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NEW YORK — To do full justice to the campy excesses of Jekyll & Hyde, this review would most appropriately be delivered in the form of a power ballad. Such overbearing musical numbers permeate this 1997 musical by Frank Wildhorn (music) and Leslie Bricusse (book and lyrics), which previously enjoyed a four year run on Broadway despite critical brickbats. Audiences may also embrace this revival of the turgid tuner based on the classic horror tale by Robert Louis Stevenson despite a likely similar negative reception.
Starring Constantine Maroulis and R&B singer/actress Deborah Cox — the sort of performers who in previous years would have constituted a third replacement cast — the production comes to Broadway at the end of a successful national tour.
Director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun (Newsies) has ratcheted up the show’s gothic elements in his high-intensity staging, featuring extensive projections, a deafening sound design and a Grand Guignol-style presentation. But for all the production’s excesses, it proves decidedly underwhelming, devoid of thrills or genuine emotion.
Maroulis, the American Idol finalist who garnered a Tony Award nomination for his starring turn in Rock of Ages, fully unleashes his powerful pipes in the dual roles of the mild-mannered scientist and his rampaging, id-driven alter-ego. But his schematic portrayals — his transformations essentially involve losing his wire-rimmed spectacles and loosening his long hair from its ponytail — lack the complexity necessary to fully involve us in the melodramatic proceedings.
Cox, too, displays a gorgeous voice as Lucy, the prostitute who engages in a bizarre romantic triangle with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Looking luscious in her Victorian era-style lingerie, the actress cuts a strikingly sexy figure while delivering full-throttle renditions of such numbers as “Bring on the Men” and “Someone Like You.” Although her acting never quite hits the same heights, she delivers a more than respectable turn in the underwritten role.
Teal Wicks, last seen on Broadway as the green-hued witch Elphaba in Wicked, sings beautifully and brings some generally poignant moments to her performance as Jekyll’s devoted fiancée Emma, while David Benoit is scarily imposing in his contrasting dual roles as a bishop and brothel owner.
Wildhorn’s score has its ardent proponents, with the ballad “This is the Moment” in particular having become virtually inescapable. But to these ears it remains dull and bombastic, the songs blending into one another with a stifling sense of repetitiveness. Bricusse’s simplistic lyrics provide little compensation.
There’s not much subtlety in Calhoun’s overblown staging, which seems more geared for Las Vegas than Broadway (although admittedly, that may be the point). For instance, “Confrontation,” the number sung by Jekyll/Hyde that was delivered in bravura versatile fashion by Robert Cuccioli in the show’s original incarnation, is here performed by Maroulis and a video projection of himself featuring pre-recorded vocals.
Tobin Ost’s sets and costumes, largely black and white with splashes of color, are certainly striking, featuring such memorable images as a series of corpses laid out on upright coroner’s tables with sepia photographs of the figures looming behind them.
But for all its impressive technical aspects, this Jekyll & Hyde never immerses us in its classic tragic tale. It’s akin to a well-designed haunted house from which you find yourself eagerly longing to escape.
Venue: Marquis Theatre, New York
Cast: Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox, Teal Wicks, Laird Mackintosh, Richard White, David Benoit
Director-choreographer: Jeff Calhoun
Book & lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Set & costume designer: Tobin Ost
Lighting designer: Jeff Croiter
Sound designer: Ken Travis
Projection designer: Daniel Brodie
Presented by Nederlander Presentations, Independent Presenters Network, Chunsoo Shin, Luigi Caiola, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley
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