BWW Review: JEKYLL AND HYDE at The ARTS Theatre

Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Saturday 27th May 2017

Virtue, they say, is its own reward. Handy, because the audience would much rather watch vice at play, and this production of the Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn version of the Robert Louis Stevenson tale, Jekyll And Hyde, succeeds when it dives into the depths of depravity.

In the title roles, David MacGillivray is outstanding, switching from noble doctor to depraved monster with agility, body and voice changes entirely convincing. He gets the big number in the show, Now is the Moment. It's become anthemic, adopted by self-help groups around the world, and in this show in context, it marks the point where Jekyll, experimenting to see if it is possible to separate the good from the bad in an individual, bravely decides to experiment on himself.

The emotional triangle which rings through the musical involves the good girl, Emma Carew, and the one who is no better than she should be, to quote the old Victorian expression, Lucy Harris. Ashley Muldrew embodies middle class respectability, and brings great sincerity to the role great sincerity and, in the quartet, a powerful upper register. Her cream and elegant costume glows, by accident or design, in collaboration with Jason Groves's lighting, to beautiful effect, but it is Sarah Wildy, as Lucy, who really catches your attention and doesn't let go. Drawn from the same streets as Eliza Doolittle and Fagin's Nancy, she is compelling and marvellous.

This marks, evidently, Ben Todd's debut as a director of musicals and he's certainly been able to count on the skills and experience of his musical director, Ben Stefanoff, and choreographer, Rebekah Stonelake. The ensemble is well managed and there's a really effective dance routine in the Red Rat.

Bring on the Men, sing the girls, adding a massive burst of energy to the show. Even the usual message to switch off all mobile devices is delivered in an imaginative way by the street people of the show.

Among the supporting cast Brooke Washusen, as Nellie, and Matthew Redmond, as the brutal pimp, Spider, really stand out. Redmond especially makes the most of his few minutes on stage. It's a deftly shaped cameo. The good guys, Brendan Clare, as Gabriel John Utterson, Jekyll's friend and colleague, and Max Kavanagh, as Sir Danvers Carew, Emma's father, have the thankless task of embodying decency and concern, which they achieve with confidence.

A weakness in the show is Bricusse's dependence on very simple rhymes. "I will pray/everyday/Henry May/find his way" for example. Wildhorne's music has more sophistication. There's a finely crafted duet for the two women and a quartet, obviously influenced by Verdi's archetypal quartet in Rigoletto.

The show has certainly prompted me to go back to the original tale, based by Stevenson on the life of an Edinburgh gentleman, Deacon Brodie, who evidently needed no scientific potion to unleash his desires.


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