Review: Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s Jekyll and Hyde
Every year, when the temperature begins to cool, theatres across the country produce Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde. The show in it’s beginning starred original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder. This time, The Atlanta Lyric Theatre is bringing in the spooky with Jekyll and Hyde now through November 3rd.
Jekyll and Hyde has always had a rough life.
After years of out of town tryouts and developmental readings, Jekyll and Hyde opened on Broadway in 1997. Jekyll is notorious for its incredibly difficult vocal score. So when the Lyric announced they’d been doing the show, I had no choice but to sit and wait for what came next…okay, it was more like casting this show 30 times over in my head, but we’ll say I waited instead.
Before the show, I prepared myself for the book. It’s known for not being the best BUT with the right actors it can work.
So I watched the version that was filmed on Broadway…that was a mistake. When producers see a show might be on its way out, they scramble to find the biggest stars they can to be in the show. Today, for Jekyll and Hyde, the ideal casting would be maybe Ramin Karimloo and Eva Noblezada BUT in 2001… it was David Hasselhoff. If you take a look into the filmed version of the show with “the Hoff” you’ll see what happens when this show isn’t given the tools it needs to succeed.
The Atlanta Lyric production running through November 3rd, falls into the same traps that its Broadway counterpart did. Its book offers next to nothing when it comes to acting. Which means these actors have to REACH into the ether to gather information on these characters and they make do with what they have. Sometimes they find something good and other times we hit the point of “choices for the sake of choices” and get some moments that feel more stylized and elevated than honest storytelling. Which pulls you out of the story and you have to fight to get that suspension of disbelief back.
Now back to this script, it just makes me want to scream WHY!
If anyone can help me understand the relevance of Lucy’s pimp in the show, it’d be helpful. He’s only seen twice in the show, which I understand is to show Lucy’s never had a choice of who she’s going to love but now she’s choosing to love Henry. But that role truly could’ve been cut and replaced with a line to explain all of that.
Another gleaming issue is that not a singular person recognized Jekyll when he’s Hyde including his best friend….how? He watches his BEST friend transform back into himself and then is shocked that they’re the same person. I don’t know about anyone else, but I know what my best friend would look like with a ponytail or his hair down especially when he’s in the same clothes.
The most conflicting moment of the show was Dangerous Game because the voices were there, the acting was there, but in my head, I’m going “Lucy? Babe why are you still there? This man will hurt you. Am I missing something?” Now you can justify her choice to stay in any way you can but that’s on the script. This show’s biggest problem is the show itself.
But this production does shine in one spot, these VOICES.
The women of this show are simply INSANE and can’t be touched. Niki Badua and Maggie Salley are SINGING and giving us ‘versatility the musical’ in these vocals. Niki is serving pure full diaphragm belting with motivated acting beats and sometimes a full split. Maggie Salley is just ridiculous. She can do it all. Maggie will give you a supported and BELTED vocal in footloose, will give you straight storytelling goodness in Songs for a New World, then turn around and deliver a legit and well executed performance in Jekyll and Hyde. My favorite note I took during the show simply says, “SING MAGGIE!”
Vocally, the role of Jekyll/Hyde is a Herculean task. It’s hard score to sing but Chase Peacock is flying through it with grace and ease. Jekyll’s one of those scores that makes you look up in the middle of act one and go “WHOMST is supposed to be singing this eight shows a week?” It’s insane. It’s like Jack Kelly (Newsies) meets Stacee Jaxx (Rock of Ages), it’s a monster but With the most solid breath support I’ve seen onstage and some 4K HD vocals, Chase is doing fine on cloud 9.