Constantine Maroulis in \"Jekyll & Hyde\"

Review: Jekyll & Hyde | AT&T Performing Arts Center

Hyde Your Kids, Hyde Your Wife

Frank Wildhorn's musical Jekyll & Hyde is back, starring Constantine Maroulis at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and the result is not unlike a split personality.

published Friday, December 7, 2012

Like its tortured protagonist, the Leslie Bricusse/Frank Wildhom musical Jekyll & Hyde, is full of dual and conflicting identities that are at war with each other. Is it a popera musical, with soaring ballads like "This is the Moment," or is it an R&B/rock-driven musical with songs like "Bring on the Men?" Is the set literal, like the cozy fireplace parlor of Dr. Jekyll or representational, like the gigantic web that ensnares the clients of Spider, who runs the depraved nightclub where women rent their charms?

The story is so well known that the phrase Jekyll and Hyde has come into common usage to describe someone who can be nice at one moment and crabby the next. The original 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was an allegorical story about the good and evil that exists in all of us. Jekyll's serum was meant to banish the evil but, instead, turned it into another personality, Mr. Hyde. The only problem was that being the Victorian-restrained Jekyll couldn't compare to the unrestrained horrors of Hyde and the transformations started happening without the aid of the serum. Finally, killing himself was the only way that Jekyll could rid the world of Hyde. The popular theory is that Stevenson was doing some serious drugs when he wrote it, and that is not too hard to believe.

The show, presented as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Lexus Broadway series, is a revival of the original 1997 musical, currently on a national tour before opening on Broadway in April. The original had a successful, if financially disappointing run on Broadway about four years. This production is under the direction and choreography of Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun, who also directed the current Broadway hit, Newsies.

The duality that is at the core of the show is perfectly illustrated by the music and the casting of the two women in the life of Jekyll/Hyde. His ever-so-sweet and proper fiancée, Emma Carew, is played by the cool and refined Teal Wicks, who has a lovely operatic-style voice. The nightclub singer/prostitute Lucy, is played by the red hot R&B singer Deborah Cox. Emma wears Victorian dresses buttoned up to her chin with a bustle in the back. Lucy wears a bustier with nothing in the back. Lucy puts out. Emma doesn't. No wonder why Hyde hates going back to Jekyll.

As the multi-personality title part, Constantine Maroulis, who received a Best Actor Tony nomination and a Drama League nomination for his performance in Broadway's Rock of Ages, takes the honors. He was a finalist on the fourth season of American Idol. He has a strong baritenor singing voice and serviceable acting chops. A friend said that watching his face through binoculars greatly improved his impression of Maroulis' performance, because you could see every emotion in his face.

For the rest of us, without that close up, his transformation mostly happened in his hair. As Jekyll, he wore a ponytail and as Hyde he let his locks flow like the cover drawing on a lurid romance novel. Of course, there is no way that a stage production can turn the handsome and lithe actor into the misshaped thug that Stevenson describes, with the evil taking on a horrible exterior. Maroulis tries to be shrunken and meek and Jekyll and as big as he can get as Hyde, but the Count Chocula manic laugh is more comical than evil.

The remainders of the cast are all fine in their parts, with Laird Mackintosh as John Utterson and Richard White as Sir Danvers Carew being standouts. One nice touch, that continued the duality concept, was to have David Benoit playing the despicable and hypocritical Bishop and well as the slimy and repulsive Spider. However, all of the other characters are just there to move the creaky plot along, which has no resemblance to the Stevenson novella, and lets the three principals strut their stuff. Diction was generally good, considering the fuzz that amplification always adds. However, the chorus was unintelligible on opening night.

One missed opportunity is in the duet between the two women, "In His Eyes." While this is one of the best numbers in the show, Emma's music is not much different from Lucy's R&B belting as the number rises to his conclusion. Keeping Emma in operatic mode, soaring over Lucy's driven chest voice, would have given us a duet in which the completely opposite personalities of the two women would have offered as stark a musical contrast as the visual one. A good opera composer would have never let such a golden opportunity to write in two styles at once pass by.

