Playbill Critics Circle: Review Jekyll & Hyde

News   Playbill Critics Circle: Review Jekyll & Hyde This is the moment. . . that Jekyll and Hyde fans have been waiting for. The musical is now in previews for an April 28 opening, with a new director and new physical production, with a very different approach from the ones on the 1995-96 national tour.

This is the moment. . . that Jekyll and Hyde fans have been waiting for. The musical is now in previews for an April 28 opening, with a new director and new physical production, with a very different approach from the ones on the 1995-96 national tour.

Write your review of the new version of the show ONLY if you’ve seen one of the Broadway performances. Let everyone know what the show looks, sounds and feels like. Be as specific and descriptive as possible. How well does the show express its themes? How faithful is it to the book? How well does it make the translation to the stage? How are the performances, the design elements? Keep in mind that the show is currently in previews and you are among the first audiences to see the revised production.

 

Write your comments -- long or short -- and e-mail them to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at robert_viagas@playbill.com. Comments will be posted as they come in.

Please make sure to include your town and state, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course. Here are the results so far. Playbill On-Line thanks those who took the time to write.

From Doug:
I saw the Sunday afternoon preview (3/23) of "Jekyll & Hyde". It was, in a word, disappointing (in fact, the whole weekend was disappointing, as I saw the lackluster 20th anniversary "Annie" the day before, and was hoping for J & H to live up to its promise). I had seen the national tour (with the same principals, Cuccioli and Eder), and was very interested to see if the musical had gotten its legs. Apparently, this new version is the closest to the Wildhorn's original version; I frankly thought the tour version was better. Regarding the set, the laboratory set of the tour was far more sinister and impressive than the current one (with just plain bottles and test tubes); also, the tour had a set with a walk-over which framed the stage nicely, and upon which action took place. In addition, the Red Rat scene was far more interesting and bawdy, with more suggestive characters and actions; it's been greatly "sanitized" for Broadway. And so has the set - the tour set was dark, ominous, mysterious, completely befitting the subject matter; I doubt anyone is frightened by the Broadway set.
The story line still has problems in its musical adaptation; things moved very quickly in the tour, now seem long and drawn out. I remain convinced that this literary property is not a particularly good one for musical development (common in this season, in my opinion). The "Murder, Murder" number, a signature of the tour with its completely inane hand gestures, now is done with twirling umbrellas instead; these props do nothing but detract from one of the stronger numbers in the show.
Unfortunately, the weakest part of the show is its leads - and I know I'm going against popular opinion here - but Cuccioli, although doubtless a fine actor and one who passionately portrays Dr. Jekyll, is far too "over-the-top" for my taste. And Linda Eder, while possessing a wonderful voice (I saw her solo concert one month after seeing her on the "Jekyll & Hyde" tour, and she was quite impressive), is NOT an actress. Thus, when any need for some important point to be communicated occurs, she is put center stage and allowed to sing alone. for me, one of the MOST ridiculous moments in musical theater occurs in Act One, Scene 16 (yes, sixteen!) when Lucy goes to Dr. Jekyll's office for the first time. After treating her back wounds, he leaves, the ENTIRE set is flown away, leaving Lucy standing alone in his office, singing "A New Life" (incorrectly attributed in the program to Mr. Hyde, I might add!). If an actress can only communicate when singing her songs alone on stage, she should not be in musical theater.
And of course, since the show is in previews, there were many bugs that still need to be ironed out. Unfortunately, I missed the appearance of "the dog" by one day; apparently it was pulled Saturday, because it caused such an outpouring of "oh, how cute" from the audience (a small dog appeared at one point in the show). There were no side curtains, so I could (from the second row center) clearly see actors changing in the wings near the stage. Linda Eder's substantial bosom (rather, one of them) came out of her costume when she fell and rolled over after being killed. One of the main characters (Utterson) came out for a lengthy scene with his pants zipper open. And mechanical tracks with move the scenery on and off DESPERATELY need maintenance - they squeaked extremely loudly at the most inappropriate times.
The audience seemed crazed by the performance, frequently yelling and screaming (Cuccioli has a LOT of adolescent fans), and gave a standing ovation. But I agree with one of your former contributors - critics will tear the show apart unless some major changes are made, and rightly so.
Although I think it's clear that I did not enjoy the musical, I must mention the one breath of fresh air - Christiane Noll in the role of Emma. She was absolutely a pleasure to watch, is a consummate actress (FAR outshining Eder), and has a radiant, full voice. I of course have seen her before, and remained impressed by this wonderful artist. And let me compliment the ensemble work - they delivered the vocals and choreography, however banal, with precision and authority. And keep an eye out for John Trea. (3/27/97)

