Monday, July 09, 2007

Jekyll & Hyde

‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ a must see at BECK! Yes, a MUST SEE!

Beck Center’s ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ is a must see!

‘JEKYLL & HYDE’ is a musical based on the novel, “THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The show opens with Jekyll saying, "In each of us there are two natures. If this primitive duality of man: good and evil, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that is unbearable. It is the curse of mankind that these polar twins should be constantly struggling."

The play centers on Dr. Jekyll’s experimentation with a drug that he perceives will free patients from mental anguish. Since he cannot get funding for human subjects to experiment upon, he tests the potion on himself, thus releasing his evil alter ego.

The original novel’s vivid portrayal of the psychopathology of a split personality is credited with allowing mainstream society to identify the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" as bipolar behavior.

The musical’s original script conception was by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. The music was composed by Wildhorn and the lyrics written by Leslie Bricusse (‘STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF’).

The show went through numerous rewrites in order to try to develop a clear voice. Many songs were added and dropped from the original concept and the story adjusted as the show went through many staged readings, recordings and two national tours before its Big Apple appearance. Eventually, ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ opened on Broadway in April, 1997. It ran for 1,543 performances, thanks to self-dubbed “Jekkies,” who saw the show over-and-over and created an online discussion group and role-playing games based on the show in order to counter numerous negative reviews.

One such review stated, “the show was overwhelmed by a muddy story adaptation, transparent lyrics and a forgettable, old-fashioned score. Lacking a point of view, or even accessible characters, the show is cold. When Hyde goes on a killing spree in a musical montage the number becomes bizarrely comic. In a tale of good and evil, there’s a problem when murders elicit a giggle.” In a year of virtually no competition, ‘JEKYLL & HYDE’ was not even nominated in the best musical category for a Tony Award.

With that background, how can I enthusiastically state that the Beck production is a must see? The answer: Director Scott Spence, choreographer Martin Cespedes, musical director Larry Goodpaster and a marvelous cast, have taken a problematic play and made it into a gem. An absolute gem!

Spence has a clear vision for the show. He envelops his audience in the power of Stevenson’s original concept. He is blessed with the talented Dan Folino portraying both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Folino gives a tour-de-force performance. His singing is enthralling, his acting compelling. The portrayal is perfectly nuanced. especially his consistent obsessive compulsive mannerisms, which do much to separate Jekyll from Hyde. His vocal presentations of “I Need to Know,” “Take Me As I Am” (sung with Maggie Stahl), ”This is the Moment,” and “Confrontation” were brilliant.

Furthering the excitement of the show are the glorious voices of Maggie Stahl (Lisa Carew, Jekyll’s fiancé) and Amiee Collier (Lucy Harris, a prostitute befriended by Jekyll and bedded by Hyde.) The duo were compelling in “In His Eyes.” Collier’s renditions of “Someone Like You” and “A New Life”were captivating.

Dana Hart (Sir Danvers Carew, Lisa’s father) and Ian Atwood (John Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer) also have excellent singing voices and developed clear characterizations. The choral sounds are lyrical and except for a male chorus member who upstaged others by his overly affected gestures and constantly looking at the audience instead of concentrating on the stage action, the interactions of the supporting cast helped create a proper tone.

The full-voiced orchestra (musical direction by Larry Goodpaster) and the choreography (another gem of a conception by Martin Cespedes) added to the over-all positive effect.

Don McBride’s set, Alison Garrigan’s costumes and Trad Burns lighting also greatly helped. The only technical flaw were the finicky microphones that didn’t consistently work and the overly loud volume when they did. (Oh for the days when shows were not miked and the performers were required to project on their own. This cast might have done well without the electrical help.)

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: A standing “O” for Scott Spence, Dan Folino and the cast and crew of ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE.’ Please, you of the Cleveland area, support this production. It deserves full houses every night!