×

Jekyll & Hyde

A string of bravura songs and borrowed staging ideas do not a successful musical make. But they may be more than enough for a profitable tour.

With:
Cast: Robert Cuccioli (Jekyll/Hyde), Lisa Carew (Christiane Noll), Linda Eder (Lucy Harris), Gabriel John Utterson (Philip Hoffman), Martin van Treuren (Sir Danvers Carew/Spider), Dave Clemmons (Bishop of Basingstoke), William Thomas Evans (Sir Archibald Proops), Bob Wrenn (General Lord Glossop), Brad Oscar (Lord Savage/Poole), Sandy Rosenberg (Lady Beaconfield), Ray McLeod (Simon Stride); Nita Moore, Melissa Bell, Michelle Malardi, Julie Hughes, Lenny Daniel, Josh Rhodes, Heather Douglas, David Roberts, Allyson Tucker, Andie Mellom.

A string of bravura songs and borrowed staging ideas do not a successful musical make. But they may be more than enough for a profitable tour.

A musical adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson 1886 novella, “Jekyll & Hyde” came to life five years ago at Houston’s Alley Theater on the heels of composer Frank Wildhorn’s self-produced concept album. After several Broadway producing teams failed to move it, the show got a boost from a second concept album, this time a double CD that garnered airplay and Olympic anthem status. The 34-week Broadway-tryout tour opened in Dallas.

As a Gothic thriller, patently in the “Phantom” mode, it’s a crowd-pleaser, particularly in the cast’s awesome singing. But Wildhorn, writer-lyricist Leslie Bricusse and Alley director Gregory Boyd have reworked extensively Stevenson’s split-personality horror story into a gloomy wannabe epic and melodrama-fantasia on the themes of hypocrisy and duality. The result is that we don’t care much about the principals until well into the second act of this overlong opus.

Popular on Variety

Creatives have added a double love interest — both stock characters. Jekyll (Robert Cuccioli), the proper doctor, is engaged to Lisa (Christiane Noll), the good daughter of Jekyll’s hospital boss. After the board rejects his good-vs.-evil research proposal, Jekyll frequents a canned Victorian version of the Kit Kat Klub, complete with dancing hookers, one of whom (Linda Eder) he befriends. Emboldened by her Sally Bowles-ish sauciness, he decides to test his formula on himself.

In Stevenson’s story, Hyde trampled a child and murdered an innocent man — for no reason. Here, he vengefully heads after Jekyll’s enemies on the hospital board. But they’re hypocrites and comic grotesques, killed off with bits of ghoulish humor. In effect, they deserve what they get. This might implicate the audience in Hyde’s evil, but nothing is made of it. It’s only when Hyde threatens Jekyll’s happiness toward the end that anything’s at stake. As it is, the first act feels static, another case of an upper-class Brit going slumming.

As a composer, Wildhorn will be compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber, but where Lloyd Webber came out of British art rock with its pop playfulness and classical pretensions, Wildhorn’s music recalls formula rockmeisters like Styx or Toto and pop ballad-belters like Whitney Houston. Other than a waltz and a requiem, what we get are big, soaring, hook-filled anthems belted by leather-lunged singers. In short, this may be the first “adult contemporary” musical.

In addition to “Phantom” and “Cabaret,” the show recalls “Sweeney Todd” in its metallic set and its attempts at social comment — with opening number “Facade” heavily underlining Victorian hypocrisy. Boyd, in particular, seems to have “Sweeney” in mind. Yet curiously, “Sweeney” choreographer Larry Fuller has little to do, and most of it not that exciting. Even the Kit Kat dance number “Bring on the Men” (whose melody recalls “Those Were the Days”) doesn’t relieve the first-act stasis.

It’s typical of the show’s split personality that its big hit, “This Is the Moment,” is a classic declaration of heroic pop ego — sung while Jekyll is going to take his medicine. That is, “the greatest moment of them all” is the doctor’s decision to self-destruct. Yet the number is presented utterly without irony or foreshadowing. It’s as if a singer belted “My Way” while shooting up smack. Add Bricusse’s generic lyrics, and the score at times like this seems perfectly detachable from characters and action.