 

From Marc Goldman:
I feel odd reviewing this show since I saw it in only its second day of previews, and I know there are MANY changes still in the works, but for a version in its early performances, I loved it!!! The 3 leads were fantastic. Bob Cuccioli amazed me because his performance improved greatly since the tour. NOW his singing has reached the level of his acting, and I couldn't be more thrilled! Linda Eder blows u out of your seat with her singing, but they have subdued and sanitized her character a bit much. Christiane Noll does a subtle, yet sparkling job as Emma, singing to perfection and really showing a friendship and love for Jekyll that was missing in the tour.
The book has been greatly redone and it works very well in developing Jekyll's character, his relationship with Emma, and his inner conflict. (CONFRONTATION scene is great in concept, needs work in staging-kudos to Bob though!) However, at times, there may be too much talking and the score suffers because of it. The production has a great atmosphere and look. Once the cast gets used to the tech side of things, I think the show will be on fire, with great passion.
GO SEE THIS SHOW!!!!!! (3/25/97)

 

From Zenith (Zenith3324@aol.com), Tampa, FL:
I saw the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde on the opening night of previews, and it is definitely a new production from the tour. I'd like to say that Jekyll & Hyde is surely a fine night of theater, but before it opens on April 28th, some major problems must be corrected.
The music is absolutely wonderful. It is rich and beautiful, and is performed by a cast of amazing talent. Christiane Noll's singing is spellbinding. Her acting is flawless as she brings to life Emma Carew, the pretty, young bride to be of Henry Jekyll. Her singing in "His Work and Nothing More," "Once Upon a Dream," "Take Me as I Am," and "In His Eyes" are exactly what a theatregoer wants to hear for a $75 ticket. Not to mention Linda Eder whose voice brings the Plymouth Theater to stunned silence every time it's used. Her singing is terrific and she is great at her part of a Red Rat dancer. Her standing ovation was well deserved.
And Robert Cuccioli - the doctor whose backfired experiment causes major distress throughout London, did a fine job on his role. Although I would have liked to see Anthony Warlow in the role, Robert certainly did very well. The audience sure liked him- they blocked the exit of the stage door until they all had gotten their playbills signed by him. His transformation is terrific as is his work on "This is the Moment" and "The Way Back." They are definite show stoppers. Cuccioli must have known as he attempted to hold back his smile during the applause of "This is the Moment." The supporting roles (especially George Merritt) were all full of energy. I was surprised how strong the voices were as they sang through the harmonies of "Facade" and "Alive."
But the cast was the high point of the show. I was very disappointed in much of Robin Phillips work. The show was changed to satisfy the critics at the audience's expense. Sure there was more character development and a more focused plot line (This is what the critics nailed the show for on tour), but all of the interesting effects and lighting were lost on the way. After seeing the tour, I never knew how spectacular lighting could be in a musical. ( "Alive", "Murder, Murder" , and "Facade"). In the new production, there were no special lighting tactics. I was disappointed. Plus, the special effects were gone. There were a few, but they were terrible at the first performance. In "Alive", Hyde burns one of the governors, but the fire was about 5 feet away from the governor, and it didn't go out until intermission had begun and the audience saw Hyde walk away, so it wasn't very effective.
The stage combat ("Murder" and "Alive") was right out of a high school production--very fake and poorly directed. There wasn't even any blood used - not even in Lucy's murder! In "Murder, Murder", Hyde kills someone and her head is left lying on the stage. It looked very fake. Someone next to me started laughing, and the whole purpose was destroyed. Plus the choreography in "Murder, Murder" was inappropriate. One part resembled "Coffee Break" in How to Succeed in Business...!
