Our Review of TUTS ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

11 Oct

By JOHN DeMERS

In more ways than one, each generation gets the musical it deserves. And in the case of better, more successful musicals that take on a certain iconic status, that could mean a fall from grace, for a while or forever. For a wandering, never-quite-there musical like Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll & Hyde, however, that might mean showing up as one thing the first time and coming back later as something else.

Thus we have the latest edition, built around handsome American Idol runner-up Constantine Maroulis, now on display at the Hobby Center via Theatre Under The Stars. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson may be one of the greatest stories ever told. But this is far, far from one of the greatest musicals ever heard.  

Yes, the show has two significant female roles – the strumpet Lucy played by Deborah Cox and the nice girl Emma played by Teal Wicks (yet another duality!) – but the evening belongs to Maroulis. After all, he gets to sing the best song, “This Is the Moment,” and he gets to have the most fun running, jumping, swaggering and snarling. His acting, in fact, is quite persuasive as the now-famous dual sides of a single personality. Maroulis plays the soft-spoken London doctor perfectly well, but then does even better as the leering Troy Polamalu of a big-hair Mr. Hyde.

The trouble with this role, however, is the trouble with the entire show: it’s one breathy showstopper after another, except that some of Wildhorn’s songs couldn’t stop a Slinky. Nothing is merely pretty, nothing is merely funny, nothing is merely useful; each time Maroulis opens his mouth, he’s screaming and shouting for the top of the Hit Parade. With his high-pitched, high-volume rock voice, the whole thing ends up being “Guy Songs” by somebody like Andrew Lloyd Webber, as sung by somebody like Aerosmith’s Stephen Tyler. 

Sadly, the girls have it even worse. Any one of their songs could be a hit – and indeed several have been, in the distant past, for the original Lucy, Linda Eder. Songs like “Someone Like You,” “Once Upon a Dream,” “In His Eyes” and “A New Life” are all cut from the same cloth as “Defying Gravity” in Wicked – big and belty, with a huge finish full of loud drums. Truth is, in a good show, there’s only room for one “Defying Gravity,” and it had better be at the end of Act I. Despite the efforts of Cox and Wicks, Jekyll & Hyde ends up being an album of different people singing pretty much the same song.

Like everything else by Wildhorn, this “new concept” of the show is eternally on its way to Broadway, and it does have some things to recommend it. There are plenty of projections, for instance; and while they may remind some of this composer’s awful Civil War that played the Alley (scruffy boys in blue and gray singing for hours in front of a Mathew Brady slide show), they are often quite effective. Stage director Jeff Calhoun – who did such a great job with Deaf West’s production of Big River – has an impressive set and much stage business to be proud of. In the end, however, this generation’s Jekyll & Hyde is another episode of American Idol. It’s cocky, contrived and conceited, every song pretending it’s the greatest moment of them all.

Photo: Deborah Cox and Co. sing ‘Bring on the Men’

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3 Responses to “Our Review of TUTS ‘Jekyll & Hyde’”

  1. mims carey October 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Did this critic even see Wicked? There are more great songs besides “Defying Gravity!” And Jekyll and Hyde is a musical. So… there should be one good song and the rest should be something else? Jekyll and Hyde has some great music in it and the songs do NOT all sound alike. The good thing about reading this review is knowing that the very happy audiences who have been free with their standing ovations and praise do not care what the “critics” say.

    • John DeMers October 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks for expressing your opinion. This critic – a.k.a., I – DID indeed see “Wicked. And Wicked is the perfect of example of everything “Jekyll & Hyde” is not, with its rich, multi-layered characters and wide array of song styles that advance the story and reveal character. I wouldn’t be surprised if as many people leave “Wicked” singing “Popular” as “Defying Gravity.” Musicals need many songs, many sounds and many emotions – going back bto Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and of course Rodgers and Hammerstein, not one. No one should ever “care” what the citics say enough to not like something they like, and yes, “J&H” has a long history of being hated by critics and loved by many in the audience. Nothing strange about that, really. Fact is I not only saw “Wicked” but I saw and loved “J&H” many years ago starring Robert Cuccioli. You wanna see what we were all missing last night, check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ5iKRpE41E

  2. Abby October 21, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    This is a great review. I saw the show a few nights ago front row, and, at intermission, all I could say was “that was intense.” I felt almost too visually stimulated and,musically, everything was over the top. I must admit I enjoyed every minute of the Electric guitar and power filled voices, but if there is something to critique I suppose this is it.

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