The costumes by Tobin Ost do a lot to create the Victorian era. His sets rely on projections and panels that either roll or fly in. Jekyll's laboratory is the only failure. We are so used to seeing mad scientist's labs with all kinds of weird paraphernalia that the simple row of bubbling canisters of liquid, which only change color, seems silly. Also, he transfuses the serum by the unlikely method of sticking a hose from the canisters to a collar and wrist brace.  

In the end, Jekyll and Hyde fails because, like Jekyll himself, it tries to be two things at once. One the one hand, it strives to be the serious Victorian period piece with the heavy and oppressive atmosphere of  a prim old lady's overstuffed drawing room. On the other, it tries to be edgy and cutting edge with opium dream projections and canted set pieces. Jekyll's transformation to Hyde seemed smaller than the switch from Jekyll's parlor to Spider's lair.

◊ Click here to read our Q&A with Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox. Thanks For Reading


Zaphod Beeblebrox writes:
Friday, December 7 at 10:59AM

You were exceedingly kind to this catastrophe.

brian writes:
Friday, December 7 at 3:10PM

Jeykll and Hyde (the original) is my favorite musical. I saw this show last night. This production does the show an injustice. The theater patrons of Dallas deserve better! if you are a fan of the original cast production, if you are fan of Frank Wildhorn music, then SKIP this! it is an epic failure! the show should never go to New York in April. The music is butchered, the actors mumble through their songs without enunciating the words (I think in a effort to be a rock-style musical), pop-style riffs on notes at the end of musical phrasing plays havoc with the original score, and leave the songs without the energy of the original. For a musical whose story is told through song--very little spoken dialogue--I think it would be hard to impossible for someone who hadn't seen the original show to know what is going on. Consequently the character development is non-existent. Little of the conflict and passionate romance between Jeykll and Emma, and Hyde and Lucy, comes through on the stage. It is as if the director didn't know the full depth of the story of the show he was directing.

Walter Sleeth writes:
Thursday, December 13 at 12:09PM

Saw this last night and thought it was absolutely incredible. You could tell the standing ovation and screaming was for real. Constantine Maroulis turned his solo songs into something not to be believed without being there to hear it. He put his heart and soul into his performance, too. The entire show was just wonderful, and I don't know why it is getting such snubs on here. The six people I was with all loved it. We would gladly see it again. Broadway REALLY has a show to look forward to!!

Amy writes:
Monday, December 17 at 8:58AM

I loved it! Constantine completely carried the show and I thought his transitions were incredible. I didn't watch his season on American Idol, so came in with no preconceptions. I actually thought the weak spot was Deborah Cox's performance. I felt like she was more concerned with her vocals than making a case for any possible love Lucy felt for Jekyll.

Pat writes:
Friday, February 1 at 3:41PM

I saw it in Denver and was not expecting to be impressed. It was, in my opinion, sensational. Constantine was sensational!

Kathy writes:
Sunday, April 14 at 2:45PM

Just saw on Broadway and cannot believe a pivitol song from original about evil vs good was taken out which would have developed the lucy connection better,but even more disappointing was how they changed the transformation scene near the end....I have raved tor years how that one song was the most challenging acting role I have seen to this day for a musical part. It didn't need tricks and mirrors...I went with a group of 8...the four of us who had seen before felt jipped Some didn't care because they just love Constantine (I do too but good theatre comes first for me.) There were other director issues but once I knew I wasn't going to see that one scene that drove me to spend the 150 I realized that maybe I remakes of all time favorites are not worth my investment.

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Hyde Your Kids, Hyde Your Wife
Frank Wildhorn's musical Jekyll & Hyde is back, starring Constantine Maroulis at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and the result is not unlike a split personality.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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