the production, these lights move side to side as a framing device.  It is a simple way to enclose the action and an effective story telling device.  Props and projections are effectively used to suggest a giant Victorian world, another effective tool in the production toolbox.

The work is presented much along the lines of Phantom, more of an opera than a musical.  There is little straight dialogue and much singing between the big numbers.  Projection along the backboard gives a glimpse into the journals of the good doctor, which gives the audience a reflection into the mind of the man.

The play starts with Dr. Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis) singing “Lost in the Darkness” a song with a double meaning.  Duplicity becomes the motif for the entire production.  Dr. Jekyll has an idea, an invention to cure mental illness.    There are family aspects for wanting to cure mental illness.

He approaches a board of five governors who reject his proposal to test his theories on patients.  Dr. Jekyll is distraught over being turned down but still goes forward with plans to marry Emma (Teal Wicks).  The two deliver a lovely duet “Take me as I am”.

During the bachelor party, our good doctor goes to a very seedy place called The Spider Web.  There Dr. Jekyll meets Lucy (Deborah Cox) who sings the torch song “Bring on the Men”.  He wants to help the woman and offers her something no other man has offered her, friendship.

Leaving the debauchery, Jekyll hits on the idea of experimenting on himself in order to prove his theories.  He hooks up his machine to his own body and in a display of colored lights and bubbles, the transformation occurs.  Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde.  It is done mostly with mannerisms and pulling his hair forward.  It is the simplest of theatrical effects but works with an uncomplicated grace.

Mr. Hyde lives to maim and murder, taking his revenge on the people who denied the doctor’s experiments.  Lucy and Emma sing “In his Eyes” a stunning work that shows that the two different women are on different sides of the same proverbial coin, attached together but never seeing each other.  The play builds to the confrontation between the two sides of the same man and the inevitable end. 

There is only one way to describe the three leads of this work.  That is WOW, WOW and WOW.  Seldom in a touring show does the audience get one solid performance, much less three performances.  These performers work miracles on stage. 

Teal Wicks has a sweet voice that blends well with just about every performer on the stage.  The lilting quality rises to the rafters like a bird taking its first flights.  It is pure, sweet and thoroughly enchanting.  Deborah Cox has a much more soulful voice and uses it much the way a belting singer did decades ago.  There is this classic turn she has with the phrasing that gives the role a unique touch.  More than once she got well-deserved thunderous applause and shrieks. 

The night belonged to Constantine Maroulis as our dually staged role.  It is an exhausting performance, full of fire and pathos.  With his body language, he projects to distinctively different individuals.  To see an actor command a stage both physically and emotionally with almost no down time is an impressive feat.  He sings with the force of a hurricane, never letting up during the two-hour duration of the show.  It is surprising that he is not wheeled off stage. 

Simply put, Jekyll & Hyde is one of the best musicals put on by the Winspear and a perfect way to fight the over-wrought Christmas onslaught.  Though it may be more along the lines of a Halloween treat, it still brings about a wicked charm. 

 

 

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