Eye on Theatre – Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical By John Simon

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Simon_John The theater has always depended on both artists and journeymen. Genuine artists are few and far between, and would not be sufficient to keep the theater going. That is where the journeymen come in, and the smarter ones do manage to fill the gap. And so we have Frank Wildhorn and his musicals, of which Jekyll & Hyde is by far the most successful.



JekyllandHyde-Trio-Jennifer Babiak (Emma Carew), Xander Chauncey (Dr. Henry Jekyll) And Michelle Dawson (Lucy) in JEKYLL & HYDE Jennifer Babiak (Emma Carew), Xander Chauncey (Dr. Henry Jekyll) And Michelle Dawson (Lucy) in Jekyll & Hyde.

Do not look in the show for more than the basic idea of JekyllandHyde-Hyde_&_Lucy Michelle Dawson (as Lucy) and Xander Chauncey (as Mr. Hyde) perform "Dangerous Games" in Jekyll & Hyde.

As Bricusse tells it, JekyllandHyde_lab_bottle

Xander Chauncey (as Dr Henry Jekyll) Performs "This Is The Moment" in Jekyll & Hyde.

He proceeds on his own, and does so well that he can change himself into a monstrous alter ego he names Hyde, and back again at will. Jekyll has a sweet fiancée named Emma Carew; Hyde has a touching prostitute mistress, Lucy. He becomes a serial killer, offing the various, admittedly antipathetic, board members. There is much more, but that you will have to check out for yourselves.

In this serial-murder-infested London story there is a certain similarity to Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, but there is also the difference between art and commercial viability. That, though, does not mean that Jekyll & Hyde is lacking in interest. After all, the more than 250,000 copies sold of the show’s pre-released recording, and the 1,543 Broadway performances that stretched to nearly four years starting in April 1997,     attest to the show’s appeal.

JekyllandHyde_Can_Can The cast of Jekyll & Hyde perform "Bring On The Men."

Appeal to whom? You may well ask. First of all, to young people, whose attendance the theater desperately needs and solicits. Sure enough, the show garnered oodles of so-called Jekkies, who attended the show over and over again, in some cases a spectacular number of times. Moreover, not all of them were young; the musical has some old-fashioned virtues whose current rarity works in its favor with older people.

First, the story has the appeal of horror movies, which nowadays seem as popular as ever. Next, Wildhorn’s music, however conventional, is serviceable enough to have generated such hummable numbers as “Lost in the Darkness,” “Take Me as I Am,” “A New Life,” “Once Upon a Dream,” “Someone Like You,” as well as the mega-hit “This Is the Moment,” whose moment doesn’t seem to end. It enjoys huge popularity among music teachers and students, and is a favorite audition piece among singing actors.

JekyllandHyde_Emma_&_Jekyll Jennifer Babiak (Emma Carew, Xander Chauncey (Dr. Henry Jekyll).

Furthermore, when the show is as well directed as it is in the current revival by Robert Cuccioli, who created the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway, it has considerable action-grabbing impact.  And when the cast is as apt as it is now. At the time I attended even an understudy managed to give a winning performance; the impact never flags.

Michelle Dawson (Lucy) and Xander Chauncey (Hyde) and the Ensemble Perform "Façade."

JekyllandHyde_Group_in_street There is fine work by the electrifying Xander Chauncey in the dual lead, Tom Galantich as Jekyll's lawyer and faithful friend, Jennifer Babiak as the understanding fiancee, and James Van Treuren  as her shocked father, with staunch support from everyone else. Although Michelle Dawson had quit as Lucy, her temporary replacement, Jane Bunting, acquitted herself, as noted, convincingly.  

The Ensemble of Jekyll & Hyde perform "Murder." JekyllandHyde_Murder

Add to this the gracious hospitality of the people at Westchester Broadway Theatre, the attractiveness and comfort of the premises, the excellent sightlines and acoustics, the tastiness of the dinners served, and you can have yourself a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The show certainly brings out the sympathetic Jekyll in you, and sends whatever surly and uncouth Hyde you may also harbor, if not out of existence, definitely into deeper hiding.

Xander Chauncey as Mr. Hyde.

JekyllandHyde_Hyde_transformation

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical

Westchester Broadway Theatre

One Broadway Plaza, Elmsford, NY 10523

Box Office: (914) 592-2268

www.broadwaytheatre.com

John Simon has written for over 50 years on theatre, film, literature, music and fine arts for the Hudson Review, New Leader, New Criterion, National Review, New York Magazine, Opera News, Weekly Standard, Broadway.com and Bloomberg News. He reviews books for the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post. He has written profiles for Vogue, Town and Country, Departures and Connoisseur and produced 17 books of collected writings. Mr. Simon holds a PhD from Harvard University in Comparative Literature and has taught at MIT, Harvard University, Bard College and Marymount Manhattan College. To learn more, visit the JohnSimon-Uncensored.com website.

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eHeziEye on Theatre – Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical By John Simon

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