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Theater review: Dark Horse elevates 'Jekyll & Hyde' musical

Published: Monday, Oct. 22 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Daniel T. Simons in the lead role of “Jekyll & Hyde the Musical,” produced by Dark Horse Company Theatre.

Dark Horse Company Theatre

“Jekyll & Hyde the Musical,” Dark Horse Company Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, through Oct. 28, $25-$45, 435-649-9371 or egyptiantheatrecompany.org

PARK CITY — Even if we haven’t read Robert Louis Stevenson’s melodramatic potboiler “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” we all know the basic plot. There have been film versions starring John Barrymore, Fredric March and Spencer Tracy, but the story has also been popularly spoofed — by Sylvester and Tweety, Abbott and Costello (with Boris Karloff!) and most recently, Phineas and Ferb.

In 1997, “Jekyll & Hyde the Musical” opened on Broadway and, like the good-evil duality of the original story, the musical was dismissed as “leaden, solemnly campy” by critics while the show became famous for its legion of repeat visitors, dubbed “Jekkies.” Despite a lengthy four-year run, the show ultimately lost money, to the tune of $1.5 million.

The Dark Horse Company Theatre cast and creative team does its best to elevate the work and deserves credit for a strong effort. Like its smashing “Chicago,” the staging of “Jekyll & Hyde,” under assured direction by Christopher Glade, is a gleaming showcase for its two leading ladies. Composer Frank Wildhorn and book writer-lyricist Leslie Bricusse invented a story of romance, with two female love interests for Dr. Jekyll: “good” society lady Emma Carew and “bad” but scintillating wench Lucy Harris.

Ginger Bess, with a massive singing voice, takes on Lucy, one of the better contemporary roles written for a musical theater damsel in distress. She is stunningly successful. Bess makes the character both sultry and vulnerable. She sizzles in “Bring on the Men” and is touchingly tender in “Someone Like You.” As Emma, Michelle Blake has a sweet singing voice appropriate for an ingénue and has the ability to bring to life the single-dimensional character. The duet “In His Eyes” by Bess and Blake is one of the evening’s highlights.

Two other actors are impressive. Jim Dale as Emma’s father, Sir Danvers Carew, performs a strong “Letting Go,” a duet with Blake. Alisa Harris shows great skill as Lady Beaconsfield, a member of the hospital committee that turns down Jekyll’s request to test a potion he believes would separate the good from the evil.

The transformation of the caring Dr. Henry Jekyll to the murderous Edward Hyde requires great skill, especially when there’s “only a ponytail that separates man from beast” (according to the blistering New York Times review). As Jekyll/Hyde, Daniel T. Simons has a fine singing voice, but the “This Is the Moment” ballad needs near-operatic bravura to prompt audience cheers. As an infamous replacement late in the show’s run, David Hasselhoff played the role, and Simons exceeds the “Baywatch” star’s abilities. His performance is more in the James T. Kirk acting mode. Audiences anticipate the character’s “Alive” to be more frighteningly chilling and the good vs. evil battle in “Confrontation” to be intensely vibrant.

“Jekyll & Hyde” is a behemoth musical, and Dark Horse Company Theatre has musically met many of the daunting challenges the overblown score requires.

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