Loud, dark, intense, and did I mention loud? The bus-and-truck tour of Jekyll and Hyde brings the Frank Wildhorn musical back to Broadway, whether Broadway wants it or not. Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox are talented, charismatic leads, but their combined efforts cannot lift this soggy affair from the quagmire of mediocrity into which it quickly sinks.
No wonder the show was able to bump in and open for previews so quickly given that all it has on display is a few rectangles of set covered with projections. Daniel Brodie’s projection designs provide wallpaper and portraits, plus uninspired images like blood, fires and shattered glass. Costumes, by Tobin Ost, might sound elegant in all black and white, with splashes of red, but with the black sets, also by Ost, the whole look is disappointingly drab and dingy.
Possibly the worst creative element is the sound design, which features volume so loud the lyrics are often indistinguishable. The is particularly the case in Jekyll’s pre-recorded journal entries. Worse still, voices are too heavily transmitted by side speakers, which creates a disconnect between performers and their voices. It is often difficult to tell who is meant to be speaking/singing on stage.
A positive at the centre of the production is the excellent performance by Maroulis, who proves to be an excellent actor. The transformations are handled simply and naturally, with Maroulis’ two characterisations so distinct that, for once, it is believable that his loved ones do not recognize Jekyll when he is Hyde. “This Is The Moment” is perfect, until the final flowery Idol-like note.
Deborah Cox may not have much skill at a Cockney accent, but her singing is outstanding, making her a clear audience favourite. Impossibly beautiful to be a poor Victorian whore, Cox nonetheless dazzles as the ill-fated Lucy, nailing all her power ballads with flair. One mis-step, out of Cox’s control, is the over-complication of the wonderfully saucy number “Bring On The Men,” which suffers from altered tempos and so much movement that the humour in the lyrics is lost.
Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun, keeps the storytelling generally clear, even though much of the lyrics are lost to the muffled high volumes. Luckily the story has been simplified to broad strokes since the original concept recording, which featured unforgettable performances from Anthony Warlow and Linda Eder.
Frank Wildhorn’s best-known score features classic ballads such as “In His Eyes” and “Someone Like You” but is ultimately undone by one, or is that five, too many Big Finishes. Leslie Bricusse’s expositional lyrics are quite good but many of his ballad lyrics are inane, eg “Murder, murder, once it’s been done, murder, murder, can’t be undone.” There are some equally ludicrous jumps in Bricusse’s book, such as why does Emma even think her wedding is going to occur when she has not seen her fiancé for about ten weeks?
The company finished off the amateur vibe of the night by clapping themselves in the curtain calls.
Jekyll and Hyde 2013 plays a thirteen week season at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre.