The musical theater elite turned their noses up at Jekyll & Hyde when it premiered on Broadway in 1997 and, well, we’re still doing it now two decades later, even if Frank Wildhorn’s poperatic score has become something of a guilty pleasure.
Wildhorn, whose personal motto might be “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try again” (not one of his musicals have ever found financial or critical success), can write a decent medley, but Jekyll & Hyde is bogged down by a lousy book and inane lyrics, both courtesy of Leslie Bricusse.
It’s a campy affair that works best when it doesn’t treat the material too preciously. The original production was oh-so-serious, something that the last Broadway revival (which starred Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox) totally avoided. Maroulis and Cox both gave credible performances in a production that played up the campiness of the musical at every turn. It played like a rock concert, and although the musical still didn’t quite work, it was damn entertaining.
Maroulis, a Tony-nominated actor and American Idol finalist, is reprising his roles of the driven scientist, Henry Jekyll, and his deranged other half, Edward Hyde, in another all-white production at North Shore Music Theatre directed by Broadway’s original Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Cuccioli.
It isn’t surprising, then, that Cuccioli’s production adopts more of the original’s seriousness than the revival’s camp. And Maroulis has, in turn, toned down his performance to match.
But Maroulis is still great in the role, and this time he is joined by fellow American Idol alum Diana DeGarmo who, under about 12 pounds of hair, sings the hell out of Wildhorn’s anthemic score. But the musical itself is still rather bad and Cuccioli makes no major gains toward glossing over that.
Kelli Barclay’s chaotic choreography doesn’t help matters, and some of the show’s heart is neutered by Tess Primack, who plays Jekyll’s fiance, Emma, with a now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t accent and a voice that veers too often toward shrill.
Jekyll & Hyde may be many things, but I must admit, it’s never boring. And for all of this production’s clunkiness, there’s a lot to recommend in Maroulis and DeGarmo’s performances.
JEKYLL & HYDE. THROUGH 10.7 AT NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE, 62 DUNHAM RD., BEVERLY. NSMT.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.