Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of J&H, Part 4

News   Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of J&H, Part 4
 
This is the moment. . . that Jekyll and Hyde fans have been waiting for. After eight years in gestation, the musical opened April 28, with a new director, a new physical production, and with a very different approach from the one on the 1995-96 national tour.

This is the moment. . . that Jekyll and Hyde fans have been waiting for. After eight years in gestation, the musical opened April 28, with a new director, a new physical production, and with a very different approach from the one 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?

 

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. Owing to the unusual number and length of responses, we have created a fourth Critics Circle file for this show. Here are the results so far. Playbill On-Line thanks those who took the time to write.

From SarahEsq1:
I've been going to the theater (Broadway) for the last 25 years...and I have never experienced anything like J&H. It is what theater should be. I will admit that the beginning scenes didn't "grab" me...but before I knew it...I was captured by this mystical show. (The beginning scenes are heavily influenced by the production styles of "Les Miz" and "Phantom".)
The talent assembled on that stage is amazing...Linda Eder as "Lucy" and Robert Cuccioni as "J&H". Linda has an incredibly commanding voice -- and Robert's voice (and performance) demand (and deserve!!!) your undivided attention!!!!
The audience was rapt...the performers received standing ovations "during" the performance and the audiance could not contain its enthusium when the artists were taking their curtain calls....all were on their feet before the Linda Eder and Robert Cuccioni had taken their bows.
If you only get to see one play this season, see J&H...it's theater as it should be..."transforming." (4/29/97)

 

From Paul Timm, Seattle, WA:
Summation up front: I really liked it...but...
I was disappointed by the changes. It seems that they've gone out of their way to hit the audience over the head with the "DUALITY OF MAN." I mean, the convept was pretty clear in the beginning, why beat us up with it? Perfect example, changing Lucy's Bring on the Men to Good N Evil. Another is splitting Facade up so much. Now we specifically have a version sung (mostly) by the Street People and another one performed by society's elite.
Most of the changes have made the music almost homogenous: they're all slower moving, fluid songs now.
Having Jekyll do his experiments for knowledge sake alone (I Need to Know) was much more fulfilling than a cheap emotional shot at saving his father (Lost in the Darkness).
Admittedly I liked the staging of drinking the formula (much more intimate and accessable) instead of the injection. And I too preferred the mirror transformation to the jumping back and forth of the current change.
However, performances were absolutely astounding. I was blessed to see Robert Evans in the role of Jekyll/Hyde and the man is absolutely brilliant. My only hope is that he will take over the reigns eventually and they'll put out a new recording with his voice in the role.
Linda and Christine are as fantastic as everyone has already stated.
Overall, I loved it it. Had I never seen it before I would have loved it even more.
Remember the concept album for Chess? Everyone loved it (emotionally and financially). Remember what happened once a real "producer" got a hold of it? (4/29/97)

 

From MadiganB:
I saw Jekyll & Hyde on April 20th. I really wanted to like this show, having enjoyed the novella, several movie versions and the original concept CD. Somewhere in the source material is a very good story about addiction and/or abuse, but it wasn't on stage.
The first act dragged with nothing in particular happening, except the over repetition of the melody to Jekyll's speech song. The song "Facade" sets a theme of humanity being two-faced and intrinsically evil; that we are only good for the sake of a public face, something the underworld denizens here don't worry about. The premise is that all civilized behaviour is a fraud, to hide our evil selves. (This is a bankrupt philosophy that I cannot agree with). The show finally comes alive when Linda Eder takes the stage and does her first big number. "This is the Moment" was nicely performed, but is often reminiscent of "For once in My Life" from "Stop the World I Want to Get Off" (I wonder why--).
But Hyde's too long delayed entry lacked the special effects which the public has come to expect from expensive Broadway productions.( There was a even laser on stage which was not put to any good use.) Hyde immediately announces that he feels "Alive", but we never get to see him show what he means by that. Hyde's use seems to be to function as a Jason-like figure to commit a series of murders of people we don't care about. Hyde should have been introduced right away and the rest told in flashbacks. Scenes showing a relationship between Hyde and Lucy must have be cut from the show, so we are confused at the end over why he kills her -- Is it jealousy over Jekyll?
The relationship between Jekyll and Lucy also seems overly strong for having only met twice. For the confrontation scene, I was hoping for something as dramatic as the scene between Javert and Valjean in Les Miz, but instead we have a scene with a human top, the effect wore out quickly after the first few twirls, I'm surprised he didn't get whiplash. I think the show would be better served with separate actors for Jekyll and Hyde. The mirror in the transformation scene could have been put to much better use then.
The majority of the songs seemed designed to sell records rather than advance a story and are very interchangeable. Almost any character in the show could have sung "This is the Moment". The song "In His Eyes" seemed like a pale imitation of "Lily's Hazel Eyes" from "The Secret Garden"
And the ending is abrupt and contrived. It seems inconceivable that after having acknowledged that the transformations have become uncontrollable, Jekyll would decide to get married. It was almost as bad as the ending of Maury Yeston's "Phantom" This is not the show I hoped it would be. (4/29/97)

