BWW Reviews: Broadway at the Beach - Bart Shatto in JEKYLL & HYDE

Last summer Beach Haven's Surflight Theatre came back from superstorm Sandy with a superb production of "Les Miserables" starring Broadway's Bart Shatto as Jean Valjean. This summer, Broadway's got "Les Mis," but luckily the beach still has Bart. Shatto currently stars as not one, but two 19th century protagonists, "Jekyll & Hyde," in Frank Wildhorn's 1997 musical sensation. It's almost as if he were playing Valjean and Javert. If such a thing were possible, Shatto would be the man to do it.

BWW Reviews: Broadway at the Beach - Bart Shatto in JEKYLL & HYDEThe actor is no stranger to Wildhorn musicals, having appeared on Broadway in both "The Civil War" and "Dracula." In "Jekyll & Hyde" he portrays both title characters: Dr. Henry Jekyll, a man driven to discover the secrets of the human psyche, and Edward Hyde, his vengeful alter ego. Jekyll is engaged to prim and proper Emma Carew (Whitney Winfield), while Hyde beds lewd and lusty Lucy Harris (Lianne Marie Dobbs). Good versus evil - the duality of man - is the subject of this popular musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella.

The inner struggles of Jekyll and Hyde provide Shatto with a superb showcase for his impressive musical and dramatic range. He seems to have a unique ability to straddle the line between leading man and character actor, a skill that proved enormously valuable as Valjean but comes in even handier as "Jekyll & Hyde." With a turn of his head and the toss of his hair, Shatto goes from fear-torn Dr. Jekyll to bestial Mr. Hyde in the show's tour de force eleven o'clock number "Confrontation." Wildhorn musicals are famous for their stand-alone power ballads and Shatto memorably makes his mark on the show's break-out hit, "This is the Moment." He's also at home with the play's more introspective moments, such as "Reflections," a song previously cut from the score but here re-instated with the author's blessing. It's a slight piece, musically, but Shatto seizes the opportunity to revel in Dr. Jekyll's few moments of lucidity before the plot spins irrevocably out of control.

It's hard to imagine anyone giving Shatto a run for his musical theatre money, but as Lucy Harris, Lianne Marie Dobbs does just that. Her torchy "Someone Like You" provides a poignant glimpse of the inner hopes and dreams of this hooker with a heart. Dobbs' vocals are superbly nuanced, making her doomed path all the more heartbreaking. Like Shatto, she's no stranger to Wildhorn, having previously played the same role under the direction of the show's original star, New Jersey favorite Bob Cucciolli. When Shatto and Dobbs join forces in the soaring duet "Dangerous Game," the results are nothing short of thrilling.

The two stars are capably backed by a production staged by Norb Joerder. Despite its size, the small ensemble creates a variety of vividly wrought characters featuring tight, distinct harmonies. The show's production design rightfully dwells on the color red - setting the action on an elevated playing space painted blood red. Benjamin Weill's lighting sometimes forgets that this is the gaslight era, but more than makes up for it when skillfully utilizing footlights and cross lighting to cast eerie shadows - some extending onto the auditorium walls.

Surflight continues their 65th Anniversary Season by marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark musical "Fiddler on the Roof," which plays June 9th through 27th. The rest of the summer features productions of "Monty Python's Spamalot," and "A Chorus Line." "Jekyll & Hyde" plays through July 6th. For tickets or information, visit www.surflight.org or call (609) 492-9477.

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Michael T. Mooney Michael T. Mooney has devoted his life to the performing arts, having been involved as performer, writer, director, and administrator. Coming to Paper Mill Playhouse in 1994 from The Growing Stage Theatre in Netcong, New Jersey, he served in the fundraising department under Development Director John McEwen. He became involved in the theatre's accessibility programming, eventually assuming full responsibility for the theatre's nationally recognized Access programs and services. In 2001, he was appointed Manager of Outreach and Access Programs, a position he designed himself. Mr. Mooney has led community drives for the Victims of 9-11, Jersey Cares, New Eyes for the Needy, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lainie's Angels, First Book NJ, Tsunami Relief, The American Red Cross, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In addition to his Access responsibilities, he also directed Paper Mill's Senior Players Workshop, managed the award-winning Adopt-a-School Project and has been both instructor and adjudicator for their STAR program. He is a founding member of LEAD and served on the board of directors for The Fund for the New Jersey Blind, The Audio-Description Coalition of America (ADC), The New Jersey Cultural Access Network, and The New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For five years, he studied directing and writing for theatre-in-the-round with England's Sir Alan Ayckbourn and has staged more than 60 productions of plays and musicals in Northern New Jersey, including the American premieres of four of Sir Alan's plays. Michael is the proud recipient of the 2008 New Jersey Governor's Award for Arts Education and the 2003 Ann Klein Advocate Award for his work with senior citizens and people with disabilities. Easter Seals New Jersey named him one of their "Miracle Workers" of 2008. He lives in Neptune, New Jersey, having also lived in Central Florida and London, England.


 
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