PARK CITY – Years ago I heard a couple songs from Jekyll and Hyde, The Musical at a vocal performance and I was mesmerized. The beautiful duet of “In His Eyes” planted within in me the desire to see this musical (with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, Frank Wildhorn, and Steve Cuden) at some point in the future. When the opportunity to see Jekyll and Hyde at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City by the Dark Horse Company Theatre was made available to me, I jumped at the chance. While the musical abilities soared, I’m disappointed to say the rest of the production fell flat. On the drive home from Park City, my friend and I had a long conversation about why this musical didn’t blow us away like we had hoped. After some discussion, we decied that the Dark Horse Company directed by Christopher Glade and produced by Gamyr Worf took on an already weak script which was difficult to improve.
The plot of the musical is hardly the same story of the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson. The framework of the originally story is there. Dr. Jekyll (Daniel T. Simons) discovers a serum that separates one’s good and evil side; thus, when taken turns Dr. Jekyll into his purely evil side, Mr. Hyde. However, the musical adds so many more liberties after that basic plot involving a love triangle between Dr. Jekyll and his fiancée Emma (Michelle Blake) and a prostitute Lucy (Ginger Bess) as well as many more murders that weren’t in the book. The result is loose ends and a lack of character development because of the multiple subplots crammed in by writer Leslie Bricusse. An example of this is the side character Simon Stride played by Craig Williams. Stride is a man of jealousy who is in love with Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée Emma Carew. I felt Williams played a superb villain and was really good at making you dislike his character. However, after finding out his issue with Dr. Jekyll halfway through the first act, the audience doesn’t see him again until near the end of the musical causing one to feel disconnected to his role in the story.
Another example of this is the character Lucy Harris played by Ginger Bess. While I felt Bess gave the strongest performance of the whole evening (both her vocals and emotional performance were excellent), I had a hard time buying into the idea that she was in love with Dr. Jekyll during the song “Someone Like You” after talking to him for a minute or two. The chemistry was definitely lacking between these two characters during the song “Sympathy, Tenderness” even with the random kiss thrown into the scene.
Michelle Blake also gave a solid vocal performance as Dr. Jekyll’s other love interest and fiancée Emma Carew. I really grew to like her character during the song “Emma’s Reasons” where she strongly portrayed sweetness, wit and following her heart. However, during her duet with Simons “Take Me as I Am,” I once again felt a lack of chemistry between the main characters. It seems like the director put more focus on hitting their musical notes and not on developing the relationship of the characters.
Simons played a very convincing violent and raging Mr. Hyde; however, his character Dr. Jekyll felt bland. I can imagine switching between too different characters would be difficult. However, Dr. Jekyll’s character was reined in so much that I didn’t feel any connection to him, nor did I feel the desire to root for him at the end as he seeks an escape from the monster he created. For example in the song, “This is the Moment,” Dr. Jekyll is about to take the potion he created with hopes that it may save his father. I felt this should really be the climax of the play for Dr. Jekyll, and while the vocals were beautiful the excitement and anticipation was lacking.
There were also technical difficulties which were out of the cast’s control that really broke up the flow of their performance. During the song “The Façade” there was so much feedback from the audio that it had me cringing. This was unfortunate because the ensemble was stellar vocally and held their harmonies well. Another instance was during “Jekyll’s Plea” where there was a mistake with the audio and the audience could hear everything being said over the crews’ headsets and not what the cast was saying. Instances like this are unfortunate for the cast, but such bugs should really be worked out before opening night.
I do need to give props to costume designer Katie Miller and set designer Kevin S. Dudley. The costumes brought the time period of London in the late 1800’s and the different classes to life. Dudley worked wonders with one small stage. Sets came flying out of the ceiling at times with the changing of scenes. The set of foggy old London added to the sinister and creepy mood as Mr. Hyde stalked the streets. I also really enjoyed how the live pianists Jeanne McGuire and Ann Moulton were cleverly featured through a window of the set on stage.
Finally, I feel like director Christopher Glade could encourage his cast to be a bit more energetic, so songs like “Murder, Murder” don’t drag so much. The song felt way too long to get the point across that murders were occurring in London.
Overall, if you would like to enjoy vocal musical talent, this show does deliver in that department. However, if you are looking for a strong story line and character development, this production leaves much to be desired. Also, because of some of the mature themes in this musical as well as the length of the production, I would advise leaving your children at home with a babysitter.