Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jekyll & Hyde"

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entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Jekyll & Hyde"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Theatre-by-the-Sea is the blockbuster, musical, "Jekyll & Hyde".

The show is adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". It tells the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a brilliant young doctor who is distraught over his father's mental illness. He tries to find a cure by using himself as the test subject but the experiment backfires and gives life to his evil alter ego, Edward Hyde, a vile murderer who brings a killing spree to the city of London. "Jekyll & Hyde" is one of the best mounted musicals of the summer from topnotch direction, acting and singing to the highest rated technical achievements and production values, making it the must see show this year.

Director/choreographer Andrew Glant-Linden does an excellent job with his vision of the show. It starts off in the graveyard like Dicken's "Christmas Carol", giving it a dark and somber start needed to tell this tale of man's inner struggle between good and evil. His blocking of this epic tale is breathtaking with the characters climbing the spiral stairways and walkways with ease, making scene after scene flow effortlessly into one another. Andrew's insight into all his characters blends the dramatic and comic moments splendidly with the chilling, murderous moments in the show leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. His assistant director is Beverly Brennan who has worked with Andrew on 53 previous shows. The magnificent musical score is conducted and played by the very talented 22 year old musical director, Karl Shymanovitz. His talent comes through not only in his playing the score and conducting the orchestra but in his teaching the ensemble, solo and duets beautifully. Not only do the leading players possess great voices but the chorus voices are the absolute best around. Their numbers including, the five "Facade" songs and the spinetingling, "Murder, Murder" segments are fantastic. This is Karl's third year at TBTS and his third show this summer as musical director and his hard work is apparent in each show. He returns to the University of Michigan as a music professor this fall to teach other talented musicians there. One of his future students is his assistant musical director, Adam Wachter, who will also perform the same duties for the next show at TBTS. Only a sophmore, this kid can sight read music with ease as well as sing and play beautifully. Adam also is the after the show cabaret musical director where he plays many different musical selections all night long. Bravo to Andrew and Karl on a spectacular show. Another talented artist who help create this masterpiece include Jeff Modereger who designed the set including the spiral staircases and the walkway connecting them on the upstage wall as well as the backdrops and sets for the prison sequence, the party, Jekyll's house and the whorehouse scene. The most outstanding set is Jekyll's laboratory with one part pushed on from upstage complete with smoking cauldrons, books and chemicals while the other section drops down from above with various pill bottles in it. (One of the best sets I've seen around.) The terrific lighting designer is Kenton Yeager who lights up the death scenes with the appropriate red lighting as well as using the proper lights for the romantic and bawdy scenes, too. The sound designer who kept gothic atmosphere filled with eerie sounds is Walter Trarbach who also entertains the cabaret audiences with his rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues". The gorgeous costumes are designed by the talented David T. Howard who is also a professor at URI. He always does an excellent job and thhis show is no exception. The handmade 1880's costumes include high society and the poor street people garb. Under the supervision of Marcia Zammarelli, her costume people create many stunning creations but the standouts are all of Emma Carew's gowns with the bustles decorated in fancy designs. (My favorite is a light blue gown with lace and flowers on the bustle.) These are the necessary production touches to create an outstanding show.

The cast is lead by the multitalented, Todd Alan Johnson who portrays Jekyll/Hyde. This man possesses a voice with an enormous range from bass, which he uses as Mr. Hyde, to high tenor when he is Dr. Jekyll. Todd, changes character during the second transformation song called "Angst" by using facial expressions and positioning hair in and out of his eyes, making it one of the best moment of the evening. His voice soars off the scale in "This Is The Moment", sending chills up your spine. Todd's portrayal blends the tragic qualities of a Dickens character as Jekyll with a little of "The Elephant Man" persona as Hyde. He is a mesmerizing talent who wins you over with his acting and singing prowess.

Jennifer Zimmerman plays the tragic prostitute, Lucy who is similar to Nancy in "Oliver". She loves the wrong man and pays for it in the end. Jennifer is a fantastic belter who voice will remind you of Frances Ruffelle who played Eponine in "Les Miz".

She leads her fellow whores in "Bring on the Men" and solos in "Sympathy, Tenderness", "Someone Like You" and "A New Life". Jennifer gives the character the needed sympathetic portrayal so the audience can empathize with her plight. A very talented girl with a bright future ahead of her. The other woman in Dr. Jekyll's life is his fiancee, Emma, played by lovely blonde haired, Lynette Knapp. This girl has a stunning lyrical soprano voice which soars in her duets, "Letting Go", a pretty ballad with her father, "Take Me as I Am" with Jekyll and "In His Eyes", a gorgeous number with Lucy. Lynette's poignant solo, "Once Upon a Dream" is very impressive in her tender delivery. Her character is a wonderful counterpoint to the dark underworld people in Mr. Hyde's life and carries it off with the finesse it needs with her talented acting skills.

The narrators of this tale are David Elledge as Uterson, Jekyll's lawyer and Gannon McHale as Sir Carew, Emma's father. Both handle the dramatic aspects of their roles with ease as they do with their vocal numbers, too. The talented performers who play the obnoxious board of directors who become Mr. Hyde's enemies are Erik Nelson as the cowardly, Lord Savage, (he also plays the horribly evil and gross pimp, Spider splendidly) Freric Scheff as the overbearing, Proops, (he uses his fabulous tenor voice in this role and in an operatic aria in the cabaret) Gordon Gray as the pompous, general Glossup, Don Rey as the lascivious, Bishop of Basingstoke, Kimberly Chesser as the bitchy, rich Lady Beaconsfield. (She directs the after show cabaret and sings "Meadowlark" from "The Baker's Wife" with as much punch as its originator, Patty Lupone.) and Steve Asciolla as Simon Stride, Emma's other suitor who wants to steal her away from Henry Jekyll.

Other performers appearing in the show include as the madam of the whorehouse, Nellie, Elizabeth Stanley last seen as Ariel in "Footloose", ( She plays this loose woman as well as she played the naive teen in the other show.) and also as ensemble members are Genson Blimline plays Bisset in this show,( he portrayed the evil, Chuck in "Footloose) and Rhode Island native, Neil Santoro who plays Jekyll's butler, Poole, Mike Backes, (who sings "Endless Nights" in the cabaret and will be in a touring company of "Grease" in the fall) Scott Barnhardt, (who sings the duet, "In Whatever Time I Have" with Elizabeth Stanley and also appears in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind") Sean Hopkins, (from Charlestown, RI) Chelsea Krombach, (who sings "Awaiting You" in cabaret) Amber Krzys, Nicole Morris, ( from Newport, RI who sings "Bill" in the cabaret) David Michael Roth, Michael S. Templeton (from Providence, RI who will be music directing "Les Miz" this fall in Taunton, MA) and Nicole Tracy ( who sang "Listen To My Heart" in the cabaret and who is a producer/ writer for CBS radio.)

So for a fantastic evening of excellent entertainment, be sure not to miss "Jekyll & Hyde" at TBTS this summer.

"Jekyll & Hyde" (till 17 August)
364 Card's Pond Road, MATUNUCK, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401)782-8587

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide