By: David Sheward
Why revive Jekyll & Hyde, the hideous, overwrought 1997 musical based on the classic thriller? The only saving grace of the original production was the intense, sexy performance of Robert Cuccioli in the leading role. The music by Frank Wildhorn is generic, and the usually witty Leslie Bricusse’s book and lyrics are simplistic (Wildhorn and Steven Cuden also contributed to the lyrics). The show ran an astonishing 1,543 performances, mostly due to stunt replacement casting including David Hasselhoff, but it never turned a profit. So why bring it back if it was neither a financial nor an artistic success in the first place?
The new production does nothing to enhance the musical’s reputation. The raison d’etre seems to be showing off the stars’ singing. It’s an example of the American Idolization of Broadway. Depth of story or characterization doesn’t mean a thing as long as the leads hit their money notes and hold them for at least 20 seconds. Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis as the titular split personality and Grammy nominee Deborah Cox as the luckless prostitute Lucy were obviously hired to draw undiscerning fans of their breathy pop-oriented voices. Maroulis screams his way through both characterizations, alternating between approximating Bricusse’s former writing partner Anthony Newley as Jekyll and a screechy Alice Cooper as Hyde. Cox at least has a decent sound, but her acting lacks dimension. And, if you thought the British accents in Kinky Boots were weak, they’re all over the map here. Maroulis sounds as if his dialect coach gave him a DVD of MyWeek With Marilyn and told the star to imitate Kenneth Branagh imitating Laurence Olivier, while Cox’s Cockney comes and goes.
The supporting company fares somewhat better. Teal Wicks makes a convincingly devoted Emma, Jekyll’s long-suffering fiancée, and Richard White lends solid support as her father. Brian Gallagher earns a few welcome laughs as a foppish victim of Hyde’s murderous rage. But Laird Mackintosh mugs up a storm both vocally and dramatically as Jekyll’s best friend. Ironically, the most consistent and strongest limning is done by James Judy in the tiny role of Poole, Jekyll’s loyal butler.
Director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun, who has done much more interesting work with Newsies and Grey Gardens, does a competent job, but no more. He tries too hard to inject scary thrills with Jeff Croiter’s nightmarish lighting and Daniel Brodie’s horror-film projections instead of trusting the story. You could watch American Idol and then American Horror Story for free on your DVR and get the same effect.
April. 18-June 30.
Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway,
Mon 8pm, Tue 7pm, Thu-Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7pm. $50-135.
Running time 2 two hours and 15 minutes, "with" intermission. (877) 250-2929. www.ticketmaster.com
Photos: Chirs Bennion
Follow Us On Facebook
Originally Published on April 18, 2013 in ArtsinNY.com