BWW Reviews: PPAC Rings in New Year with Broadway-Bound JEKYLL & HYDE
Frank Wildhorn's musical Jekyll & Hyde (based on Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) continues its return journey to New York with a limited engagement, pre-Broadway tour.
American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis plays the dual title roles, starring both as the idealistic Dr. Henry Jekyll and the embodiment of immorality, Edward Hyde. Dr. Jekyll's controversial research - to scientifically isolate and destroy the evil impulses in mankind, leaving only a person's noblest good nature intact - is fueled by his years-long quest to free his father from mental illness. Repeated rejections of this work bring Jekyll's experiment to a standstill and drive him to test the final stage of his ill-fated study on himself.
Maroulis stands out as a skilled and dedicated actor. He well-defines the two complex characters he portrays, very effectively using subtle changes in his posture and movement to convey differences between the split personalities. Maroulis moves swiftly and urgently as Henry Jekyll, though with an unassuming, almost deferential stance, capturing both the doctor's unwavering passion for his work and his mild, compassionate temperament. As Hyde, Maroulis stalks dominantly across the stage, skulking menacingly through the shadows and then looming tall and exulting in his nefarious deeds. Maroulis blends these polar opposites gradually as the story unfolds, ably conveying Jekyll's brokenness and increasingly fragmented personality.
Maroulis is known for his standout rock vocal performance, and he brings this style - rather than a more classical "Broadway" sound - to Jekyll & Hyde. This approach works best with Hyde's big numbers ("Alive," "Dangerous Game") versus Jekyll's spotlight songs. "This is the Moment," Jekyll's defining first-act solo and Jekyll & Hyde's signature number, lacks the power and "showstopper" quality generally associated with the song. The second-act "Confrontation" between Jekyll and Hyde is much stronger; however, changes in staging to the scene, though visually engaging, cheat the audience and the performer of the complexity and impact of previous productions. Also, engineered vocal effects late in the song entirely obscure the final lyrics.
This touring company is blessed with two strong leading ladies. Teal Wicks plays Emma Carew, Jekyll's fiancée. Wicks has an incredibly lovely singing voice and she brings spunk and fire to Emma's character. Her rendition of "Once Upon a Dream" packs an emotional wallop and is flawlessly delivered.
Deborah Cox stars as Lucy Harris, the good-hearted prostitute Jekyll befriends and Hyde menaces. Cox entirely lives up to the demands of the role, powerfully delivering "Someone Like You" and "A New Life" with great passion and undeniable talent. Cox's vocal performances are highlights of the production and she adds solid acting skills to her musical gifts. As Lucy, Cox runs the gamut in emotion from brash flirtatiousness to fearfulness to romantic vulnerability.
Veteran performer Richard White appears as Emma's father, Sir Danvers Carew. His all-too brief appearances on stage showcase his rich singing voice, and he brings great warmth to his scenes with Wicks.
The revival tour's minimal staging relies heavily on projection screens. Though they feel out of place in some instances (creating awkward blocking in "The Engagement Party," for example), for the most part, the screens are used judiciously to enhance their setting. They are especially well done during "Façade" and "Murder," in various scenes as Jekyll's journal entries scrawl intriguingly along wall panels, and they provide impactful imagery at the close of "The Wedding."
Wildhorn's beautiful, complex score stands the test of time. His music tugs on the heartstrings and perfectly suits the characters, scenes, and emotions portrayed on stage.
Parents, please note: Jekyll & Hyde contains violence (with a notable absence of stage blood) and sensuality.
Jekyll & Hyde plays the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, January 6, 2013. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Ticket prices range from $41-$66 and discounted rates are available for groups of 20 or more.
© Chris Bennion Photo