Review: JEKYLL & HYDE at Roxy's Downtown

"Man is not truly one, but truly two."

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Review: JEKYLL & HYDE at Roxy's Downtown
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Join Roxy’s for an ambitious and stunning production of Jekyll & Hyde. A dazzling cast of singer/actors, a layered and luxurious ten-piece orchestra, and a cat walk thrusting the action into the audience’s lap, the mood is set, and a dark tale of polarities unfolds, lovingly directed by Rick Bumgardner and Jackson Dorris.

Loosely based on the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden, and Frank Wildhorn, who also wrote the music, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, is a passionate version of the story with a bit of social commentary, lusty undertones, and  philosophical themes probing the depths of the human psyche.

Single minded in his work as a medical doctor, and hell bent on understanding his father’s psychological shortcomings, Dr. Henry Jekyll creates a formula in which he believes he can separate out the evil part of the human soul that lives within us all. He brings the formula to the Board of Governors of St. Jude Hospital, a collection of high profile, yet contentious, Londoners looking for approval to advancing his research to human subjects, and they reject him fervently and definitively. Jekyll, obsessed and driven in his curiosity, decides to use himself as the test subject, unleashing a beast that is brash, violent, and overbearing. Once Jekyll consumes his creation, and his inner evil is accessed, will his creation consume him?

Nathan Osterle as Jekyll/Hyde is impressive.  Relatable in his humanness and complexity, he’s chronically late and a bit of a workaholic, but full of earnestness, warmth, and likability. Post potion we get a new creature, Edward Hyde, with deepened voice, menacing stance, and a blood curdling laugh. Osterle seamlessly moves back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde. His commitment and dexterity is most enjoyed in the song “Confrontation.” A must see!

Balancing the duplicitous lead is lady of the night, the unfortunate Lucy, who Jekyll meets on the evening of his bachelor party, and befriends. Played by the dynamic Shannon McMillan, who commands the stage with her very presence. Lucy admires Jekyll, but her involvement with Hyde is of a different nature. A steamy interaction on the catwalk, a powerfully sung duet, a test of physical boundaries, survival strategies, and primal urges, in ‘A Dangerous Game,’ you can’t take your eyes off them! However Lucy feels about Hyde, the chemistry is dynamic. She could have a place in her life for both Jekyll and Hyde’s extremes, no?

Jekyll’s fiancé, Emma, played by Sarah Ziegler, who stands on the edge of innocence and worldly awakening with a warm heart and true compassion comes alive with “Once Upon a Dream,” and a duet with Lucy, “In His Eyes.”  The good doctor’s best friend, John Utterson, played by Nick Albrecht, brings a naturalness and sensitivity to the table, shining and loyal in “His Work and Nothing More.”

With a cast of deliciously despicable characters, and an abundance of talent, each of the Governors is equally humorous, and contemptible. We cringe at their foibles and aren’t exactly saddened when they meet their sudden fates : Jon Keckeisen, Lyle Valentine, Dennis Arnold, Charleen Ayers, and Justin Petersen. David Raehpour, as Emma’s father, Sir Danvers Carew, is the only one of the crew with some sense of empathy, is fair and moderate in his desire to protect his daughter.

In a tale of dichotomies, we have the other side of the tracks, sort of speak, a gaggle of working class folks that make up the ensemble: housemaids, call girls, and a pimp. Memorable townsfolk numbers, “Facade,” and “Murder, Murder” are crowd pleasers.

Jekyll & Hyde is visually stunning. We are transported to a dark and murky Londontown of over hundred years ago. With a crude cityscape, texture and shadows, the stage is set by scenic designer Michael Downs and crew. The lighting is moody, saturated, and evocative by Arthur Reese. The costumes are tailored, of the era, and everyone looks incredible! Gwyn Birk has outfitted all and seemingly spared no expense or detail.

Live performances are elevated by live musicians and the ten-piece orchestra, conducted by Simon Hill, adds depth, glamour and solidifies this theatrical experience as memorable!

If you love ominous gothic stories, dark humor, lush music, and intense performances go see Jekyll & Hyde at Roxy’s Downtown running through March 16, 2024. Tickets: (316) 265-4400,  Bottoms up!