OGDEN — The classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, has been brought to life in many ways and many artistic media. In the 1990’s a musical adaptation entitled Jekyll and Hyde was developed with music by Frank Wildhorn, a book by Leslie Bricusse, and lyrics by Wildhorn, Bricusse, and Steve Cuden. The show retells the story of the experiments of a Dr. Henry Jekyll (played by Landon Horton) as he tries to discover away to chemically isolate the evil out of humanity. In doing so, he discovers the true evil within himself and the havoc that it can create.
Terrace Plaza’s current production of Jekyll and Hyde is directed by Dennis Ferrin, with music direction by Jamie Balaich. One of the best elements of the show overall was the musicality, which was in fact a little surprising. Generally, Jekyll and Hyde is best known for its solos and duets, such as “This is the Moment” (sung masterfully by Horton) and the very popular “Someone Like You” (beautifully performed by Kylee Ogzewalla as Lucy Harris, a young woman who has the misfortune of befriending Dr. Jekyll). Usually the ensemble numbers are less appealing, but Jamie Balaich did an excellent job of working with the chorus to develop intriguing cast numbers; the diction they employed helped me to gain a stronger appreciation for the masterful lyrics in the songs “Façade” and “Murder, Murder.” At one point, Jamie Balaich had the cast perform a reprise of “Façade” completely in whispered tones, and the effect was chilling and mesmerizing.
The cast had some very strong performances, starting with Horton as Jekyll/Hyde. It is a difficult task to gain sympathy from the audience while simultaneously attempting to inspire fear. Horton is excellent at balancing the two, especially in the very complicated number “Confrontation.” The role of Emma Carew (played by Morgan Richards) is another challenging role, because Emma needs to have empathy and kindness shine through the midst of chaos and confusion. Richards was adept at fulfilling both all the emotional demands of the role, and her lovely vocals on the song “Once Upon a Dream” were a strong highlight of the evening. Nicholas Balaich plays Gabriel, a close friend and lawyer to Jekyll, and his presence is strong and solid, keeping a good balance of faith, friendship, and fear.
However, there was within the performance a little too much bitterness and anger from much of the cast that left it more difficult to find the empathy towards the characters in Jekyll and Hyde. For instance, during the song “Pursue the Truth” and subsequent scene the board of governors chooses to not allow Dr. Jekyll to have access to have a patient for research. While the answer is decidedly no, Ferrin’s direction made it appear that the board’s motive was almost complete contempt for Hyde, rather than any value for human life. Because of this choice, I found myself feeling that Dr. Jekyll’s choices were justified, which robbed me of the fear I should feel towards Mr. Hyde.
Costuming, credited to a group of people (Jacci Florence, Jamila Lowe, Tami Richardson, Kathy Blair, Jim Tatton, Stephanie Petersen, Carol Balaich, Penny Hepworth, and Tara Payne) was a technical strength of the production. I really enjoyed the costumes that the male cast wore, as it is often that more attention is paid to the female costuming. The suites, hats, canes, and other props were very fitting for the time period of the story and added nicely to the aesthetics of the show. Surprisingly, the set design, also by Ferrin, was minimal and while effective. Yet, I wished a little more detail had been used especially in the laboratory. Finally, lighting, designed by Don Wilhelm, was a very important part of this production. A show that explores the relationship between light and dark is well served by careful lighting design that considers the elements of light and how they can tell a story. Because the same actor portrays both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the importance of having lighting differences can not be overstated. Wilhelm did a fine job of utilizing the resources of the theatre to allow the lighting to be an integral part of the story.
Overall, this production of Jekyll & Hyde is a good choice for the Halloween season. But more than providing chills, the show is an honest and slightly chilling look at the nature of good and evil that will enlighten many audience members.