Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review of Jekyll and Hyde at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California


Although I love the classics I still enjoy getting out to see newer musicals, so it was refreshing to see Jekyll & Hyde at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood this weekend. It is not exactly a new show,though, as it has been around since 1997.

This stage musical is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Using music by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s book, this Tony-nominated musical had its original run on Broadway from 1997 to 2001. You may be familiar with one of its songs, "This is the Moment" which was played a few times at the Olympics. Also, the original run got a lot of press due to some notable cast replacements for Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), including Sebastian Bach from Skid Row and David Hasselhoff. Seriously. Since 2001, there have been a few touring productions, but I never had the opportunity to attend any of them.

To prepare for its Broadway revival in April 2013, Jekyll & Hyde kicked off a 25-week tour in San Diego with 15 stops along the way. The score has been streamlined and the production modernized to appeal to a more widespread audience. The leads include Constantine Maroulis in the title role, with Deborah Cox as Lucy and Teal Wicks performing Emma’s role.

The Pantages is my favorite place in Los Angeles to see a musical show. Parking is easy (easy for Hollywood, anyway), and it is a beautifully restored Art Deco theatre. The venue is laid out well, and there are really not any bad seats. Unlike other recent shows I have been to recently, the crowd was bereft of old folks and little kids. Perhaps the mature subject matter and the dark story drove them away. The show was sold out anyway…

Jekyll & Hyde is a visual treat, thanks to Tobin Ost. The stage was set with lighted margins that could be moved to crop the individual scenes perfectly. They used a limited number of set panels that were moved, turned and angled so that projected images on them could portray different locales, ideas and images. Jeff Croiter’s lighting was neatly accomplished, and overall the sparse scenery was so innovative and efficient that I was blown away.

Besides handling the scenic design, Ost was also in charge of costumes. He captured the spirit of late 19th century London and clothed the diverse cast of characters perfectly. This show included every kind of person from prostitutes to clergy, with plenty of other classes filling the spaces in between.

This production is staffed with a 12-piece orchestra under the direction of Steven Landau, with a few core members that are augmented with local musicians as the tour moves from city to city. They are professionals and with the way they performed the well-written score there was nothing for me to criticize. The overall sound was fine with just a few instances where the singers were too soft, but then again it is really tricky to get a musical like this perfectly mic’d.

The cast for Jekyll & Hyde was well-chosen, with Constantine Maroulis taking the title roles, Deborah Cox playing Lucy the gorgeous prostitute, and Teal Wicks as Jekyll’s fiancĂ©, Emma. All of them are fine singers and good actors, and they were only limited by the material they were asked to perform. The secondary cast of characters were also very good, and the singing ability of the chorus was perhaps the best I have ever seen.

So, everything was in place for this to be a fine show and it was very entertaining, but it could have been so much better if the lyrical content had not been so flat. The songs that Maroulis had to sing had too many words in them so they came off awkwardly. The show tries to convey too many details via song and it became rather muddled, especially during the first act. Had Bricusse used half as many words to tell the story, it would have been so much more effective – it is not like the plot is that complicated. In contrast, the songs that Cox and Wicks sang were so much more simple and beautiful that it was really quite jarring.

I am glad I finally got to see this show, but this very good production could have been perfect with a few re-writes. It is worth seeing just for the opportunity to see Deborah Cox, who stole the show.

Anyway, your chance to see Jekyll & Hyde in Los Angeles has passed, but there will be a few more stops on the tour, including Des Moines and West Palm Beach. And, of course it will be playing Broadway from April 18 to June 30, 2013, at the Marquis Theatre with the same leads. Check it out if you get the chance!

By the way, it was recently announced that Mike Medavoy and Rick Nicita are planning to release a film adaptation of this musical in collaboration with the original authors Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.


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