It’s been a while since Denver had a taste of the mad science inherent in Jekyll & Hyde, the killer musical perhaps more suited to Halloween than the advent of spring. It is now back at The Buell Theatre, better than ever, and drumming up a few extra chills before the imminent demise of winter.
One of New York’s enduring hits, Jekyll & Hyde, which features a book and lyrics by two-time Academy Award-winning lyricist Leslie Bricusse and a score by Grammy Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn, is based as we all know on Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous tale of a decent scientist’s wild experiment gone bad. A whirlwind odyssey pitting man against himself is set in motion when the brilliant Dr. Jekyll’s medical fooling around backfires, giving life to his evil—and increasingly uncontrollable—alter ego Edward Hyde.
The musical spent some four years on Broadway and on multiple worldwide tours, but the production currently in Denver is an arresting pre-Broadway reinvention. It has a revised script, a slightly different song list, new orchestrations and an impressive new look.
Aside from the central battle between good and evil, this moody musical is loaded with romance, to be introduced this time by a new pair of stars. Tony Award-nominee and “American Idol” sensation Constantine Maroulis joins Grammy Award-nominee and Canadian R&B superstar Deborah Cox to handle the romantic aspects of this haunting tale, as well as inject robust new life into the Stevenson classic scheduled to make a return appearance on Broadway in April.
Maroulis, who shot to fame on “American Idol” and received a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his work in Rock of Ages, plays the dual title role. He is not shy about sharing a life-imitates-art event that he claims instantly connected him to Dr. Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll’s scientific experiment was undertaken in an attempt to help his ailing father; by coincidence, Maroulis’ own Dad was gravely ill when he, the son, was offered the role last year. Playing Dr. Jekyll only strengthened his resolve to give the musical his all.
“I feel you should approach every role with the passion and desire to find everything you need to find as an actor and artist,” he told Playbill at the start of rehearsals last summer. “That’s how I approached Rock of Ages, and that’s how I’d approach Hamlet, which I’d love to do one day. I go about everything the same way.”
Jekyll & Hyde previewed in La Mirada, CA, in September before kicking off its 25-week Broadway-bound national tour in October. The talented Jeff Calhoun is the director/choreographer of this new edition; among Calhoun’s many varied credits are such admired and well-received musicals as the Tony-nominated Newsies, Big River and Grey Gardens.
The original Jekyll & Hyde saw the dark of night in 1990 at Houston’s Alley Theatre, breaking box office records and playing to sold-out houses. At that time, a recording of the musical score yielded all the hit songs that continue to have a strong hold on listeners (“This is the Moment,” “A New Life,” “Someone Like You”), transforming Jekyll & Hyde at the time into something of a theatrical phenomenon.
Despite a mixed critical reception for its original New York run, a 1997 revival at Broadway’s Plymouth Theatre turned things around. It played to sold-out houses and nightly standing ovations, breaking box office records several times and spawning legions of repeat visitors who became known as “Jekkies.” (Some “Jekkies” claim to have seen this show more than 150 times.)
This success is a testament to its creators’ persistence in their pursuit of perfection. When such stars as Liza Minnelli and The Moody Blues began performing and recording its songs, the show gained even greater traction.
While the look may have changed, the mood and the music that first grabbed audiences by the throat are very much there and ready to do it again.
“Any time you have a title with such history and recognition, it’s important to take a fresh look at it,” said Maroulis, who admits to never having seen the musical before being cast in it. Neither, incidentally, had director Calhoun.
“I feel like I’m creating a new role,” Maroulis told Playbill. “We feel we have a really lean and mean script…. Jeff is a very meticulous, detail oriented director. Our approach is very grounded and very real, not over the top.”
This story was assembled from website materials and the Internet