This musical version of Jekyll and Hyde has been around for over twenty years and has had several incarnations. It started out as a concept recording in 1990 with Colm Wilkson and Linda Eder who at the time was Composer Frank Wildhorn’s girlfriend. Upon hearing that CD, I said, “I wonder what the show that goes with this score is like?” In 1995 I found out when saw what was billed as a pre-Broadway tour. It starred Robert Cuccioli and Linda Eder in the leads. I saw that tour twice in New Haven and Baltimore and said at the time, “This has a good shot in NYC.” By the time it got to Broadway in 1997, the show had been re-designed and had a new director attached to the project. What Jekyll and Hyde The Musical had then were two strong leads and a bunch of nice pop style songs written by Frank Wildhorn (Music) and Leslie Bricusse (Lyrics and Book).
Now here we are in 2012 with a new pre-Broadway tour of Jekyll and Hyde. It still has the songs, but has been re-imagined not necessarily for the better and, to add insult to injury, does not have two strong leads to carry the show. In fact Constantine Maroulis, as the tormented scientist Henry Jekyll and his evil alter ego Edward Hyde, and Deborah Cox, as the sleazy showgirl Lucy Harris, surprisingly have almost no stage presence or chemistry together.
…a wonderful supporting cast.
Cox is a Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum R&B/pop recording artist who has appeared in Aida on Broadway. While Cox has a good voice it lacks theatrical presence. Lucy has two big solo numbers in the show, “Someone Like You” and “A New Life” and Cox’s interpretation of the former was underwhelming to say the least. She did redeem herself with a more powerful take on the latter, the eleven o’clock number.
Constantine Maroulis shot to fame on American Idol and has been seen on Broadway in The Wedding Singer and was nominated for a Tony Award for Rock of Ages. I imagine those two shows are better suited to his talents because in Jekyll and Hyde he is out of his element. His performance reminded me of Johnny Depp in the movie of Sweeney Todd and that is not meant to be a compliment. One of Jekyll’s big songs is entitled “This is The Moment” in which Jekyll’s big experiment takes flight. Maroulis found the need to back phrase the entire song. By adding his own elaborations and riffs, the song became more about Maroulis showing off than about him playing the character.
For everything that is wrong with the lead performers in this production, there is a wonderful supporting cast. Teal Wicks as Emma Carew, the lady Henry Jekyll is supposed to marry, runs rings around Cox in the duet “In His Eyes.” Richard White as her father Danvers Carew possesses a gorgeous baritone and fine acting. His duet with Wicks called “Letting Go” is a highlight of the evening. Laird Mackintosh as Jekyll’s lawyer John Utterson also turns in a solid performance. Other stage veterans in the ensemble include Mel Johnson Jr. as Sir Archibald Proops, Q.C. and James Judy as Jekyll’s butler Poole.
The physical design of this production is interesting. While Tobin Ost’s costumes are very much Victorian, his minimal scenic elements rely on modern projections by Daniel Brodie to set the locales. Jeff Croiter’s lighting is not overpowering and sets the seedy moods of Victorian London nicely.
Jeff Calhoun’s direction and choreography move the show along at a good if not too brisk of a pace. A few moments feel quite rushed and in retooling the show we now know less about some of the characters than we had in previous productions. There was a song called “The Girls of The Night” for the female chorus that I particularly missed because it illustrates how these women were forced to do things to support their kids and themselves.
Steven Landau conducts an 11 piece orchestra comprised of a rhythm section augmented by five strings, reed, and horn. I always felt that this show should be scored for more players for maximum effect but I’m sure that orchestrator Kim Scharnberg is working within the budget that he is given.
Overall this new version of Jekyll and Hyde has a great supporting cast and the songs still are quite good. In fact, this might be the best score Frank Wildhorn has written for the stage. The two leads, however, are huge detriments to the production and, while I am all for people branching out, producers need to consider what is more important. If making a lot of money is your intent, then you have succeeded. If turning out a good product is your intent, then you need to think before you act and cast the appropriate people for your leads. Remember Broadway tickets are expensive nowadays.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission.
The new pre-Broadway tour of Jekyll and Hyde plays through Nov 25th ,2012 in The Kennedy Center Opera House – 2700 F St. NW in Washington, D.C. For tickets call 202-467-4600 or purchase them online