Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review - Jekyll & Hyde

For our anniversary, my wife and I went to see Jekyll & Hyde at our local theatre. In preparation for the event, I decided to reread the novel to familiarize myself with the "official" story. While it wasn't a mistake, I will just say that the novel and the play are very different in three very significant ways.
  1. First of all, the play portrays Jekyll as a very altruistic man conducting his experiments with the hopes of ridding the world of evil altogether and helping cure the mentally insane (such as his father...a new character added to the play).
  2. Secondly, the musical also introduces a pair of female leads to play across from the good doctor. We have his fiancee whom he loves immensely and who is very supportive through his obsessive work. We also have the prostitute barmaid that Jekyll befriends and Hyde becomes "romantically" involved (in his own violent and threatening way).
  3. Thirdly, Hyde becomes a vengeful murderer in the musical, serialistically hunting down a specific handful of individuals to violently murder, as opposed to the one murder of happenstance from the novel.

Other smaller changes exist naturally, but these three add more depth and slightly change the allegory and characterization from the novel where Jekyll is more self-involved and embarking on this journey alone and with less than virtuous motivations.

Stage, Set, & setup

The play itself was presented very well. The stage at Rodger's Theatre is rather small but they use their space very effectively. The set was constructed using segmented partitions that spun around such that in a matter of seconds you could whisk between a stylish London manor, an underground laboratory, a creepy London backstreet, a dingy bar, or a run down apartment in Soho. The partitioning also provided for an interesting sense of movement and transport as characters twisted and turned between angled walls to portray movement along the streets or halls.


The cast was fabulous. Sitting on the second row of a small theatre gave me a great vantage point to be blown away by the actors voices directly as well as through the sound system. I was also able to see the passion and energy that the actors brought to their characters. The chemistry between Jekyll/Hyde and Emma/Lucy was fabulous. I was also very impressed at the emotional engagement of the Simon character, who in a strange degree was just as frightening as Hyde.

I don't have much to say about it, but I also wanted to comment on the "Confrontation" song near the end of the play is a sequence that I suspect can either be very powerful and engaging or feel very contrived and silly. The scene involves Jekyll and Hyde arguing with each a quick paced song. Since they are played by the same actor, this involves the actor quickly transitioning his voice and his body to make it readily apparent which character is singing/speaking at any given time. Our Jekyll/Hyde (Andrew Noyes), did a fabulous job transitioning between the two characters on the fly. His voice bounced back and forth between smooth and sincere pleading to a harsh, anger and gravel filled voice. He stood tall and erect with great posture and presence as Jekyll and fell into a slight hunch with huge tension in his body as Hyde, complete with one flexed fist, one contorted hand, and a tensed neck with visible throbbing veins. He also managed (in most transitions) to get his long hair to flip back and forth between the mussed-up-over-the-face style of Hyde and the pulled back respectability of Jekyll. It was a very impressive showing of his acting abilities.


There were two main points that left me wanting.
  1. First, we have the transition from "This is the Moment" to "First Transformation" to "Alive". This is a lengthy scene with three songs played back to back to back. Between "This is the Moment" and "First Transformation", we have a small break while Jekyll narrates his journal entry and ingests his special formula. That break is fine and natural. The transition between "First Transformation" and "Alive", however needed to be more seamless and this is one point where the size of the theatre was a drawback. When the transformation happens, we are in the retracted laboratory. The "Transformation" climaxes and erupts with Hyde's guttural first line "FREE!" at which he takes off running to the street to wreak havoc. The entire "Alive" song is a continuation of that same climax. Unfortunately, because they needed to actually change the set, there was a break in the climax which lost some of the energy and left me a little let down at the potential excitement of the "Alive" sequence. I don't fault the theatre. They did it as quickly and seamlessly as possible considering what they had to work with.
  2. The second bit that left me wanting was the sound effects. Having a friend who works as an audio director for various productions, I've spoken with him about these things. I'm not asking for a foley team or anything, but there were a few scenes that I think would have benefitted from some special audio effects...specifically, the murder scenes. The director/theatre provided visual queues to the murder by replacing the white stage lights with red lights to take us down into the bloody murder scene. Maybe I'm a little sadistic, but I would like to have heard perhaps some slashing, crunching, or low level grunts or groans in the scuffle. Instead, the deaths were almost silent. Perhaps the silence in itself was a logical choice and a comment on the state of death. Everything is silent and red. For me it didn't work quite as well...I wanted to hear something.


This is a play that pulls you in many directions and takes you on an emotional roller coaster, pumping your veins full of adrenalin while at the same time playing on your sympathies. As mentioned with the cast, I felt the energy and believability of the characters was astounding. Thanks to Simon's vile character, I was actually happy (*spoiler*) when he was killed off. Similarly, I was saddened (*spoiler*) when Lucy was killed.

The pacing of the play was done well. The romantic and pensive interludes sometimes slowed things down a little too much, but they added a lot of depth to the story and provided another opportunity to grow close to the characters. Not to mention the fact that without them, the intensity of the play would likely have been overwhelming.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and recommend it to anybody looking for a slightly creepy night of theatre in this Halloween month.
4 Stars

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