BWW Review: The Atlanta Lyric Theatre's JEKYLL & HYDE is Haunting and Raw
One of my favorite things to do during October is to watch movies and shows that get me into the spirit of the spooky season. The Atlanta Lyric Theatre's production of JEKYLL & HYDE did just that. The perfect substitute for the usual Edgar Allan Poe or Adams Family fare, this haunting show offers a chilling take on the story of a very troubled man.
Set in nineteenth century London, the musical follows the classic tale of doctor Dr. Henry Jekyll and his gradual, tumultuous transformation into Edward Hyde. At the top of the show, Jekyll is researching the psyche due to his father's mental illness. He questions how man can be both good and evil, wondering if the two can be separated. After having his request to perform an experiment on a live, human subject gets denied, Jekyll decides to experiment on himself, hiding this from Gabriel Utterson, his best friend; Emma Carew, his fiance; and Lucy Harris, a prostitute he meets at a bar. After drinking the formula he concocted in his laboratory, he discovers an evil inner self in Edward Hyde. Throughout the rest of the show, Hyde slowly murders all of the board members who denied his research proposal while Jekyll tries to find a way to stop him once and for all.
With music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn (with additional lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden), it originally premiered in Houston in 1990, with a Broadway debut in 1997. Wildhorn is known for writing musicals with an almost cultish following, such as THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and BONNIE AND CLYDE. The Lyric's production is directed by Heidi Cline McKerley, with choreography by Bubba Carr and musical direction by Paul Tate. Direction - both musical and overall - felt raw, with each scene beautifully bringing out the emotional and impactful nature of the story. However, the choreography felt disjointed. Lee Shiver-Cerone (scenic design) and Ben Rawson (lighting design) teamed up to create a truly thrilling setting for the show, perfectly reminiscent of dreary London with a spooky twist. Nick Battaglia, the props designer, created a trick wardrobe and experiment table for Jekyll that are especially fitting for the show and brought the scenes in Jekyll's laboratory to life. Also notable are the costumes, designed by Amanda Edgerton West, for their elegance and attention to detail.
The ensemble masterfully took the audience deep into the heart of the show, especially Benjamin Fierke's incredibly creepy Spider. Niki Badua as Lucy Harris blew me away with her raw, heart-wrenching depiction of a woman who yearns to rise above her station. Maggie Salley is gorgeous and endearing as Emma Carew, but it's her stunning vocals that charms the audience the most. However, Chase Peacock completely steals the show as the Jekyll/Hyde duality. I saw him in a production of DADDY LONG LEGS earlier this year and knew I needed to see him in this. He plays both characters with outstanding skill, shown best when he flips back and forth between personas. His ability to hold out those insane final notes that Wildhorn loves so much caused a woman behind me to loudly exclaim, "Oh my goodness!" I have to say that I agree. In its entirety, the casting of the show couldn't have been more perfect, setting the production high above others.
Although I feel as if the show ends too abruptly - almost needing one last, slower rendition of "Façade" before the curtain call - it's nearly perfect in its depiction of this classic tale. The Atlanta Lyric Theatre's JEKYLL & HYDE is perfect for a thrilling night out with friends to get into the Halloween mood.
JEKYLL & HYDE is playing at The Lyric from now until November 3rd, with tickets available at their website. The show is rated PG-13 for stimulated violence.