Jekyll & Hyde...What a night!

Today's guest columnist is Connie Cadieux.

September 3, 1998....What a Night, What a Night!

The e-bay Auction stated: "WOW 2 TICKETS TO JEKYLL & HYDE & Be a Critic". Now I ask you... could any red-blooded American (or International) Jekyll & Hyde fan pass that up? I relished the prospect of seeing the show from box seats, a new vantage point, with the proceeds going to charity. I delighted in the anticipation of an opportunity to tell the world about this wonderful musical and the talents of the cast, especially Mr. Robert Cuccioli. Yes, these tickets would be mine!

The day after the auction began, the ticket donor added dinner at Sardi's to the package. After conferring with my good friend Patty Costa, we decided to enter our bid. Obviously, this package was also attractive to others and a bidding battle ensued. My tactic was to be patient and enter our final bid moments before the auction ended. My opponent and I challenged each other to the very finish. The end result...I won by 4 seconds! Patty and I would now have the chance to tell the world, through Talkin' Broadway, of our appreciation of this show!

Now, please understand, truly, this was already an exciting moment, so I could not have been prepared for what was to follow. V.J., of Talkin' Broadway, e-mailed me a congratulatory letter restating the package we had won and about the column he hoped we would write because he had a surprise. He wrote ..."Ready? Robert Cuccioli is expecting you in his dressing room after the show to say hello and perhaps he'll sign a few autographs for you." Oh my goodness!

I'm not sure what happened next or during the two weeks that followed. I think we told everyone who cared (and even those who didn't) of our good fortune. I think we had the opportunity, on August 30th, to be part of the remarkable performance that marked Linda Eder's farewell. I also think we attended the Jekkie Net 3.5 event preceding that show. I do know that somehow we made it to September 3rd.

Our special evening had arrived. Patty and I, supported by some great friends, sat vigil in a small cafe near the theatre, awaiting the start of the show. On his way to the theatre, Mr. Cuccioli passed by and offered a wave to our very excited group. That marked the beginning of what was to be an extraordinary night.

Patty and I entered the theatre and were escorted up the stairs to our box by an usher. He parted the velvet curtains revealing that which was truly a new perspective of the stage. We sat in anticipation of the familiar opening chords which signaled the beginning of this amazing performance.

For two and a half hours our thoughts were centered around the phenomenon that is Robert Cuccioli. Mr. Cuccioli, who plays the dual roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde is a brilliant actor of unequaled passion and intensity. His command of the stage is evident from the first note of "Lost in the Darkness" as the audience is transported back to 1880's London. With "This is the Moment", undeniably this show's anthem, we are in awe of the power and beauty of his voice. As Jekyll, Mr. Cuccioli convinces us of his dedication to his ideals and his unswerving beliefs. His performance is so mesmerizing that there are numerous times you can hear a pin drop or a sharp intake of breath, which is what happens during the first transformation scene. The emergence of Hyde proves that Mr. Cuccioli is a force to be reckoned with. Hyde's persona is sensual and animalistic, his voice gravelly and deep - a distinct change from the sweet voiced Dr. Jekyll.

During "Confrontation", Jekyll battles with Hyde for his soul. This dramatic scene, Mr. Cuccioli's creation, is accomplished without special effects. Never within both my theatre experience and Patty's thirty years of theatre-going, have either of us ever been witness to such a marvelous feat of acting.

Luba Mason, playing the role for the 4th time, was extremely effective as Lucy Harris, the prostitute who crosses paths with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She has both a deft flair for comedy and a certain sauciness when she is on her own "turf" in the Red Rat brothel. Yet, she also shows vulnerability and uncertainty when meeting Dr. Jekyll in his home. Her voice is strong, pleasant to the ear and well suited to her character. evidenced by her renditions of "Someone Like You" and "A New Life". Though, following Linda Eder, Mason had large shoes to fill, she is a charming new addition to the cast.

We would be remiss not to mention Christiane Noll in the role of Jekyll's fiancee. Her sweet soprano belies the strength that is Emma, a woman devoted to the man that she loves. Her acting abilities, which are considerable, communicate the conviction of that love.

The entire cast deserves kudos! The camaraderie, the professionalism and the sheer talent of the ensemble is a privilege to watch.

After the performance we proceeded to the stage door to introduce ourselves and to await our visit with Mr. Cuccioli. As we remained nervously on a small staircase, we were able to say thank you and good night to the cast as they exited the building. First, Stuart Marland, who portrays General Glossop, wished us a good evening and told us how nice it would be to meet with Mr. Cuccioli. Then Ray McLeod, our own Simon Stride, offered his humorous approach to our anticipated meeting. We had the occasion to chat with Christiane Noll about her newly released CD "A Broadway Love Story". We promised her to tell many about this beautifully sung and arranged CD. We also wished a goodnight to both John Treacy Egan who, upon seeing us, referred to us as the "balcony ladies" and George Merritt, who plays Utterson and Barry Ingham who plays Sir Danvers.

Mr. Cuccioli's dresser, Joe Godwin, came to escort us to his dressing room. This was our moment! Mr. Cuccioli greeted us warmly and made us comfortable (well, as much as we could be under the circumstances) while we told him of the specifics of the auction. Patty and I thanked him for adding to our special evening by inviting us to meet with him. We joked about our inability to have our dinner at Sardi's as we were much too nervous to eat. We would relish it another, less eventful evening.

We so enjoyed seeing the pictures and mementos mounted on the walls and dressing table ... most specifically a small, plush teddy bear, affectionately named Art, given to him by a fan and providing him years of luck. We felt so fortunate to have had the chance to visit and were ready to offer our thank you's and good-bye's when Mr. Cuccioli so generously invited us to accompany him on a backstage tour.

As he carefully guided us through the dimly lit backstage area, he explained how the sets were hitched to tracks to be readily deployed at hopefully the right moments. We were able to see where the cast changed their costumes as well as view the sound and light booths that provided the technical support to the production. As we entered center stage a single light on a tripod cast an eerie glow. Mr. Cuccioli explained that it was a ghost light. In attempting to ask what I thought to be an intelligent question, I inquired "What's a ghost light for?" "To keep away the theatre ghosts" he replied. That will teach me!

Standing center stage, looking out at the emptied seats, I could only imagine the feeling that Mr. Cuccioli and the entire cast must experience as they look out into an audience standing in admiration and applause. Talk about perspective! As he showed us a flame track and discussed how it was triggered, resourceful Patty bent to pick up an object off the stage floor. "It is my hair band", Mr. Cuccioli explained. Patty's reply - "I know exactly what it is and I'm giving it to my friend." Mr. Cuccioli only smiled as I garnered this important memento of our visit.

Our tour continued to the world below the stage including where both wigs and costumes were maintained. Also in this lower level was equipment including the hydraulics which powered the winches that moved the sets. All too soon, we climbed the stairs that signaled the end of our visit. It was time to say good-bye and to thank Mr. Cuccioli for his kind and gracious gesture.

As we exited the stage door Patty and I felt like we were the stars! Our friends were waiting with cameras to capture the look of complete awe that we certainly felt. We were then introduced to a reporter from the New York Times who was there with the Jekyll & Hyde fan club president to do an article. We relayed to him all that we find so special about the musical and the performers who bring it to life.

We would like to express our appreciation to V.J. of Talkin' Broadway and the donor who so generously offered the auction package. And, of course, our heartfelt thanks and deep gratitude to Robert Cuccioli who gave so generously of his time and allowed two fans to experience a night they will never forget!

On a final note, please know dreams do come happened for us September 3, 1998 at the Plymouth Theatre.

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