Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Taking on the title roles in this current production is the excellent Andrew Foote, who manages to be alternately charming and frighteningly intense, as he needs to be. His performance alone would be worth the price of admission. But there is even more to recommend in this staging, including two fine leading ladies, Carissa Massaro and, especially, Elissa DeMaria, who stands up quite well, vocally, to the memory of Linda Eder's phenomenal singing in the Broadway production. And, while Jekyll & Hyde may never be considered one of the greatest musicals ever written, Music Theatre of Connecticut's presentation is a lot of fun, filled with chills and high-powered numbers, and it should be the perfect treat to get one in the mood for Halloween.
There have been different revisions of this musical over the years, and the Music Theatre of Connecticut production employs the version used most recently in the Broadway revival and tour. This may be slightly jarring for those only familiar with the original New York staging, but, the changes that have been made have mostly been for the better. Certainly, replacing the opening song for the character of Lucy from "Good 'N' Evil" (used only in the original Broadway production) back to the catchier and better number, "Bring on the Men," is one of the most significant improvements. That said, the central story of remains essentially the same and this current incarnation should please the many fans of the musical.
Any production of Jekyll & Hyde will rise or fall on the strength of the performer taking on the title roles. Andrew Foote has an extraordinary voice (particularly in his major number, "This Is the Moment"), but he is also a highly skilled actor and even makes some of the sillier moments in the show (including the one-man duet, "The Confrontation") work wonderfully well. The actor also appears to truly be two different men when playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As Lucy Harris, who catches Dr. Jekyll's attention, Elissa DeMaria is something of a wondershe truly puts her own stamp on a role so identified with its original creator, Linda Eder. The songs for Lucy were fashioned specifically for Eder's incredible voice, and I will admit that, before seeing this production, I had never heard anyone but Eder sing these numbers. DeMaria brings powerful vocals to all of her songs and, what's more, she can be quite vulnerable and, at times, heartbreaking. Pointedly, perhaps the biggest highlight in the show is DeMaria dueting with Carissa Massaro (as Dr. Jekyll's fiancée Emma) in the beautiful "In His Eyes" near the top of the second act.
Massaro is quite lovely playing Emma, essentially the ingenue role in Jekyll & Hyde, looking gorgeous in all of Diane Vanderkroef's sumptuous costumes. In fact, the entire company is quite good and they all look exactly appropriate for the gothic time period, with especially strong work by Sean Hayden as Dr. Jekyll's closest friend.
The overall production of Jekyll & Hyde looks great, with splendidly atmospheric lighting by Michael Blagys complementing the scenic design and costume design. There is also fantastic musical direction by David Wolfson, leading the terrific onstage band, who bring out all of the strength of Frank Wildhorn's music.
Jekyll & Hyde is the perfect show for those who like their musicals full-bodied and slightly spooky, with plenty of power ballads and a wonderfully haunted feeling throughout the show. Director Kevin Connors also proves that this musical is perfect for regional theatres, particularly when the actors are close enough to touch, as they are on Music Theatre of Connecticut's intimate stage.
Jekyll & Hyde, through October 14, 2018, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk CT. For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.