The rest of the thrilling aspects of the show were totally lost. The Board of Governors was no longer bitter, they were a source of comic relief! The song "Jekyll's Plea" before the Board just does not work. Then "Confrontation," the showstopper on the tour, was redone. Hyde no longer appears in the mirror. Jekyll is alone on stage and he switches back and forth between identities singing to himself. It was well done, but the audience would have much rather seen the face of Hyde in the mirror.
The song "Good and Evil" was put in to adhere to the plot line more, which sounded okay, but was nothing compared to the song "Bring on the Men" which it replaced. This number really needed some choreography, which it lacked.
The set which was created by Robin Phillips and James Noone was just alright. I thought at times the stage was cluttered- especially backstage where people could be seen moving things around in a frenzy. I have never seen so many things going on backstage in a production.
The thing I most don't understand is the glass set. It's nice, but when the television screens with the conductor can be seen reflecting off of it, there's a problem. It was very distracting. I REALLY think this production could have been much better off with the touring company's set (and ideas for that matter). It would have been easier to redirect and use the same set with some changes, instead of making a brand new production like this. After all, it was the tour that made the show popular, why did Robin Phillips make a new production? He took out a lot of things that the show's fans loved and looked forward to. Also, there was a dog (BJ) in the show which was used in one scene, but could be heard barking backstage the whole show. I don't see the point in this, because it was just a distraction to Linda Eder's "Someone Like You."
The show could have been just as intimate in a larger auditorium. The 3 leads have enough talent to turn any theater into an intimate space. Plus the show could have used some of its mega musical aspects from the tour to give the audience more of a memorable experience. I think with a month before the critics attack, the show can get its act together technically. As for the cast, they did a fantastic job. I also got a picture with Leslie Bricusse (lyricist) and his wife, so that was a good note to end on! (3/24/97)

 

From Bonnie Stiskal:
Let me start out by saying that "J&H" is one of my favorite recordings, and Linda Eder has a voice that could get her to the top of Broadway VERY quickly. Having said this, I now have the unfortunate news that "J&H" (as of the March 22nd preview I attended) is a disaster.
I'm sure many will disagree with me, but the fact is that a local theatre could have put on a more flowing and talent- filled performance. The show is laughable. Robert Cuccioli is the worst and most nasal singer I have ever heard. The choreography is a disgrace to Broadway. The set DOES NOT STOP moving. The special effects are in a terrible state. And the chorus needs to learn how to sing.b The most disappointing point of the evening was whenever Linda Eder started to sing and the sound man kept changing the levels to fit her voice (this is what I expect from a high school production). Robert's high point is, of course, the confrontation, but due to an annoying lighting trick, the song is ruined. "This Is The Moment" should be changed to "This Is The Point When The Set Never Stops Changing". The new "Good and Evil" song sung by Linda Eder is a dud ("Bring on the Men" was greatly missed by myself). The acting in this show is tacky and not even good enough to be considered "campy". The person I attended the show with said that (because the set takes up a majority of the Plymouth's stage) they had the most fun watching a chorus member make a quick change (very visibly) in the wings. The funniest point of the evening was when Hyde throws a fireball at one of the Board of Governors and the fire didn't go out. Most of the singing in Jekyll's hospital board presentation has been cut (which leaves the audience wondering why Jekyll says, "If I needed any further proof for my experimentation, you have just provided it" because the scene has lost its intensity). Linda and Christine Noll are the saving graces of the evening. Both bring a great talent to a horrible show.
I wish that none of this had to be written, but to my own disappointment, if there was a "fine line between a good" show "and a bad", this would be WAY across the bad border. (3/24/97)

