Pasadena Theater Company Jekyll & Hyde: The MusicalBy Mari Davis • Nov 11th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Pasadena Theater Company
Abundant Life Church, Glen Burnie, MD
Through November 21st
$20/$15 students and seniors
Reviewed November 6th, 2010
Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical bears little resemblance to its literary origin, but the tale spun from Stevenson’s original story remains a chilling reminder of the depravity in man. Christy Stouffer’s interpretation emphasizes the dark eeriness of Hyde’s ambitions and her creative team has risen to the challenge. Pasadena Theater Company’s production is a titillating production full of ambitious visual effects and musical showmanship.
The set was terrific. It used all of the available space and employed lots of dimension to create interesting visual snapshots (though sometimes it took too long for actors to ascend the stairs). One feature that truly surprised me was the flat that split to reveal Jekyll’s laboratory. Special effects and the use of candles onstage lent another level of “wow” to the whole show. The opening number “Good and Evil” employed a fog machine to create an eerie feel for the entire show. The experiments in Jekyll’s lab bubbled and blew smoke. Together, the set and special effects were a perfect balance of subtle and spellbinding.
With the exception a few Halloween store purchases, the costumes were well done and showed a lot of thought and intention that brought the viewer into the scene. The overall look was evocative of the early 1900s, whether in the bar with the “ladies of the night,” or in the houses of the well-to-do. Not every costume was strictly period, but the stylistic choices made the atmosphere right while creating contrast between scenes. This is especially impressive when considering that there were such divergent lifestyles to show. Like the title characters, the ensemble had to show both the elite façade and the coarse riffraff of London. A few costumes were ill-fitted and unfortunately one of these belonged to Dr. Jekyll’s whose vest pulled in odd ways when he took off his jacket for Mr. Hyde.
Jekyll & Hyde’s musical director, Doug Dawson, found talented musicians for his orchestra. Their blending made them very pleasant to listen to most of the time. Dawson’s vocalists could have used a little more work, though. Barbara Hartzell (Emma Carew) had a lovely operatic voice, but some of her higher notes were completely lost in vibrato. His ensemble was shaky in its harmonies and they occasionally ran away with the tempo, especially on the song “Murder, Murder” at the top of act two. (This problem might have been alleviated had there been an additional monitor placed upstage on the first level.) They were, however, well-rehearsed and musically ambitious.
The show is very specifically set in England, but everyone in the cast had different ideas of what that meant as far as characterization. Some of the noblemen and women created their accent and chose what words to emphasize very well, of special note are E. Lee Nicol (John Utterson), Heidi Toll (Lady Beaconsfield), Tom Rendulic (Sir Danvers Carew) and Timoth David Copney (Simon Stride). Some members of the chorus, most notably Tanya Davis (Nellie) whose lines were both nasal and choppy in delivery, were not solid at all in their Cockney dialect. This dialectical disunity was jarring at points, but not terribly distracting overall.
I have to admit that I was not a fan of this show’s choreography. Certain concepts were interesting, but were not executed with enough precision to be convincing such as the posing movements used in “Murder, Murder” and “Dangerous Game.” “Murder, Murder” also had the cast walking in a long oval spinning open umbrellas at the audience. In my mind I likened it to the treads of a tank and wondered where they were taking me. On the other hand, I loved the realistic choreography and silent acting that was part of “Bring on the Men.”
John Scheeler had some good things going, despite a few musical mishaps, and conveys the emotion of Jekyll very effectively utilizing excellent diction and a cultured English accent. His characterization of Hyde could have used more physical exaggeration, but his vocal delivery was superb. His rapport with his leading ladies was not exceptional, feeling rather stiff and overly choreographed.
Michele Guyton had her own challenges to overcome. An odd hybrid between Aussie, Cockney, and Scottish, her accent was less-than-stellar. Her singing voice, while lovely, was stifled in her throat and pushed from her nose which obliterated the powerhouse she might have been, creating instead a nasal, muted tone that was difficult to hear.
Barbara Hartzell played Jekyll’s fiancée, Emma Carew. Hartzell presented a very sweet and gentle interpretation of Emma that endeared her to the audience. Her chemistry with Scheeler was sublime, making Jekyll’s descent into the whorehouse a harsher blow, realizing that he already had a darker side, despite having such a devoted love. With stunning voice control and flair, her solos and duets were lovely to listen to, though more appropriate for opera than Broadway as some of her higher notes were completely lost in vibrato.
While a bit of a hike from the DC metro area, Pasadena Theater Company’s version of Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical is worth the hike. Despite some “character” flaws, the theatrical showmanship is reminiscent of an off-Broadway production, complete with special effects and pyrotechnics. I would definitely recommend this show to friends, though not for their small children.
