Kensington Arts Theatre Jekyll & HydeBy Bob Ashby • May 23rd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Kensington Arts Theatre
Kensington Town Hall, Kensington, MD
Through May 28th
2:35 with one intermission
$20/$17 Seniors and Students/$13 Kensington Residents
Reviewed May 21st, 2011
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Lamont Cranston apparently being unavailable, Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn took a walk on the melodramatic side of evil in their heavily embellished 1990s musical version of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Set in Victorian London, the show traces the transformation of the arrogantly idealistic Dr. Henry Jekyll into the serial killer Edward Hyde by means of an ill-conceived experimental potion.
In Ryan Burke’s portrayal in the Kensington Arts Theater’s (KAT) production, Hyde’s evil is represented by a black cape, extensive growling, and some really bad hair days. In the style of melodrama, the transitions between Burke’s twin characters are accomplished using broad physicality, with much spasmodic jerking about the stage, nearly to the point of unintended comedy. In fairness to Burke and the other actors, it should be noted that Jeykll/Hyde and the show’s other roles are drawn in unsubtle, comic book-like strokes, providing precious little grist for characterization beyond the level of types.
Vocally, Jekyll/Hyde is a lengthy and demanding role, and Burke is well up to the task. The same can be said of Emily Karol as Emma Carew, Jekyll’s sweetly caring fiancée, and Carly Neely as Lucy Harris, a curvy hooker with the requisite heart of gold who loves Jekyll for his kindness but, at least in the “Dangerous Game” number, is drawn, almost against her will, to Hyde’s bad boy abusive sexuality. All three are excellent singers who perform multiple audience-pleasing ballads, conveying the often-overwrought emotions the songs demand. Like the large and energetic ensemble, they manage the impressive feat of delivering Bricusse and Wildhorn’s repetitive and superlatively clunky lyrics with a straight face. The rhymes often seem pulled from the first entry the writers found in a rhyming dictionary, leading to gems like “Fools, fools, with your goddamned rules” and (my personal favorite) “To kill in front of St. Paul’s, it really takes balls.”
When the audience enters, they see a stage with red and black flats bathed in red light, with fog flowing from vents on the stage floor. This initial picture, and the lighting design generally, effectively set the ominous tone of the show. Strong green light in some scenes was especially striking. With the exception of a few men’s undershirts that seemed to belong in a street scene from the Godfather movies and outfits for some of the Red Rat Bar denizens that could have been further developed to be more flattering to the women involved, the costumes worked well for the period and characters. The balance between the eight-piece band and the singers was well maintained, though the volume level for the principals – some of whom wore their body mikes perched curiously in the middle of their foreheads — was unnecessarily high at times, leading to occasional feedback issues.
Jekyll and Hyde is a large-scale show that yearns to be taken seriously concerning large- scale themes of good and evil. KAT’s production is stronger than the material, and the audience, including a larger percentage of younger members than many community theater audiences, responded enthusiastically. If you are looking for theater that addresses matters of good and evil thoughtfully and powerfully, though, in a way that fully engages your mind and heart, you will do better to see anything from Othello to Sweeney Todd to The Laramie Project. For all of Jekyll and Hyde‘s talk about the duality of good and evil in all of us, chortling, bestial, chemically-induced villainy, however well performed, does not begin to touch the depths of what human beings can do to themselves and others.
Photos by Ernie Achenbach
- Gabriel John Utterson: Philip McLeod
- Sir Danvers Carew: Gary Fackenthall (Greg Mangiapane u/s)
- Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde: Ryan Burke
- Lady Proops: BJ Bergman Angstadt
- Lord Savage: Gregory M. Mangipane
- General Lord Glossop: Joe Cannon
- Lady Beaconsfield: Karen Plummer
- The Bishop of Basingstoke: Geoffrey Baskir
- Simon Stride: Aaron Burke
- Nellie: Cara Pellegrino
- Emma Carew: Emily Karol
- The Spider: Ebenezer Concepcion
- Guinevere: Erin Branigan
- Lucy Harris: Carly Neely (Cara Pellegrino u/s)
- Red Rat Performer 1: Justine Lore
- Red Rat Performer 2: Morgan Fannon
- Poole: Gregory M. Mangipane
- Bissett: Dean Reichard
- Minister: Joe Cannon
- Ensemble: Allie Brannigan, Erin Brannigan, Tim Evans, Morgan Fannon, Justine Lore, Owen McKain, Dean Reichard
- Producer: Kevin Garrett
- Director: Darnell Morris
- Asst. Director: Mary Thrope
- Music Directors: Mayumi Baker, Valerie A. Higgs
- Stage Manager: John Nunemaker
- Scenic Design: Darnell Morris
- Master Carpenters: Joel Richon, Mike Ricci
- Scenic Painting Design: Darnell Morris, Anna Britton
- Construction/Painting Crew: Mike Ricci, Joel Richon, Ed Eggleston, Nancy Davis, Joy Winn, Nicole Jaja, Kevin Garrett, Bruce Angstadt, Lenora Spahn, Craig Pettinati, Anna Britton, Lois Britton, Rebecca Mayerson
- Properties: Malca Giblin, Brian Dettling
- Scenic Decoration: Malca Biblin
- Lighting Design: Ben Levine
- Lighting Execution: Lenora Spahn
- Sound Design: Kevin Garrett
- Sound Execution: Mike Ricci, Kevin Garrett
- Costume Design: Eleanor Dicks
- Special Effects: John Decker, Jon Markland
- Makeup/Hair Design: Darnell Morris, Lenora Spahn, the Cast
- Stage Crew: Bruce Angstadt
- Program Cover/Photography: Ernie Achenbach
- Program Design/House Manager: Doe B. Kim
Disclaimer: Kensington Arts Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6865.
Bob Ashby has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.