Theater Review: Jekyll & Hyde

Ealasaid/ September 17, 1999/ Movie Reviews and Features

Originally written for The Occidental.

Jekyll & Hyde, the hit musical currently in its third year on Broadway, has finally arrived in Los Angeles, where it is playing a special limited two-week engagement at the Pantages Theatre.
Like its title character (or rather, characters), Jekyll & Hyde has two sides: one is a brilliant, talent-filled musical; the other a repetition of the same tired cliches we see in every Disney movie and cheesy musical again and again.
The primary flaw is the romantic relationship between Dr. Henry Jekyll (Chuck Wagner) and his betrothed, Emma Carew (Andrea Rivette). While both actors are excellent in the roles, and the romance is somewhat believable, a too much time is spent on it, while the restless audience waits for the adventure to start. Many of the musical numbers are full of the same verbal and instrumental cliches we’ve heard before, and they sound particularly weak after the fantastic songs littered through the show (more on them in a moment). More subtle, but far worse for fans of the original work, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is the altering of Hyde himself; he has gone from being a merciless murderer and rapist to an altruistic killer, who murders the rich hypocrites in the cast and gives their finery away to nearby beggars.
Luckily, as mentioned, there is a metaphorical Jekyll to the Hyde of this show’s faults. To begin with, the actors are a delight. Wagner is absolutely brilliant in the title roles, which he plays without any change in makeup or (for the most part) clothing. He is able to create the two separate facets of the man with little more than radical changes in body language and voice, and switches effortlessly between the two – even during the climactic confrontation between the personalities, when Jekyll and Hyde sing a duet. As Lucy, the object of Hyde’s rather dangerous affections, Sharon Brown manages to step just outside the role of prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold, and is able to show off her amazing voice. Rivette, though given a rather one-dimensional character to work with, sings beautifully, and holds the stage well against Wagner. Hyde, though not as menacing as in the original story, has a delicious sense of humor, and Wagner seems to enjoy himself in the role as much as the audience enjoyed watching him.
So, what is the bottom line? Jekyll & Hyde is not perfect, but the parts of it which are brilliant make up for the parts which are lacking. It is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend one’s evening, particularly if you can get student rush tickets.

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