Me: The return of Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll and Hyde” to Broadway, not a cause for celebration in my household, conjures up a vivid memory of the original Broadway production, when Robert Cuccioli sang the duet “Confrontation” with himself as first Jekyll in a ponytail and then Hyde with wild and loosened hair, back and forth in rapid succession – ponytail-hair-ponytail-hair. They were fighting with each other – themselves? I think he might actually have been slapping himself, because I recall picturing the scene from “Chinatown” – where Jack Nicholson slaps Faye Dunaway while she says “my sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter” – except in “Jekyll and Hyde” it was just one person slapping himself.
This time around, in the new production at the Marquis Theater, the live Jekyll in the ponytail confronts the video Hyde with the loosened hair — a video (complete with fake fire) that, a fellow theatergoer pointed out, resembles the ludicrous sashaying super-hero videos in Spider-Man. Ponytailed Jekyll and wild-haired Hyde are both played by Constantine Maroulis this time around, which would be reason enough to stay home — if Frank Wildhorn’s music and Leslie Briscusse’s book and lyrics didn’t already provide ample motivation to do that.
Me: Who are you to judge Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” which got four Tony nominations and lasted on Broadway for nearly four years, and has been a popular album for two decades? OR, for that matter, Constantine Maroulis, who from sixth-place finalist on Season 4 of “American Idol,” has fashioned a respectable recording and stage career, earning a Tony nomination for originating the lead role in “Rock of Ages” on Broadway?
Me: He was fine as a rocker in “Rock of Ages.” He is no more convincing as a physician in Victorian England than is the doorman in the Jekyll and Hyde restaurant a couple of blocks away from the Marquis Theater. The more I listened to Maroulis’s odd put-on European accent the more I could detect a youth spent in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He only seems comfortable when he’s growling and belting it out as Hyde, and, as Hyde he’s hideous rather than dangerously sexy. The whole point of evil is that it’s tempting, not that it’s laughable.
Me: You don’t know what you are talking about. First of all, sexy is subjective. People can judge for themselves whether Maroulis’s Hyde is hot, just look at that photograph. As for laughable: There have been dozens of stage versions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” and more than 100 film adaptations, and Frank Wildhorn’s may be the most popular. It wouldn’t be if people didn’t treat it seriously.
Me: Reviews of the original Broadway production of “Jekyll and Hyde” 1997: “leaden, solemnly campy…. plastic monster assembly kit of a musical.”
Me: That’s stuck-up critics, not the public. And, anyway, that was then; this is now. The current director, Jeff Calhoun, helmed the hit Broadway musical and turnaround miracle “Newsies.” He’s rethought “Jekyll and Hyde” too, paying more attention to the visual spectacle (dramatic lighting, theatrical fog, etc.), removing some of the bloat, devising practical solutions like that video projection you so ridicule.
Me: He has also turned the show into a darkly-lit s&m bondage fantasy. The very first thing we see is a mummy-like figure tied Christ-like to a torture bed — that’s supposed to be Jekyll’s father in an insane asylum. If Dr. Jekyll’s world is as gothic as Mr. Hyde’s, where is the contrast between good and evil? If there’s no difference, what is the point of the show?
Me: The point is to see Deborah Cox, the Broadway veteran (“Aida”) and R & B recording artist, play Lucy, the hooker with the voice of gold who both moves Jekyll and enflames Hyde. Cox is the stand-out performer, with a pure, powerful and soulful voice that finds the beauty equally in the raucous “Bring on the Men” and the ballad “Someone Like You.”
Me: One singer does not a show make.
Me: Teal Wick’s performance as Emma Carew, Jekyll’s fiancée, also stands out.
Me: I just don’t like a Power Ballad Belt Fest, a show that treats singing like an Olympic sport.
Me: Well, millions do like it. “This is the Moment” is a much played song
Me: Used in sporting events
Me: So? Sports fans have ears.
Me: Can you honestly say you would choose “Jekyll and Hyde” as my daughter’s introduction to Broadway?
Me: My sister
Me: My daughter
Me: My sister
Me: My daughter
Click on any photograph to see it enlarged in a slide show
Jekyll and Hyde
At the Marquis Theater
Music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, Steve Cuden, book by Leslie Bricusse; concept by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden (original story was by Robert Louis Stevenson_
Directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun
Scenic and costume design by Tobin Ost, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Ken Travis, projection design by Daniel Brodie, orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg, musical supervision and arrangements by Jason Howland.
Mel Johnson Jr.
Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes, which includes a 15-minute intermission
Ticket prices: $58.75 – $151.75
Jekyll and Hyde is scheduled to run at the Marquis through June 30, 2013