 

From Don Simon (CGPamplemoose@webtv.net) Allentown, PA:
I have just seen the third preview performance on Saturday, 3/22 - 8:00 PM. Finally - after waiting eight years the show is on Broadway where it belongs! Forgetting the tour - let's concentrate on what we see now. Most of the songs we've all come to know and love are still there (excluding I Need To Know and Bring on the Men). HOWEVER, somebody please pick up the tempo! They all seem to have slowed down. "This Is The Moment" is still a showstopper - but doesn't give me chills as it did on tour! "Someone Like You" is simply now a Linda Eder showcase - she must know someone connected to the show (Ha Ha!).
Overall, acting is magnificent and story is tighter. Fans of "Lisa" will groan when they hear the name now sung as "Emma". "Confrontation" scene is spectacular as Robert Cuccioli changes acting style and voices while in a single spotlight! Guaranteed Tony's for both Robert and Linda as well as the show!
Well fans, it's finally here on Broadway where we wished it - to quote the songs lyrics - "This Is The Moment - Let It Sparkle And Shine!!!" (3/22/97)

 

From Ellen Jacobs (mtigwc03.worldnet.att.net):
I had the good fortune to see the first night preview of Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway, at the Plymouth Theatre, and from center orchestra too! The good news is that there is some fabulous talent on stage and at work on the production: Loud applause for the performances of Robert Cuccioli as Jekyll and Hyde; Linda Eder as LUcy; Christiane Noll as Emma Carew, Jekyll's fiance, George Merritt as Jekyll's lawyer, Utterson, and Barrie Ingham as Sir Danvers Carew. Frank Wildhorn's music is beautiful and the 'break-out' showstoppers include "This is the moment" sung with great passion by Cuccioli; "Take me as I am" sung by Cuccioli/Noll "No one Knows who I am" [Eder] and in the Second Act , "A New Life" [Eder].
The book of this musical is quite far removed from the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson which was written in 1885 and published in 1886. Stevenson's novella is a tale of urban danger and a particularly male universe; Danvers, Utterson, Jekyll interact with brief mention of scullery maids, domestics who see Hyde's brutal acts of murder from their windows. This stage production moves very far from Stevenson's story; almost half the cast are female, representing women of the working classes as well as more privileged, aristocratic sorts. Lucy, suggesting a purity of soul in a bawdy environment and Emma, the white-clad virginal fiance, are new to Stevenson's original plot. I was willing to go along w a new "book"; in which Jekyll attracts both female leads;and is motivated to find a medical cure for his father's madness and presumably the illnesses of London's poor. But somewhere in the night, i think the production loses its focus, that is to say, there is a problem w the book which handicaps the music and the actors and the staging/direction/choreography is ambiguous: there are lots of parade/promenade chorus scenes and then some very static staging of the lead characters, standing or sitting in place [Lucy in particular] while belting out a song calling for motion.
One follows the struggle of good and evil, personified brilliantly in Cuccioli as Jekyll & Hyde in their/his "Confrontation" scene in the closing of the Second Act; truly worth seeing the show for a memorable duet by one actor! But other scenes, sub-themes, suggesting sub-texts much more contemporary to our own world detract from the centrality of Jekyll's original quest: to use science to create a "better" self. Jekyll/Hyde sings of tasting his potion, yet Cuccioli uses, distracting, a hypodermic needle. Why introduce this contemporary drug paraphernalia unless one is running a sub-text of drugs; disease; death? Go back to Jekyll's drink/potion, I say. Jekyll commits on stage some violent acts of murder, using knives, cane, (fire?}. Why not employ the savage beatings Stevenson described? The production plays off tales of Jack-the-Ripper and contemporary scenes of sexual violence, but loses Jekyll/Hyde's focus-- to beat out, with cane or chemical potion, goodness or evil in another's life.
Those scenes which seem out of place, perhaps a problem of choreo/staging, more than the book itself are: several scenes of London dockside where there appear to be miners rather than dockhands, many of whom in costume unrepresentative of Victorian dock labourers; scenes somehow suggestive of both brothel and English music hall at the same time: The costumes suggest brothel, but I thought there was a "camp" element introduced, perhaps a sub-text, with male/male sexual seductions choreographed w a female added, for a bit of spice. More grating: "high" camp cruising scenes of male boy-toys lusting, presumably for one-another, or some narcissistic self, distractingly, while the Jekyll/Hyde/Lucy characters are lustily singing in the foreground.Why not introduce a homo-social element more directly, as it is in the original novella?
In spite of these reservations I would recommend POL readers see this production: Wildhorn's music, brilliant belt/singing by the leads are superb and sometimes, unforgettable. But it may also be a somewhat busy, distracting night on stage, with a lot of chorus -men and women on parade. Add a small white dog, promenading while one of the leads attempts to sing, and you may think the project needs to be scaled-down from its laudable, but not-yet successful ambitions.
One final note: the first-preview audience was an enthusiastic mix of all ages, more youthful audiences than I've seen at recent Bwy productions w the exception of Rent and Funk, so perhaps this production will tap into the same audience enthusiasms and loyalty in spite of book, staging and other limitations. (3/22/97)