 

From AquaEyes, Scarsdale NY:
I saw J&H on April 19. I can honestly say that it was one of the worst, most pretentious musicals I have ever seen... The music was nothing more than music I'd expect to see Nancy kerrigan ice skating to. It was full of awful, boring, monotonous ballads that do nothing to further the story.... In fact, many of these songs turn into a performance of "Linda Eder's Greatest Hits" as she takes center stage to sing a ballad about absolutely nothing. Eder is a beautiful singer. An actress, she is not. Lucy is supposed to be a prostitute. Eder is completely unable to develop her role. Her character should be fiesty and hardened by life on the streets; Eder's grossly miscast, pollished "listen to how gorgeous my voice is-- forget the story" style, in which she seemingly forgets what she is doing on stage is not only boring, but pretentious as well.
By far the worst number in the show (followed closely by the endless reprises of "Facade") is the "Confrontation" in which Cuccioli's Jekyll confronts his alter ego, Hyde. Perhaps on paper the staging of this particular number seemed like a good idea. But in the actual performing of it, it turned into an absurd laughable mess. Poor Cuccioli, there was nothing he could do to better the staging, given that the only way the audience is able to phyisically distinguish between the two egos is through Hyde's disgusting long hair (which Jekyll wears in a ponytail). In the confrontation, Cuccioli's hair is half up and half down, indicating that both egos are at war with each other. Ridiculous, no? Unfortunately, this number became cartoonish, inducing laughter from all around me when this is supposed to be the most climactic song in the show. But another flaw of the show is how no one, not even Lucy, recognized Hyde with his hair up as Jekyll... completely ludicrous.
The best thing about this show are its sets and costumes. Often these two elements are downright distracting from the mediocre action occuring on the stage.
Jekyll and Hyde is a disaster from beginning to end. Perhaps the story would have made a good play, or Linda Eder could have just performed the songs in night clubs across the country. Either way, it simply isn't captivating. And, unless you can get the $20 seats this show is a sure miss.
I was told by the stage manager that this show has one of the most expensive props ( a lab table that switches tracks automatically) in theatre history (more expensive than the helicoptor in Saigon, more than the car in Grease etc). It's too bad that this production wont be around long enough to see it pay for itself in ticket sales. (4/29/97)

 

From John O'Neil (JOneil6075@aol.com) Laguna Niguel, CA:
There are rare moments in great musicals when "magic" happens. Not all great musicals have this "magic" and it is particular to the Broadway musical. When it happens, you'll know it: noone in the audience is talking, sneezing, coughing, or leaving for a break. You feel a rush, freshly invigorated and the hair on your arms stands on end. There are several such moments in Jekyll & Hyde (indeed, more than in most "great" musicals), but yet this musical falls far short of greatness.
Many of the magical moments in Jekyll & Hyde occur when Linda Eder performs. Eder portrays Jekyll/Hyde's victimized love interest Lucy in a performance that could easily make her the toast of Broadway-if only she had a stonger vehicle to showcase her talents. She possesses a booming, broadway belter-type voice and commands your attention whenever she is on stage. It appears that she is indeed being showcased here as she is given most of the good music.
Robert Cuccioni as Jekyll/Hyde possesses an equally powerful voice and he has sharpened his portrayal of both characters since the national tour. His Hyde is now much more menacing and evil and Jekyll is more dedicated, yet troubled.
However, he is also stuck with one of the silliest scenes in the musical , the "confrontation" when Jekyll battles Hyde for control. In the touring production, this scene was much more effective as Hyde's face was projected on a screen; in the broadway production, there is no screen and Cuccioni plays both parts at the same time. In theory, this should deftly showcase Cuccioni's acting talents (which it certainly does), but the direction making him jump back and forth on stage between characters is ridiculous.
The new director, Robin Phillips, can be credited with making the musical more victorian in tone. Yet, his direction lacks insight and fluidity. Too many people are usually on the small stage at the same time (made to look even smaller by the set which boxes in part of the stage.) In a brief moment of inspiration, the sets are removed when Lucy signs "Someone like You" and in the final moments of the song she disappears backstage into a street scene- nice touch. However, the same street scene in the background when Lucy and Emma sing the musical's best song "in His Eyes" is merely distracting.
The other major problem with this production is the same problem plaging most of the new musicals this season: the book. Substantial changes have been made to the story since the tour, but none of these changes really work. There's now a fleeting reference to Jekyll's father and there are major changes to the beginning and ending.Yet, the ending still is too abrupt, Emma's character is still left undeveloped and, therefore, one still doesn't feel any chemistry between Jekyll and Emma. The expository first part of the play is far too dull- it's in desperate need for "I Need to Know" to be restored.
The musical's composer and lyricist (Wildhorne and Bricusse) have added two forgettable new songs "Good and Evil" and "Living in the Shadows." Much of the remaining music is soaring and powerful, some eliciting wild applause from the audience. In the national tour, most critics hated the generic, cliched lyrics that do little to move the story forward. That's why the book is so critical here. The book doesn't work and therefore, we're left with some magical moments by Eder and Cuccioni. (4/27/97)

