Review – Jekyll and Hyde the musical

March 8, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Big but brash

Church Hill Theatre
Tue 5 – Sat 9 March 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s no holding back by the Bohemians in their production of Jekyll and Hyde the musical, which is up at the Church Hill Theatre until Saturday.

Big voices, high volume and grand set pieces are the order of the evening, with Jonathan Collins in particularly strong voice in the title role of this musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella.

Bring on the Men: The Red Rat Girls - with Spider (Judith Neeson) in purple. Photo The Bohemians.jpg

Bring on the Men: The Red Rat Girls – with Spider (Judith Neeson) in purple. Photo The Bohemians

Indeed, his big high, ending note of the musical’s big hit, This is the Moment, is a moment in its own right. Climbing up to the back of the stepped stage over the duration of the song, Collins hits, holds and lets the note float – for so long that you begin wondering if he will ever let it go.

If it is a high point, in many senses, of the production, it also gives some indication of why the whole evening doesn’t hit its own highlights in the ways that it might.

Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn’s re-imagining of Stevenson’s fable of the good and evil which lies within mankind, makes Dr Henry Jekyll an ambitious and brilliant young doctor in St Jude’s, an institution for the mentally ill.

Mental illness is, according to Hyde, the manifestation of evil. The St Jude’s patients are not so much ill but under the influence of malign forces. His cure is a chemical formula which he believes will separate out the good and evil that he believes lies within everyone.

In his search for a cure, Hyde is happy to sacrifice everything, including the love of his fiancé, Emma Cardew (Claire MacLean).

Director Colin Cairncross tells the story admirably with large and involved company – which is certainly up for having as great a time on stage as its audience does in appreciating the show.

Lascivious and fun

There’s plenty of howling and wailing while Dr Jekyll does his rounds at St Jude’s. And there’s even more to get to grips with when, thwarted in his attempt to use a patient to experiment on by its committee of the great and good, he takes his pal the lawyer John Utterson (Charlie Munro) to the Red Rat pub.

The Red Rat scenes might not be quite what you would expect of a Victorian bawdy-house – but they are certainly bawdy. Led by the strong-voiced Rachel Flynn as the prostitute, Lucy, with Judith Neeson as the pimp Spider hovering in the background, the company get right into a lascivious and fun rendition of Bring on the Men.

The makings of the more nuanced elements of the plot are there for the taking. Indeed, some elements are excellently done. MacLean makes Emma a forward-thinking, strong-willed young woman amidst the unenlightened Victorian society. Munro is both fantastic in voice and performance as the wide-eyed Utterson. And Flynn has both bravado and fear, as the prostitute who is befriended by Jekyll but abused by Hyde.

But on the whole there is a distinct lack of subtlety to proceedings. And while the songs work well enough, the manner of their performance is driven more by their construction than what the lyrics are saying.

The result is an evening with plenty of big moments and fun elements, but it is also one which never engages as it might. This is most obvious in Lucy and Emma’s big duet, In His Eyes. There’s no inkling of the redemption that both characters offer or that their own pairing might be a counterbalance to the duality of Jekyll and Hyde.

Running time 2 hours 35 mins.
Run ends Saturday 9 March.
Daily, 7.30pm (Sat 2.30pm, 7.30pm).
Tickets from Tickets Scotland: www.tickets-scotland.com
Bohemians website: www.bohemians.org.uk

ENDS

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Comments (6)

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  1. Ruth Davis says:

    I went to Jekyll and Hyde on Thursday and enjoyed the show so much I am going back tonight for the final performance

    I must diasgree with your comment about “In His Eyes”, the audience was enthralled by the contrast in their voices and what each saw in his eyes ..totally engaging

    Regards
    Ruth Davis

  2. Moira Neeson says:

    Why is “brash” a negative? It’s a heavy story without much room for levity and it is very long. If it didn’t grab the audience’s attention they would lose interest. There were big voices and great acting from the whole cast and they deserved better than 3 stars.

  3. Thom Dibdin says:

    Thank you very much for your comments Ruth and Moira – It’s always good to get feedback.
    Yes, Ruth, I thought In His Eyes was engaging in itself – but overall I felt there was more that could have been brought to the production about the relationships between the characters.

    Moira: I give three stars for a production which is “Very good. A strong and assured performance of the kind this company should be making.” A bit stark, I know, but I felt that while there were many strong individual performances, there were a lot of places where the company could have improved on the performance. That said, it was much, much better than the production at the Playhouse a few years ago. But I only gave that the two stars at the time, if I remember rightly.
    Cheers
    Thom

  4. Lynne McLeod says:

    I had the privilege of seeing Jekyll and Hyde on the Thursday evening and was so impressed I asked a colleague of mine to come with me again on Saturday. Your crit does give a pretty good insight to the plot and focuses on the book rather than performance. Yes, we know its a poor book but appreciate its one of the hardest scores to sing and play. That’s why the amateurs stay clear of it.
    Although you mention Collins in the lead, you failed to mention the sheer quality of the singing. I have sat through many amateur productions and have never in my career been so blown away with the quality of musical performance that these guys pulled off.
    The Anunciation, diction, note placement, mixture of chest,head and facial tones was fantastic. Their singing coach is clearly someone who understands what he is doing. You do not get that with other companies. As for the band, they were simply outstanding.
    As a singer and vocal coach I know how difficult the score of Jekyll is and wish critics would pick up on things that are done well. It’s an amateur company afterall, but saying that, it was a production of professional quality.
    I have been to see Oklahoma at the Kings this week and will be interested to see if you write about, the lack of Anunciation, note placement, lyrical phrasing, Scottish accents, inability to sing a classic score well.
    We can all be critical, but lets have the truth.

  5. Lynda Hawthorn says:

    Hear hear, Lynne McLeod.

  6. Craig Christie says:

    Whilst I enjoyed this production I thought the energy and enthusiasm from the chorus on the Friday night was poor. Myself and a group of friends could not make out a word of the lyrics in the big chorus numbers Facade and Murder, Murder – If I hadn’t been in a previous production in Edinburgh then I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on.