THEATER REVIEW: Catch “Jekyll & Hyde” before it returns to Broadway

The duality of man is nowhere more compellingly portrayed than in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” in which a kindly doctor and a vicious serial killer exist in one person.

Several stage versions exist. Broadway San Diego brings back the 1997 Frank Wildhorn musical version (which ran nearly four years on Broadway); San Diego is the first stop on its march back to Broadway, where it is slated to open in April 2013.

Dr. Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis) is a researcher trying to isolate the “evil gene” that lurks in us all. But when he is denied backing from the hospital board for his research, he decides to experiment on himself, with the well-known tragic results.

The potions he drinks turn the good doctor, fiancé of the lovely Emma Carew (Teal Wicks), into Edward Hyde, a caped villain stalking London at midnight with long, stringy hair and a long, menacing knife. Will his alter ego kill even what he loves?

This production has two big pluses: production values and a top-notch cast. Tobin Ost’s many set pieces move in and out, revolve, move up and down, impressive with their intricacy and detail and helped by terrifically atmospheric lighting by Jeff Croiter, moody projections by Daniel Brodie and Ken Travis’ excellent sound design (though the sound levels were set way too high for human ears). And Ost’s costume designs were lovely.

Maroulis is spectacular as Jekyll/Hyde – with a rich, powerful voice that takes over the theater when he’s singing – and he’s just the tip of a talent iceberg that runs deep.

Wicks’ Emma has just the right innocent look and sound. The other side of that coin is Deborah Cox’s spunky Lucy, the tart with a heart (and a fine voice) who falls for the good doctor.

Laird Mackintosh is fine as Jekyll’s friend and personal attorney John Utterson, as was Richard White as Emma’s father Sir Danvers. The singing hospital board of governors were suitably bureaucratic, though they sing much better than any bureaucrats of my acquaintance.

The problem with the show is the show itself. There’s little soaring or even hummable in Frank Wildhorn’s music, Leslie Bricusse’s book and lyrics are of the paint-by-numbers variety, and the orchestra is frankly just too loud.

But it’s a great story, well sung and acted. If you want to see a show that’s going to Broadway, get yourself a ticket now.

The details

“Jekyll & Hyde” plays through Oct. 7 at San Diego Civic Theatre, Third and B Street, downtown.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm.

For tickets, call TicketMaster 888-937-8995 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.

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