Review - Jekyll and Hyde the Musical: hard pressed to find it better staged
Michael Mills as Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde. Photos by CF Families Photography
Jekyll and Hyde The Musical
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Directed by Elodie Boal
Presented by the Phoenix Ensemble
Season: 18 October-9 November. Bookings: Bookings: phoenixensemble.com.au or phone 07) 3103 1546
Jekyll and Hyde is an excellent show; you would be hard pressed to find it better staged anywhere, even professionally. I thoroughly enjoyed this performance.
The play is set in 1800s London when the mentally ill were put into asylums, treated worse than the dogs in the street, and were the laughing fodder for high society who came to see the unfortunate souls as an afternoon outing.
Dr Henry Jekyll, is obsessed with the duality of the human soul—the ability for one person to be both good and evil—and believes he can cure the ‘evil’ self from the human race altogether. Unfortunately for him, the Board of St Jude’s Hospital see his experiments as bordering on the insane and “an affront to God himself” and deny him the license and funding to further his research by using a human study.
The story also touches on the love story between Jekyll and the Chair of the hospital board, Sir Danvers Carew’s daughter, Emma.
The dark elementals were in play as soon as you walked into the theatre, with the sound effects of zombie-like, inhuman groaning. The duality theme was obvious from the curtain, one half white, the other half looking like blood corpuscles undergoing enormous change.
This theme, of course, was apparent in Jekyll himself when he decided to conduct his experiments on himself, all to no good effect as Mr Edward Hyde slowly took over his persona and Jekyll could no longer control when the change occurs. It was also displayed between the two leading ladies—Emma Carew and Lucy Harris (a ‘dancer’ from the infamous Red Rat club)—Lucy being on the darker side of the ‘tracks’ and Emma from upper society, both in love with Jekyll.
Michael Mills played Jekyll/Hyde and did so brilliantly. He first appeared as the quiet spoken, driven scientist Jekyll and it was hard to imagine how the transformation was going to be made, but when Hyde was let loose due to a chemical concoction of Jekyll’s making, there was a different person standing in front of the audience.
Mills used his long hair to great effect to transform between the two characters and his voice also altered from soft to harsh and rasping. The outstanding song, Confrontation, came in the second half, where Jekyll and Hyde switch backwards and forwards rapidly reminding one of Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
Emma, played by Kelly Cooper, and Lucy, played by Ebony Hamacek both had very striking voices and did a marvellous duet together. I did, however, really enjoy the raunchy song Bring on the Menwith Lucy and the prostitutes, which was exceptionally well performed. The girls wore an assortment of red and black bustiers, fishnet stockings, and lace gloves, and carried off the ‘tease’ splendidly.
Murder, Murder performed by the whole ensemble was also great; this opened the second act where the members of the hospital board were dropping like flies from horrific murders.
Dom Bradley, played Sir Archibald Proops (board member) and Spider (owner of the Red Rat), another aspect that showed the duality between high and low society. Simon Stone (Sir Danvers Carew) and Michael Baillie (John Utterson – Jekyll’s friend and a lawyer) were equally up to the task of their characters. In fact, the production was exceptionally well cast. I must also make mention that the murder victims were very convincing as each came to their untimely deaths.
The small stage was simply set and yet was very effective, being able to switch from the Red Rat on one side, to Jekyll’s laboratory on the other. Two sets of wooden steps led down from a boardwalk along the back of the stage, which was put to great effect in the scene where Hyde stalks Lucy, crawling along underneath, bringing the imagery to mind that she was walking along the docks above.
The costumes were wonderful–from the prostitutes (already mentioned) to the dresses and suits of both the upper and lower classes. A favourite was Spider’s long red kilt with the leather strapping over a white shirt, which looked like a harness.
The choreography (Lauren Conway) was great. It matched both the mood and feel of the songs. The music (Trenton Dustan) was by way of two keyboards, tucked into the alcove at the side of the stage, which provided all of the special sound effects as well. Lighting consisted of a range of red and yellow tones, which added to the sinister ambience of the show.
A thoroughly enjoyable production. This little theatre has come of age.
Ebony Hamacek as Lucy Harris