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SAN DIEGO
Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

Jekyll & Hyde

Jekyll & Hyde
Deborah Cox and
Constantine Maroulis

The Nederlander Organization celebrated its 100th anniversary on Wednesday, October 3. Despite the hoopla, including a "Nederlander Organization Day" proclamation from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the evening was marred by disaster.

The disaster took the form of the opening of a tepid new revival of Jekyll & Hyde, which is launching a 25-week national tour prior to a Broadway engagement beginning next April.

There is very little right with this lugubrious production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson potboiler, starting with the work itself. Mr. Bricusse's nearly humorless book captures neither the tensions of the romantic era impinging on Victorian mores nor the sexual psychology of the induced split personality around which the story revolves. Instead, it focuses on horror, a genre that has been neatly deconstructed over the last several years. One might want to call out something like "don't go upstairs—he's waiting for you there" to onstage characters who behave as laughably stupid as their horror film counterparts. For his part, Mr. Wildhorn's overblown score is rife with unearned emotional climaxes and big moments that only outstanding singers can pull off.

And, alas, this production does not feature performers of that quality. In the dual title role, Constantine Maroulis has a big voice but he's weak at phrasing and subtlety of interpretation. His Dr. Jekyll is a petulant boy who rebels when he doesn't get his way, and his Hyde is one dimensional (and sometimes confused with Jekyll when the changes in dialect between personae don't take). R&B recording artist Deborah Cox has a distinctive style of singing that, for me, doesn't fit the demands of Lucy, the sexually adventurous lady of the evening who holds both Jekyll and Hyde in her thrall. The only leading performer who lands is Teal Wicks as Emma, Jekyll's fiancée. Ms. Wicks uses a pure soprano sound to flesh out nicely the vocal demands of her stock damsel-in-distress character.

Even the technical elements disappoint. Jeff Calhoun's pedestrian direction and choreography miss all opportunities for depth and character revelation. Tobin Ost, whose work for the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse I have admired greatly, here has turned in a set design full of ugly moving panels upon which Daniel Brodie's cheesy projections get far too much prominence. Mr. Ost's costumes (mostly in period black-and-white) fare a good deal better, however. Jeff Croiter's lighting relies heavily on not-always-in-place follow spots at key moments. Steven Landau's vocal musical direction is sloppy, though the twelve-piece pit band sounds tight. And what can I say about Ken Travis' sound design except that it is loud—rock concert loud, way louder than needed. Complaining patrons were assured that "it was even louder last night," which I guess holds out some hope that it might be fixed.

The burning question, then, is can the rest of this mess be fixed in time for its arrival on Broadway? Honestly, I doubt it. Some changes might be put in place as the tour progresses, but there are so many weak elements that I suspect making minor changes on the road will prove to be a lost cause.

In the "good old days" a visionary producer such as David Merrick might have saved a production like this. Today, costs are too high, and shows too pre-sold to make radical changes. That's a shame, because the Nederlander Organization thrived for all these years because of the creative acumen of its founding family. Happy, and sad, 100th anniversary, Nederlander Organization.

Performs through October 7, 2012, at the Civic Theatre under the auspices of Broadway/San Diego. Tickets ($25 - $105) are available by calling 619-570-1100 or visiting www.broadwaysd.com/. For more information on the tour, visit www.jekyllandhydemusical.com.

Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Independent Presenters Network, Chunsoo Shin, Luigi Caiola, and Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley present Jekyll & Hyde. Conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Frank Wildhorn.

Directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, with Tobin Ost (Scenic and Costume Design), Jeff Croiter (Lighting Design), Ken Travis (Sound Design), Daniel Brodie (Projection Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Hair and Wig Design), and Steven Landau (Music Director).

With Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox, Teal Wicks, Laird Mackintosh, Richard White, David Benoit, Stephen Mitchell Brown, Jerry Christakos, Dana Costello, Wendy Fox, Brian Gallagher, Sean Jenness, Mel Johnson Jr., James Judy, Ashley Loren, Courtney Markowitz, Aaron Ramey, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Rob Richardson, Blair Ross, Doug Storm, Haley Swindal, and Jason Wooten.


Photo: Smallz & Raskind

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie



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