Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox
in a scene from Jekyll & Hyde
(Photo credit: Chris Bennion)
Although the Frank Wildhorn-Leslie Bricusse Jekyll & Hyde
the Musical was not a critics’ darling, Robin Phillips’ exciting production ran for four years on Broadway garnering 1,543 performances. It developed a cult following of dedicated fans who call themselves the “Jekkies.” Not the least of its glories was Robert Cuccioli’s riveting performance in the dual role of the doctor and the criminal which made him a star, and as the two women in his life, Linda Eder and Christiane Noll who made memorable Broadway debuts. Now after a 25-week national tour the show is back on Broadway. With a cast headed by current stars Constantine Maroulis, finalist on the fourth season of American Idol, and multi-platinum R&B/pop recording artist, Deborah Cox, the results are amazingly different this time around.
Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bricusse’s book and lyrics use the original concept but create a new story: suffering from the fact that his father’s illness has no cure, Dr. Henry Jekyll approaches the Board of Governors of St. Jude’s Hospital, London, with a request to experiment on a human guinea pig. When he is voted down by the board, he decides to experiment on himself. In his attempt to divide good and evil, Jekyll’s drugs turn him into the psychopath Edward Hyde, and as this alter ego, he goes after all of the Board members who voted down his proposal, murdering them one by one. Although Jekyll is engaged to a good woman, Emma, the daughter of his medical colleague, Sir Danvers Carew, Hyde becomes involved with the prostitute Lucy Harris who has fallen hard for the doctor whom she met at his bachelor party. Eventually the drugs take over Jekyll’s life and he is unable to stop turning into the now uncontrollable and murderous Hyde. The inevitable tragedy engulfs them all. Conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and composer Wildhorn, the show is told as a flashback by Jekyll’s lawyer John Utterson and his future father-in-law, Sir Danvers.
Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun does not seem to have trusted the material or wanted this production to be as different as possible from the original Broadway staging. While much of this Jekyll & Hyde is handled as caricature, the sets by Tobin Ost in garish red and black with their walls at steep angles resemble nothing so much as a color version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, without the expressionist weight of that story. The medical devices in the scenes in Dr. Jekyll’s lab laughably suggest The Bride of
Frankenstein, while the opening sequence with Dr. Jekyll’s father strapped in a straitjacket to a wall with his arms outstretched suggests a scene straight out of Dracula. In this production, the scenes of degradation seem much too tame, and the choreography which was extremely erotic in the originally Broadway production seem perfunctory at best.
Teal Wicks and Constantine Maroulis
in a scene from Jekyll & Hyde
(Photo credit: Chris Bannion)
The original show was famous for its melodic Wildhorn score which includes the hit song, “This Is the Moment,” to lyrics by librettist Bricusse. Why any composer would allow the over-miked, disembodied sound which appears to be made up of over-synthesized keyboards is beyond belief. And don’t blame the orchestrator Kim Scharnberg who also created those of the original Broadway production. The fact that most of the lyrics sound like mud can be laid directly at the door of the sound designer Ken Travis. In this version, all of the songs sound like they have been given the same instrumentation and eventually one song is indistinguishable from another.
Maroulis has a very big voice and the acting chops, but unfortunately his Jekyll and Hyde are practically the same. It is a wonder that his Hyde is not recognized by the friends of Jekyll. His climactic number, “Confrontation,” in which Jekyll and Hyde sing a duet, originally had the performer throwing his hair from side to side and singing in different voices, a theatrical coup de theatre, if there ever was one. However, in this production, Maroulis’ Hyde sings to his Jekyll counterpart from a video over the mantelpiece. The effect is neither exciting nor impressive and the performer loses his big scene. “This Is the Moment” also fails to become the rousing anthem that it usually is.
Grammy nominated Cox, returning to Broadway for the first time since her debut in Aida in 2004, has the dynamism and the stage presence needed to put over the songs, but her Lucy is a rather one-dimensional characterization. Teal Wicks is fine as Emma, another stereotyped role, in both the singing and acting departments. As Jekyll’s lawyer Utterson, Laird Mackintosh makes little impression, while Richard White, once of the New York City Opera, is a stalwart but bland Sir Danvers. In the roles of St. Jude’s board members, The Bishop of Basingstoke, Lady Beaconsfield, Lord Savage, Sir Archibald Proops, Q.C., and General Lord Glossop (entirely creations of the show’s book writer), are played by David Benoit, Blair Ross, Brian Gallagher, Mel Johnson, Jr., and Aaron Ramey, respectively, as such cartoons that they undermine the realistic approach of the rest of the musical.
On the plus side, Ost’s costumes are picturesque for the 19th century setting, and the lighting by Jeff Croiter has a film noir, horror film look. Generally, the show looks like a touring show, which in fact it is.
People who loved the show in its original Broadway production will most likely not like the new version, while those who didn’t like it the first time should most probably stay away.
Jekyll & Hyde (through May 12, 2013)
Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway at 46th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-745-3000 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including one intermission