Jekyll and Hyde – Kennedy Center

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I first saw Jekyll and Hyde with the original Broadway production in the late 1990s with Sebastian Bach, of hair metal band Skid Row, in the title role. I didn’t really remember much of the production some 15 years later walking into the Kennedy Center for the current pre-Broadway run of the show starring former American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis in the title role and featuring R&B singer and Broadway star Deborah Cox. After walking out of the show I now remember why I don’t remember much of the show, it is rather forgettable. There is no doubt that Maroulis and Cox have the vocal chops to handle a Broadway production, because the few highlights of the show were the moments they were able to use their vocal skills on ballads they either handled solo or in duet with each other. Unfortunately that was far and few between. Moreover, the story was just not that compelling. This isn’t to say that Maroulis did not do an adept job of handling the dual roles of the kind Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil alter ego Mr. Edward Hyde. The story of Jekyll and Hyde would seem to lend itself to full-fledged Broadway musical; however a lackluster book and songs makes this show fall short.

This is the second show I have seen in the Kennedy Center Opera House in the past month, having also seen War Horse. I have become convinced that the cavernous theater is not a great venue for seeing live theater as the performers on stage are so far away. Perhaps I have become spoiled by the smaller houses in Washington, DC, which are far more intimate. However, I also fault the lighting in this production. It was not until the curtain call that you truly realize how poor the lighting was. That was the first time in the show that you had a good view of the actor’s faces. While the show itself is to be macabre and take place at night the lighting left you guessing early on as to who was actually singing. This show in the shadows never gives you an opportunity to connect with any of the characters as their faces were always hidden.

The most disappointing moment for me was the climactic moment when Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde confront each other late in the second act in a battle played out on stage. In the original production, the actor switches back and forth between the two characters as that battle takes place, with the actor singing the parts of both characters as he is further pulled apart by the scientific experiment he has conducted on himself. Unfortunately, the producers of the current production used the easy cop out of using a video projection of Constantine Maroulis as the evil Mr. Hyde singing that part of the confrontation, with images of cracking glass and explosions going on within the video projection. All the while Mr. Maroulis plays the suffering Dr. Jekyll on stage and singing that part. Video projections can add much to the ambiance and scenery that set pieces may not be able to accomplish; however, this use of video stole much from the dramatics of the moment of watching an actor handle a scene like that. For me it harkened back to the over use of video projection for scenery from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Woman in White” that had an inauspicious and short stay on Broadway several years ago.

Jekyll and Hyde’s loyal and dedicated following can be the only explanation for this show making a return to Broadway. It certainly won’t have the run that the first go around had and I would be surprised to see it make a serious run at a Tony Award in 2013. I’m just glad that my musical theater palate will be cleansed in just a few weeks when the national tour of Les Miserables makes its’ way to the National Theater.

Up Next: You for Me for You, November 23.

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