 

From: Jeff Pugel (jpugel@pipeline.com):
I saw Jekyll & Hyde on Friday March 21 (first day of previews). Walking in you see a red box on stage with a gurney and painting behind a red scrim. Surrounding it are black mirrors. As the show progresses, the stage expands and contracts, but the red box is continually present in one form or another. As for the show itself, it needs A TON of work before it opens or it will get ripped apart by the critics. Most notably is the entire second act. None of the scenes were connected and a continuity flow was hard to detect. In the first act, Lucy seemed not really to be developed as a person. We meet her at the Red Rat and then the next thing we know is that she is at Jekyll's office. No explanation there.
I feel that all of the tinkering with the music and book have been a real bad idea and that they should reinsert a lot of the music. I think that "Bring in the Men" would've established Lucy better then her new song. I could go on for a while about it, but I just feel that overall that the production team has a lot of work to do before it opens on April 28 to get it into a Broadway show that works. (3/22/97)

 

From Sallymax:
I went to the first preview tonight (3/21). I did not really know what to expect because even though I have heard the disc, I never saw the tour. The theatre was sold out, and the show was pretty amazing. The first Act seemed stronger than the second, but a guy in the lobby told me that he had heard a lot more changes were coming. The set and the costumes are incredibly beautiful. The leads were all really good and got several rousing ovations.
The show seemed properly gothic and creepy, although there were times when the story got a little confusing. Often times some of the chorus members are off on the side looking at the scene; sometimes that's great, sometimes that's distracting. The opening song of Act II "Murder" was the weakest part of the show. The best is hard to pick out - all of the songs were incredibly well sung and I found the ending really gripping. At the end of the show, the entire audience stood.
With a little bit more work it could be a big, big hit. I definitely recommend it. (3/22/97)

 

From MrHyde65:
I had the pleasure of seeing a matinee preview of J & H on 3/22/97. Having never seen any incarnation of the show, but having followed it since it's first concept album, I found the show thrilling. I thought that the staging and performances were BRILLIANT. There are a few things I would change, but I'll save those for another forum. I loved this show and hope that it will succeed on Broadway and have a long run. I can't wait to see it again next month, to see how they improve a show, that starting out of the gate, is already wonderful. If anyone is wavering on going or not, I suggest you go. Trust me.....there are many, many things to love about this production. Robert Cuccioli. Linda Eder. TRUST ME! (3/23/97)

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