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Theater Review: 'Jekyll & Hyde' At The Pantages

Sara Itkis |
February 21, 2013 | 1:19 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter


Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox in "Jekyll & Hyde." Photo by Chris Bennion.
Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox in "Jekyll & Hyde." Photo by Chris Bennion.

“The Musical”: Not particularly the phrase one would expect to follow a title like “Jekyll & Hyde.” Yes, this is indeed a musical based on the tale first invented by Robert Louis Stevenson in his 1886 novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” In its national tour, presumably preceeding a Broadway transfer, this production, directed by Jeff Calhoun, the classic horror paradigm is transformed into a melodramatic spectacle that rushes comically towards its inevitable descent into evil. 

As the story goes, gentleman and scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis) conducts research into the topic that most fascinates him: that of the conflict between good and evil within man. For lack of a subject for his experiments, Jekyll determines to perform them upon himself, resulting in a split personality. From the good Dr. Jekyll, there emerges an evil, selfish, lusting Mr. Edward Hyde, who prowls through London, murdering members of the upper class, abusing members of the lower class, and mistreating all of Jekyll’s friends. The different facets of the doctor are further expressed through his choices in women. The good Dr. Jekyll is engaged to the angelic Emma (Teal Wicks), while the hideous Mr. Hyde carries on a promiscuous and abusive relationship with Lucy (Deborah Cox), a prostitute. The two men are locked in conflict, representing the battle between good and evil that deepens the human condition. 

It is a profound subject, and one that has resounded throughout countless generations of storytelling. However, its musical manifestation (music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics and book by Leslie Bricusse) doesn't quite hit the nail on the head—though not for lack of enthusiastic hammering. The musical numbers, which resemble the sound of rock opera, are impressive vocally but lack direction and emotional impact. This is mostly due to the vague, cliched lyrics, but also, in part, to the performances. Both Constantine Maroulis, with his "American Idol" background, and Deborah Cox, with her R&B fame, sing spectacularly. Maroulis's 70's rock-star voice underwhelms when singing softly, but will take you off your guard as it hits peak after peak—much in the spirit of the generally soft-spoken Dr. Jekyll himself. Cox's sultry voice is a refreshing contrast with the usual operatic sound, especially with Wicks' beautiful soprano. The rest of the ensemble equally exceed expectations; however, for all their success in singing, they lack acting abilities. Cox's atrocious Cockney accent disappears sporadically, while Jekyll's friend, Utterson (Laird Mackintosh), maintains roughly one tone of voice throughout the show. There is a sense of anticipation on the cast's part, particularly in the moment Jekyll takes the first step towards evil, as the entire cast assumes the worst.... And the rest is melodrama.

Deborah Cox in "Jekyll & Hyde." Photo by Chris Bennion
Deborah Cox in "Jekyll & Hyde." Photo by Chris Bennion

The set design (by Tobin Ost) is, accordingly, grand and complex, including stage-wide spider-like webs, a rising laboratory with neon-colored test tubes, and London streets that echo the German Expressionist look of the original film. It is an impressive and diverse set, which is rounded out nicely with the creative lighting, designed by Jeff Croiter. But it is all pushed too far when the corny, extravagant projections (by Daniel Brodie) are added to the mix. 

As a show with music and fun visual distractions, “Jekyll & Hyde” fills the bill. As a horror musical, it is not worthy of the Pantages and certainly not worthy of Broadway. When the audience should be shivering and filled with terror, they are instead left to wonder how exactly Hyde represents all evil within mankind. Besides speaking in a softer voice and having somewhat kinky interactions with Lucy, Hyde does little to surprise or shock—even the murders he commits are underwhelming, rushed, and anticlimactic. Then, when these vague portrayals of evil are met with horrified proclamations of impending doom from supporting characters, one cannot help but wonder when the show will be over.

Contact staff reporter Sara Itkis here.

"Jekyll & Hyde" is playing at the Pantages Theatre (6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA) through March 3. Tickets are $25-$125. More information can be found at BroadwayLA.org.



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