BWW Reviews: JEKYLL AND HYDE - "The Only Thing Constant is Change"
Many things about this production are different from the original musical version which began with a concept recording in 1990 and evolved into a Broadway musical production that opened April of 1997 delivering 1543 shows then ending its Broadway life in January 2001. But it was far from over, moving forward gathering a plethora of loyal "Jekkie" fans, several tours and international productions.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the legendary horror novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1800's is the source material for this bold adventure. Transferring this from novel to film is one thing. Turning this well known piece of work into a staged musical however is a daunting challenge that has resulted in good and not so good elements. How do you take something so dark and complex, set it to appropriate music, bring in a convincing cast and decide whether you want to scare the daylights out of of your audience or entertain them... or both? The creative team of Leslie Bricusse (book & lyrics), Frank Wildhorn (co-conceiver and music), Steve Cuden (co-conceiver) took a leap of faith when they turned this into a staged musical that they felt had all the elements of emotion, passion, darkness and even a bit of campy humor. When it opened on Broadway it was received with wildly mixed reviews which in turn sparked an influx of curious theater goers, some who have seen and supported the show so often they are called the "jekkies".
Composer, Frank Wildhorn has penned some arguably beautiful songs for many productions and people. Jekyll and Hyde boasts "A New Life", "Someone Like You" and "This is the Moment" which have been performed and sung by some very popular people in some very prestigious settings.
However this newest "revisal" production of Jekyll and Hyde has been for the most part aimed to attract a new, younger audience and molded to fit its leading man and lady. What better choice than American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis? Maroulis already a popular Broadway star (Rock of Ages, Wedding Singer, RENT), works hard to fill the shoes for this edgy, musically re-orchestrated version. Maroulis does everything possible to convince the crowd that he is not a sexy rock star to the point of sporting some bookworm glasses and a thick British accent as Dr. Jekyll. In fact the accent is quite good. However the minuet he opens his mouth to sing the rock side screams through loud and clear. Director Jeff Calhoun and set/costume designer Tobin Ost make the most of what they have and develop a rock star environment with all the flash, funk and shock factor to create a Tim Burton style nightmare for the sultry star to show his talents and ability.
One of his female attractions in the show is R&B, gospel Grammy winning Deborah Cox who plays Lucy Harris the sweet/tough prostitute looking for "A New Life" and the right man to take her there. She does her best to lure Henry Jekyll but inevitably ends up with the evil, violent Edward Hyde. Cox is a great casting choice as the sexy bad girl who proves she can knock out Wildhorn's score as well as some of her formidable predecessors. Cox's vocal style is raspy and flutters breathlessly but she delivers the power when needed even if it means she comes out of character and into concert mode a few times, which detracts a bit from her character. But she is not alone in that department.
The slightly underwritten role of Dr. Jekyll's long-suffering bride-to-be, Emma Carew is played beautifully by Teal Wick who played Wicked's Elphaba on Broadway and brings a legitimate Broadway voice to the role. The creative team has toughened up this prim and proper Victorian lady to the point that she refers to her self as the "crazy angel" which seems a bit odd for the era, but this is not the conventional show that opened on Broadway. Unfortunately there is little chemistry between the good doctor and his fiancé throughout the show.