Book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, Music by Frank Wildhorn
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Jekyll and Hyde has been told many ways across the years, from the 1886 novella to the 1990 musical by Leslie Bricusse. Its hit song ‘This is the Moment’ has been sung by performers such as Anthony Warlow, Michael Ball and even David Hasselhoff bringing down auditorium after auditorium. Now it’s the Hayes Theatre Company’s moment to put their own spin on the tale of good and evil, and this version is attempting to break free from the straitjacket of the versions that have come before it.
Focusing on the duality between its protagonist/s Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Brendan Maclean), Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn’s music and lyrics tell of the good and evil in society, and ultimately ourselves. After failing to procure bodies through which to practice his experiments on separating the essence of evil from the brain, Dr. Jekyll attempts the experiment on himself with murderous results. The original novella is told through the eyes of Jekyll’s friend and attorney Utterson (Madeleine Jones) and this was an element which director Hayden Tee aimed to emphasise.
Tee’s decision to set this production in a British military mental hospital in 1947 is one that offered visual gifts such as glowing beakers and silhouetted swinging doors, but ultimately didn’t breathe much life into it. Settings such as a glowing rouge-lit brothel or the back alleys of London became lost in the many different changes throughout. Choosing to set this in such a specific setting in time aimed to “examine our future through the lens of the past” but didn’t quite land as impactfully with the dialogue and lyrics of the original material as intended.
Harnessing actor/musicians through this piece added a brilliant contemporary spin and brought a heightened theatricality. Having Mitch Roberts on double bass, Luke Leong-Tay on guitar and cellists Olivia Wilding and Sally Schinckel-Brown on stage along with Musical Director Steven Kramer created a gorgeous soundscape throughout and allowed for consistently interesting visuals.
The Hayes knows how to capture their audience right as they enter through the auditorium doors, and this production was no exception. Set Design by Melanie Liertz harnessed the cold, damp feel of the hospital setting through luminescent blood, shades of green and teal and frosted windows atop the set through which Anthony Pearson’s lighting design brought ominous effect. The potential to create an eery and ghostly atmosphere was established right from the very beginning.
Utilising a diverse cast of performers, there was a range of talent to help elevate Wildhorn’s score with some numbers relying heavily on the talents of the ensemble. Sarah Murr’s ability to belt did not go unnoticed.
Georgina Hopson as Jekyll’s fiancé, Emma Carew, was captivating to watch. Hopson never fails to impress with her vocal range and dedication to whatever character she plays. As the friend and attorney to Jekyll, Jones’ Utterson was a fixed point on which the story hinged at certain points and added a more romantically involved angle to the pair’s relationship. Jones brought a believability to her character which aided in rooting for the protagonist’s complication throughout. Brady Peeti’s Lucy drew some of the loudest applauses for her powerful, skilful rendition of ‘A New Life’ where she showed off her singing chops which swallowed all the empty space in the theatre. Peeti managed to bring a rawness to the lyrics she sung but needed this consistency in her dialogue to make her dramatic arc more impactful.
In the leading role, Maclean pushed himself to his limits when coming to Jekyll and Hyde’s breaking point. His standout moment was ‘Confrontation’ as he used bulging eyes, pulsing veins and some extreme body work to show the inner conflict of his characters. These were traits which would have benefitted from the initial moment of the character’s transformation. The believability that we were watching two different people in one body left us wanting more before this final moment.
Hayes Theatre Company commits to its core values of nourishing diverse talent and establishing new, innovative works in this production. While there are decisions that ultimately don’t soar, there is fun to be had with a contemporary deliverance of the score and strong supporting leads. With some chunky vocals to let your ears feast on, this is a unique approach to the twisted tale of Jekyll and Hyde.
Jekyll and Hyde plays at the Hayes Theatre until the 26th August. Tickets can be booked here.
Director Hayden Tee
Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator Nigel Ubrihien
Musical Director Chris King
Musical Director Steven Kramer
Executive Producers Lisa Campbell and Richard Carroll
Assistant Director & Stage Manager Daniel Cottier
Choreographer Siobhan Ginty
Set Designer Melanie Liertz
Costume Designer Mason Browne
Lighting Designer Anthony Pearson
Sound Designer Paris Daniel
Assistant Stage Manager Nathan Sandy
Starring Melanie Bird, Mitchell Cox, Georgina Hopson, Madeleine Jones, Luke Leong-Tay, Brendan Maclean, Rob McDougall, Sarah Murr, Gus Noakes, Billie Palin, Brady Peeti, Matthew Predny, Mitchell Roberts, and Rutene Spooner
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