Entertainment » Theatre

Jekyll & Hyde

by Will Demers
Contributor
Friday Jan 4, 2013
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Teal Wicks as Emma Carew and Constantine Maroulis
Teal Wicks as Emma Carew and Constantine Maroulis   (Source:Chris Bennion Phot)

A mad scientist, a prostitute, a best friend and a loving fiancée. Throw in a host of seedy characters and a powerful potion that unleashes one’s evil side and you’ve got a dark and unsettling story. "Jekyll & Hyde" began life as a novella by Robert Louis Stevenson about a London doctor who sets out to cure his father’s mental illness.

The tragic results turn our protagonist into a murdering psychotic who runs free through the streets causing mayhem. The musical version began as a concept album in 1990 much like other shows and later launched a national tour eventually landing on Broadway in 1997. The latest production arrives in Providence smack in the middle of a national tour and will debut on Broadway in April of this year.

Tony Award nominee and "American Idol" finalist Constantine Maroulis stars as Henry/Edward alongside Grammy Award nominee and R&B star Deborah Cox as Lucy. Maroulis has the voice to command the showstoppers ("This is the Moment," "Alive") but his English accent was distracting and over-enunciated, and his microphone was perhaps not adjusted properly resulting in crackling and somewhat muffled dialogue. This often made his words difficult to understand.

An imposing figure, he does use his heavy metal rocker hair to full effect during the transformation scenes; in a ponytail for the buttoned up Henry and loose tresses for the wild Hyde sequences. Cox’s Lucy fares better in this production, clearly more at ease in her role. Cox has an unmistakable vocal style honed during her R&B tenure that gives her musical numbers a welcome edgy feel, which works well with this material.

Rounding out the love triangle is Teal Wicks as Emma, Henry’s fiancée. Wicks has fabulous vocal range ("Once upon a Dream," "Take Me As I Am") making her performance one of the best in the show. The supporting cast are clearly veterans and it shows; the rest of the show, however, is not without its problems.

Deborah Cox has an unmistakable vocal style honed during her R&B tenure that gives her musical numbers a welcome egdy feel, which works well with this material.

In a show with many props and set pieces it often can be glaringly obvious when something doesn’t work properly, there were a few such occurrences here. Tobin Ost’s set design is clunky, the monochromatic set pieces work well mainly in Jekyll’s lab scenes and fairly well during the climatic number ("Confrontation") in which our hero has a conversation with his "evil" half.

The special visual effects worked best during this song. Otherwise it was difficult to work out just where the action was supposed to be taking place. Ost is the costume designer as well, and the choice of blacks, grays and lack of bright color is a good one; there is a feel of old black and white horror movies and harkens back to an Old World London.

Director Jeff Calhoun keeps the pace moving along, albeit a bit too quickly. The flow of scenes seemed rushed in certain places and slow in others making the storytelling uneven and confusing. Calhoun’s choreography (he pulls double duty here) is competent with the showstoppers ("Bring on the Men") Lucy and company dance on platforms and chairs amid bordello owner Spider’s "web" and ("Murder") where "dead" members of the cast spring back to life.

"Jekyll" has an impressive musical pedigree, Frank Wildhorn (co-conceiver and music) is a multi-Grammy and Tony award-nominated composer and producer whose works have been performed by such greats as Whitney Houston, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Julie Andrews.

Leslie Bricusse (Book and Lyrics) is a two time Oscar winner and received a Grammy as well for musicals, motion picture scores and screenplays. For this at least, the music is quite memorable.

"Jekyll & Hyde" is playing through Jan. 6 at Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset Street #2 in Providence. For info or tickets call 401-421-ARTS (2787) or visit www.ppac.org.

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