The story of Jekyll & Hyde has fascinated readers, theatre patron and moviegoers since Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the original version in 1886, and it has spawned scores of adaptations over the past 100+ years. In fact, the theme of good and evil and the dual nature of mankind is a common theme in writings much older than this story. While the musical version may not have much in common with the original story – there is no love triangle and no women in it at all, no Board of Governors meeting, a different time sequence and only one murder – it remains true to the central theme that “In each of us there are two natures, … good and evil,:” which are eternally struggling.
The history of Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical is a convoluted one that spanned 17 years of development and several tours and workshops before its Broadway debut in 1997. I first fell in love with the musical when I first heard the concept album, released in 1990. The original numbers are both haunting and inspiring, and remain favorites of the show’s many fans. Yet this musical has gone through more rewrites than most on its way to a Broadway stage, with over 60 songs or version of songs written for it at one time or another. Even after the Broadway run, the show went through additional revisions, and there are at lest two “officially sanctioned” scripts currently available. It has evolved into a dark and powerful gothic tale told in almost operatic fashion to one of the most beautiful scores written for the stage. As with Stevenson’s original, it is set in England at the end of the 19th Century, in a time of Victorian mores and bitter class struggles. Yet as the many adaptation of the original have shown, it is a timeless story of the battle that rages within the human soul, and the choices we all have to make. It is for that reason I chose to open our production with the number “Good and Evil,” which appeared in the middle of the Broadway production but was subsequently dropped from the show.
As a director, I became fascinated with the duality in each of the characters, and not just in the title character and the many parallels in the show that are often seen in mirror image, just as we view Jekyll/Hyde. I knew it would take an extraordinary cast and production team to bring this story to life and have been blessed with both. It is a story that speaks to us on many levels, and I am thrilled to have a performance space which permits multiple levels for its staging. My humble thanks go to both PTS C and ALC for entrusting this theatrical gem to me, and to all who worked tirelessly onstage and off, to bring it to life–it truly took a village!
I hope you enjoy it!
- Jekyll/Hyde: John Scheeler
- Emma Carew: Barbara Hartzell
- Lucy: Michele Guyton
- John Utterson: E. Lee Nicol
- Simon Stride: Timoth David Cpney
- Sir Danvers Carew: Tom Rendulic
- Nellie: Tanya Davis
- Poole: Ed Wintermut
- Bishop of Basingstoke: Keith Norris
- Lord Savage: Brian Douglas
- Lady Beaconsfield: Heidi Toll
- Sir Archibald Proops: Greg Guyton
- General Lord Glossop: Kenny Peters
- Spider/Priest: Dean Davis
- Newsboy: Jim Gerhardt
- Ladies of the Night: Bri Everett, Heather Harris, Malarie Novotny, Mary Retort-George, Angela Sullivan
- Townsmen/Sailors/Workers: Darrell Conley, Tom Hartzell, Brandon Hendrickson
- Townswomen: Sandy Boldman, Tammy Hayes, Elizabeth Kanner, Laura Kavinski, Betty Lasner, Holly Mooney, Kristin Rigsby
- Music Director: Doug Dawson
- OrchExtra: Mike Monda
- Bass: Wes Livingston
- Flute: Kathryn Binney
- French Horn: Jessica Kerns
- Director: Christy Stouffer
- Executive Producer (PTC): Sharon Steele
- Producers (ALC): Nate Drye, Tom Rendulic
- Music Director: Doug Dawson
- Rehearsal Accompanist: Mike Monda
- Choreography: Becki Placella, Anwar Thomas, Andre Hinds
- Costumes: Tori Walker, Kristina Green
- Stage Manager: Heather Williams
- Set Design: Walt Morries, Tom Rendulic
- Set Execution: Walt Morries, Al Caldwell, Tom Rendulic, Elizabeth Kanner, Collette Rodrigue
- Set Artists: Jim Zimmerman, Roxanne Zimmerman
- Properties: JoAnn Gidos, Jamison Orsetti
- Special Effects/Pyrotechnics: Mike Gidos
- Fight Choreographer: Geoff Thompson
- Fight Captain: Ruta Kidolis
- Technical Support: Keith Norris
- Lighting Designer: Tim Grieb
- Assistant Lighting Designer: Bart Raeke
- Light Board Operator: Dave Malecki, Al Caldwell
- Sound Engineers: Derrick Hendrickson, Robert Reynolds
- Assistant Sound Engineer: Kriska McCoy
Disclaimer: Pasadena Theater Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5847.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.