CENTERVILLE — CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s latest offering, the seasonally appropriate, grim, and eerie Jekyll and Hyde is a marvelous Halloween offering for those who crave a little less family-friendly option in their fall theatre attendance. Based upon the classic Victorian horror story by Robert Louis Stevenson, with a book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Frank Wildhorn, this production comes together almost flawlessly. Director Scott Montgomery has assembled a stellar cast and production team to produce a visually and vocally stunning production.
The main plot of the story explores the good and evil that are inherent in all men and asks the audience to go along on a journey of discovery and examination into man’s very nature. In the case of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil counterpart Edward Hyde, it becomes clear that once unleashed and allowed a certain amount of freedom, in the name of science, the evil half of one’s subconscious is difficult to tame again. The conflict is grave and not without casualties along the way.
The musical production begins without an overture, jumping directly into the narrative line of the story given by Gabriel John Utterson (played by Daniel Frederickson), best friend and trusted confidante of the brilliant Dr. Henry Jekyll (Danny Inkley). Jekyll is wracked with guilt and pain at the plight of his father, who was beset with the demons of mental illness that he ends his days in an asylum, helpless and unable to function. Jekyll makes a vow to discover a way to free all men from the torment of insanity by finding a way to eradicate the evil elements and leaving only the good parts of each man. This mission becomes the focus of his life’s work and brings him under censure of the Hospital Board, who find his work unethical. Their denial of Jekyll’s plea for support and a human guinea pig on whom to experiment, set off a chain of events that turns London at the turn-of-the-century into a horror show, from the alleys and bordellos to the highest society drawing rooms.
Visually, this production is stunning. All the design elements create a nuanced and layered world. Costumer Jen Richardson gives each character beautifully detailed clothing that creates a cohesive look to the play. The lighting design by David Larsen uses of saturated colors, silhouettes, and pyrotechnics to create excitement and suspense. The set design by Ricky Parkinson includes three moveable staircases, a few trapdoors, and platforms of a dizzying height, which create a vast array of locations within the story. The whole scenic design has a slightly steampunk feel, which isn’t carried over into the costume design for some reason. And about halfway through the second half, the show shifts into “stairway overload,” when I stopped focusing on the plot and instead wondered, “Where will those stairs move to next?” But it is definitely a bold choice that allows for great variety in blocking and staging.
The lead performers are everything that any music director (in this case Marcie Jacobson) could hope for. All the main cast members are accomplished vocalists, with enough musical training to take on the immensely challenging score. Megan Yates as Emma Carew, Henry Jekyll’s angelically good fiancée, and Angie Winegar as Lucy Harris, the singer/prostitute who is caught in the sexual pull of Edward Hyde, are perfect foils for each other. These two characters nicely emphasize the contrast between good and evil that lies within every man. Yates is a lovely soprano with substance behind her. Winegar’s Lucy does not have the typical cockney accent for this role, but she sells her solos well enough to make her performance a success. Plus, both actresses are both beautiful to boot and seem to be two sides of the same coin. Their duet “In Henry’s Eyes” is an amazing moment.
Although the leads are very strong in this man-heavy show, the ensemble numbers suffers. “Bring on the Men” failed to really ignite and the opening of Act Two “Murder, Murder” lacked cohesiveness. The ensemble is musically not on the same level as the three main leads, or even the supporting actors. Several of the solos in “Murder, Murder” were difficult to understand, although the character of Spider (Jacob Omer) was memorably creepy.
This brings me to the focal point of any review of Jekyll and Hyde: the actor who plays Jekyll and Hyde. Vocally, Danny Inkley is perfect for the role. He has a gorgeous, well-trained voice and is a master of the difficult score. He skips nimbly over the notes and truly carries the show, setting a high standard for the rest of the cast. In the song “This is the Moment,” truly mastered this tour de force of a role for any leading man. In that scene, it was very obvious why he was cast in the leading role, and I could listen to that song again in a heartbeat.
But the main difficulty of the show was that the relationship between Edward and Lucy was hard to believe. The devotion of the angelic Emma to Henry could be explained away because she is so very “good” and pure and true to her promises. But Lucy and Edward’s relationship is based upon a physicality and sexual charisma that was not clearly shown in their scenes together. The problem is that Inkley doesn’t look like a Henry Jekyll or an Edward Hyde. Inkley is vocally talented, but he is simply not believable as a young, charismatic brilliant scientist. Plus, he lacks the necessary sexual virility for the role.
Overall, though, Centerpoint Legacy’s production of Jekyll and Hyde is breathtaking. The production elements, theatricality, and performance levels all combine to create a winning, albeit very grim and dark, offering for this Halloween season. Indeed, I enjoyed the show so much that I already have plans to go back and see the other cast. It is worth the time and ticket price to come see it. However, I recommend leaving the young children at home, as there are a number of graphic murders and some disturbing subject matter and mature themes that might not be appropriate for young or sensitive audiences.