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Theatre Review (LA): Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical

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Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical by Frank Wildhorn is having something of a comeback, first with this recent production by the Doma Theatre, and soon with a new national tour starring Constantine Maroulis of Rock of Ages and American Idol fame.

When any small company tries to produce a large Broadway musical in a small space, problems can arise. The company generally can’t afford an orchestra or even a small ensemble of musicians. Though this production used recorded music that can be very difficult for the singers to follow, the company was aided by the fact that the music was put together by 21-year-old prodigy Chris Raymond, who is able to play at least five instruments and is a protégé of Jason Robert Brown. When Raymond was still performing on stage, he appeared in Brown’s 13, but he has since given all that up to concentrate on his music.

Jekyll and Hyde is an odd piece that presents certain problems. First, it is a period musical, and a horror story at that. Up until this production, the transformation between Jekyll and Hyde was accomplished by tossing the character’s long hair from side to side. When I saw David Hasselhoff do this on a TV production, I laughed because it looked stupid. In Doma’s production Dr. Jekyll (Chris Kerrigan) transforms by merely messing up his hair and changing his body stance. As Jekyll the actor was rather stiff, but as Hyde he blossomed into almost a Frankenstein-like monster. Kerrigan certainly had more fun as Hyde; even his singing got better.

A cast of 25 supported Kerrigan, with the women outshining the men. Amber Gildersleeve was a lovely Emma and seemed very at ease on stage. She also has a beautiful voice. Cassandra Nuss played the warm-hearted prostitute Lucy. Her voice is a belt and she got to sing some of the best songs in the show. In the Broadway version, Linda Eder played this part, and it made her a star.

Though I disagreed with a couple of director Marco Gomez’s choices, like adding a male couple to the whorehouse scene, he is to be praised for giving these young performers the chance to tackle this difficult piece and to develop as artists. Jekyll and Hyde played at the Met Theatre July 6-29.

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