Jekyll & Hyde The Musical
Book and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Celebrity power can’t fix this show’s identity crisis
|Broadway in Chicago presents|
|Jekyll & Hyde the Musical|
Review by Joy Campbell
Jekyll & Hyde The Musical ended its Broadway run in 2001; now it’s been resurrected as an “all-new” production. Which begs the question: if you’re going to throw money and star power to bring back a show, why go to all the trouble if you aren’t going to make it better?
We are all familiar with the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, even if we haven’t read it: Victorian doctor Jekyll seeks to help his mentally insane father by isolating the evil in men to remove it. Using himself as the subject, things go terribly wrong, and he releases his sensual and brutally savage alter ego (Mr. Hyde) onto London. It’s a story ripe for retelling, and has been re-imagined many times in movies starring notables such as John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, and Michael Caine. That there is such real potential for a thrilling, cult-classic musical makes this production disappointing in its squandered opportunity.
Like the title characters, the show suffers from an identity crisis: is it a gothic steampunk thriller? A morality tale? A moving love story? By trying to be all, it does none well. Visually, the show is gorgeous: Tobin Ost’s set with its use of rich projections onto Victorian subway-tiled panels. The use of mirrors and photographs to depict the duality of the hypocrisy of the community pre-eminates. Combine this with Jeff Croiter’s saturated lighting devices and Daniel Brodie’s projections and you create an almost graphic-novel effect in its personality and impact. But this cannot compensate for a weak story line and music that is both overly-produced and always performed at full volume, with no inkling of subtlety.
The producers brought in star power in Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox in a bid for mass appeal. Maroulis does have a respectable stage bio, but is also familiar to TV viewers through, predictably, “American Idol” and “Dancing with The Stars”. As the show’s title characters, he does an excellent job of creating two distinct, believable personae, although as the lascivious and unfettered Hyde, he is more Sexy Bad Boy than rampaging Id. In “Murder,” a musical time-progression number where he kills off the board of the insane asylum, there is little savagery as people fall quickly at the smack of his cane. His acting is solid; the problem is that his nasal singing voice, while technically fine, is just not lovely.
As Lucy, Grammy-winner Debora Cox has all the pipes and more to belt out her songs, and she does so gorgeously, but while she comes alive during her solo numbers, she seems uncomfortable onstage otherwise. Some musical performers successfully cross the line into acting; Cox does not. “Bring on The Men,” her intro number (a grossly wasted opportunity for some great choreography), should be Cox’s scene to command the stage, but she lacks the fire and sass required to dominate. Dana Costello as Nellie, another prostitute, has a very small role, but her brief appearance makes one want to see more of her, and I wonder whether this show should consider making a new star instead of misusing an established celebrity.
The biggest disappointment is the show’s failure to let us into the inner torment of the main character, to explore the very ideas at the core of the tale. Other than some voiced-over readings of diary entries, Jekyll and Hyde never becomes more than caricatures for effect in a messy, unfocused, plot. The relationship between Jekyll and his fiancée Emma (Teal Wicks) is pat; they spend maybe all of seven mutually-adoring minutes total on stage; that between Hyde and Lucy is nebulous: on one hand, she fears him; on the other, his raw sexuality seems to appeal to her. The effect is a sort of “9-½ Weeks”, save for the complete lack of sexual tension between the two. They go through the motions, but nobody’s buying it. Cox also has a number where she sings of her love for Jekyll, which is apparently based on the small amount of kindness he’s shown her in the equally brief time they’ve met. Too much is told; too little is shown; none of it is engrossing.
In the end, I just didn’t care about anyone, and wondered instead how so much money, time, effort, and talent could have come up with something so soulless.
Jekyll & Hyde the Musical continues through March 24th at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map), with performances Tuesday/Thursday/Friday at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, Sundays 2pm. Tickets are $33-$95, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BroadwayinChicago.com or JekyllandHydeMusical.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Chris Bennion
Constantine Maroulis (Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde), Deborah Cox (Lucy Harris), Teal Wicks (Emma Carew), Richard White (Sir Danvers Carew), Laird Mackintosh (John Utterson), Blair Ross (Lady Beaconsfield), Jason Wooten (Simon Stride), Brian Gallagher (Lord Savage), David Benoit (The Bishop of Basingstoke/Spider), Mel Johnson Jr. (Sir Archibald Proops, Q.C.), Aaron Ramey (General Lord Glossop) Dana Costello (Nellie), James Judy (Jekyll’s Father/Poole), Jerry Christakos (Bisset/Minister), Courtney Markowitz, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Doug Storm (People of London), Stephen Mitchell Brown, Bob Richardson, Haley Windal (Swings), Wendy Fox (understudy).
behind the scenes
Jeff Calhoun (director); Steve Cuden, Frank Wildhorn (conceivers), Tobin Ost (scenic and costumer design); Jeff Croiter (lighting design); Ken Travis (sound design); Daniel Brodie (projection design); Haley Swindal (dance captain); Bob Richardson (fight captain); Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design); Buck Mason (production manager); Richard J. Hinds (associate director/choreographer); Steven Landau (music director); David Lai (music coordinator); MB Productions NY – Mike Bauder (technical supervisor); Eric Sprotsky (production stage manager), Chris Bennion Photo (photos)