Boyd was smart not to try any big-monster-makeup transformation. Cuccioli mostly messes up his long hair and shifts from the earnest-tenor to the growling-baritone end of his impressive range. But the special effects do give him a possible musical first: He duets with himself as both characters.

As for leading lady Eder, she shows little thesp or terpsichorean ability, but no one notices as long as her mouth is open. The 12-time “Star Search” winner has a stunning, show-stopping voice. The show’s muddle and bombast don’t seem to bother audiences: She has them on their feet.

Songs were dropped and rear-ranged in Dallas. A menacing pimp named Spider appears and is left undeveloped. The show was still being worked on, and needed it. “Jekyll & Hyde” may be a hit on tour, but in New York, it’s liable to get its throat cut.

Jekyll & Hyde

Fair Park Music Hall, Dallas; 3,420 seats; $ 45 top

Production: A PACE Theatrical Group, Fox Theatricals and Jerry Frankel presentation of the Alley Theater, 5th Avenue Musical Theater and Theater Under the Stars production of a musical in two acts with music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn, from the novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Directed by Gregory Boyd.

Creative: Choreography, Larry Fuller , musical direction, Jeremy Roberts; orchestrations, Kim Scharnberg; vocal arrangements, Jason Howland and Frank Wildhorn. Set, Vince Mountain; costumes, Johnathan Bixby; lighting, Howell Binkley; sound, Karl Richardson and Scott Stauffer; special effects, Gregory Meeh; hair, Jeffery Frank; production stage manager, Michael McEowen; general management, Niko Associates; casting, Julie Hughes, Barry Moss. Opened Aug. 10, 1995. Reviewed Aug. 10. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.
Musical numbers: "Facade," "Board of Governors," "Take Me As I Am," "Bring on the Men," "This Is the Moment," "Alive!," "His Work -- and Nothing More," "Someone Like You," "Murder, Murder," "Once Upon a Dream," "In His Eyes," "Girls of the Night," "It's a Dangerous Game," "A New Life," "Confrontation."

Cast: Cast: Robert Cuccioli (Jekyll/Hyde), Lisa Carew (Christiane Noll), Linda Eder (Lucy Harris), Gabriel John Utterson (Philip Hoffman), Martin van Treuren (Sir Danvers Carew/Spider), Dave Clemmons (Bishop of Basingstoke), William Thomas Evans (Sir Archibald Proops), Bob Wrenn (General Lord Glossop), Brad Oscar (Lord Savage/Poole), Sandy Rosenberg (Lady Beaconfield), Ray McLeod (Simon Stride); Nita Moore, Melissa Bell, Michelle Malardi, Julie Hughes, Lenny Daniel, Josh Rhodes, Heather Douglas, David Roberts, Allyson Tucker, Andie Mellom.

More Legit

  • Grand Horizons review

    'Grand Horizons': Theater Review

    Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one, as you surely must have: A nice, all-American family is in the process of breaking up and trying to make this sad state of affairs seem funny in Bess Wohl’s Broadway outing “Grand Horizons.” After 50 years of marriage, Nancy (the ever-elegant Jane Alexander) and Bill (the [...]

  • Uncle Vanya review

    'Uncle Vanya': Theater Review

    Director Ian Rickson has had success with Chekhov in the past. His exquisitely balanced, tragicomic production of “The Seagull” (2007 in London, 2008 on Broadway) was well-nigh flawless with, among others, Kristin Scott Thomas as painfully vulnerable as she was startlingly funny. Sadly, with his production of “Uncle Vanya,” despite felicities in the casting, lightning [...]

  • The Welkin review

    'The Welkin': Theater Review

    A life hanging perilously in the balance of charged-up, polarized opinions: This courtroom drama could easily have been titled “Twelve Angry Women.” But playwright Lucy Kirkwood (“Chimerica,” “The Children”) is far too strong and imaginative a writer for so hand-me-down a cliché. Instead she opts for “The Welkin,” an old English term for the vault [...]

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content