BWW Reviews: Reinvented JEKYLL & HYDE is an Exciting Electric Experience
Frank Wildhorn's JEKYLL & HYDE has been reinvented and completely reworked. The new production is not a revival of the show, but a revisal-a reimagining of the material for a contemporary audience. Over the course of a whirlwind 25 weeks, this production is touring the nation before it opens in April 2013 on Broadway. The transformed production stars Constantine Maroulis of American Idol and ROCK OF AGES fame, multi-platnium R&B/pop singer Debroah Cox, and seasoned Broadway actress Teal Wicks.
Like the previous incarnations, the show tells the tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll, who ambitiously seeks approval to test a serum on a human subject that would separate and manipulate the duality of the human soul. His motivation for this undertaking is to save his father, who is locked away in an asylum. Denied permission to test on a human subject and devoted to his work, Jekyll finds himself becoming more and more estranged from the woman he loves, Emma Carew. He then makes the choice to use himself as his human test subject and unleashes a murderous, riotous alter-ego named Edward Hyde onto the streets of Victorian London.
Making bold directorial choices, Jeff Calhoun's cast performs the show more as a rock and pop concert with a storyline strung through it. Almost the entirety of the show's action takes place on the stage floor without utilizing other levels, which only adds to the concert feeling. Roaring electric guitars, stylized pop synthesizers, and driving percussion are skillfully employed by composer Frank Wildhorn, orchestrator Kim Scharnberg, arranger Jason Howland, and musical director Steven Landau to keep the concert ambience alive. Upon hearing the new scoring for the show, it is readily apparent that Frank Wildhorn has returned to his pop roots with this production. From the opening electric riffs of the brief overture, mixed with the crackling sounds of live electricity and the flashing of the lights that frame the arch, it is immediately apparent that this is a JEKYLL & HYDE unlike any other.
Starring in the titular double roles, Constantine Maroulis has an enigmatic stage presence. No matter how humble and reserved he can be in person, on stage the charming theatre geek gives way to the rock star persona that so many associate him with; thus, Constantine Maroulis capably commands the audience's attention. He plays Jekyll with an air of youthful and naïve passion, singing him mostly in a pop tenor format. His Hyde is darker and often sings with the 80s Hair Band sound that imbued his role in ROCKS OF AGES. These character and vocal choices bring a noticeable fresh air to the piece, while giving long time fans of Constantine Maroulis everything they would expect from him. He delivered impressive, powerhouse vocals on "This is the Moment" and was terrifyingly unnerving on the "Sympathy, Tenderness (Reprise)." His "Alive," "Alive (reprise)," and "Confrontation" were strong and bombastic; however, crisper enunciation would make each of these numbers more memorable and help the audience to better understand the lyrics and emotional force of each of these iconic numbers.
Deborah Cox advantageously utilizes her celebrated earthy and soulful style to characterize a Lucy that is constantly in tangible conflict. It is apparent that she derives no pleasure from her position and is often afraid of Hyde, Spider, and the other rough and seedy clients she works with; however, she feels trapped and cannot achieve the better life that she yearns for. As Lucy, Deborah Cox is beautiful, sexy, and convincing. She both steals and stops the show with her immaculate renditions of "Someone Like You" and "A New Life." Her "Bring on the Men" is wonderful, but the spider-web choreography limits her ability to move about the stage and really sell the song. My only complaint with Deborah Cox's performance is her use of the Cockney accent that fades in and out throughout the show. In my honest opinion, the use of Britsh accents is not necessary for this story. Audiences can believe it is in London without the accents, especially since not everyone uses them. Jeff Calhoun should have his company just drop the accents.
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