 

From Joe Frazzetta, Jackson Heights, NY:
No passion, no sensuality, no humor, no choreography! Basically a one song ("This is the Moment"), one scene (first transformation) show.
Hunky Robert Cuccioli has nice stage presence and sings well; Linda Eder doesn't know how to play vulnerability, but she does a great Whitney Houston; Christine Noll sings nicely, but her character is blandly written. The songs, especially the lyrics, are banal. The supporting cast is forgetable.
To its credit, it's a well-oiled show that moves swiftly and slickly (I guess because it's been on the road so long). The only time I laughed (as did several other audience members) was during the "Confrontation" number; the creators didn't intend the scene/song to be funny, but it was one of the silliest things I've ever seen on stage. The show is juiceless! (4/27/97)

 

From Workboots6:
I try to remove myself from over analyzing theatre. If a show moves me....it moves me and I will state as such. J&H "moved" me for lack of a better word. Sure there are things that could and should be changed in regards to the show. But for a couple hours of sheer enjoyment...go see this show.
Linda Eder is a gift to the Broadway stage! TONY TONY TONY. There is a striking similarity to Streisand in the voice...but her portrayal of Lucy...amazed me. Cuccioli works for every second he is on the stage!
I'm a RENT type of guy. Someone who loved "Nine" and "A Chorus Line". "Phantom" and "Les Miserables" just never did it for me...so my expectations of the show were not high.
I bought the Houston Cast Recording and it has not left my car CD player since. If you do see the show...wait for Eder at the stage door....what a sweetheart! The car had arrived to pick us up late...and well...she just rambled up and asked our opinions...we talked for what seemed like a half hour.
Kudos abound for this production. (4/24/97)

 

From Syt850:
I saw "Jekyll & Hyde" on Saturday 4/19/97 and found it to be a very special bore. For one thing, the sets are, in a word, awful. The stage props are about as good as a junior high school production. Remember "Sweeny Todd", with blood dripping out of the knives? Here we have totally bloodless murders. And the makeup is a horror of its own.
Mr. Cuccioli, has no stage prescence. I found that he had a wonderful voice, but when he was on stage, he lacked everything. How he was able to change his characteristics on stage for those peoeple who were supposed to know him, not to know him amazed me. This may have been the one good acting part by the cast.
Linda Eder must be considered a treasure. How she must have suffered through all the variations of this musical is a credit to her forgiveness.
Christiane Noll, has a very lovely voice, and her duet with Linda Eder, " In His Eyes" must be Tony Award winning.
In summation, if you took half of "Les Miz" and half of "Miss Saigon, shaken not stirred, you would have wound up with "Jekyll and Hyde", The music in "Jekyll and Hyde", however is far better than either of the other offerings.
In my opinion, since crap like "Les Miz", and "Miss Saigon" are still around, so may "Jekyll & Hyde".
A loverly score and lyrics for the most part, but after all is said and done, not a very good musical. (4/24/97)

 

From Brian Ballone (blitho@erols.com):
I saw Jekyll & Hyde on Sunday April 20. Having no knowledge of the story, the previous music or any opinions - I enjoyed the musical. The biggest disappointment was the 99% lack of blood. At least show a little bit of blood on Lucy - especially since she is wearing white when killed. It could even be permanently put on her costume because in the beginning of the scene she has on a robe, takes it off and lays down on the bed. The sets are wonderful, fresh and new. The duet between Jekyll and Emma "Take Me As I Am" gave me the chills. I was not going in to this show expecting much so I really enjoyed it - I am eagerly anticipating the Broadway cast album. (4/22/97)

 

From Marty in Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Just returned from Sunday Mat (4-20) and found Jekyll & Hyde uninspiring. Despite an appealing physical production, seemingly melodic score, and cast of engaging performers, the show is, regrettably, dead (i.e. as in boring and flat). Whatever suspense and intrigue may have been found in the original book and earlier incarnations of the musical, is sorely and surprising missing. Only one moment (the 'Murder, Murder' number) has musical energy that advances the story, and this number makes you think of (and miss) Sweeney Todd. Bob Evan played the lead.
Miss Eder, who everyone writes about with a certain ardor, sings very well. But so does Miss Noll. It really is tough on the basis of one performance to hail Eder as Broadway's new belting star/diva. Her songs, as all others, were consistently and heavily amplified. When she sang the lovely duet with Noll, she reminded me of Julie from Show Boat (with Magnolia). Eder has that look. It is not innocent, and it is a tad too elegant to be plain lusty and sexy. It was hard to figure out just what her personality in the show was, and therefore what the connection to Hyde meant. Her song Good and Evil - "there is good in evil and so evil is good"????? did not explain it.
The show dragged almost from the start. It was a shocker to learn that the body in the opening scene gurney was Jekyll's father. The legs looked too trim, muscular, and youthful. The fire at the end of Act 1 still lands many feet in front of the victim. I sort of liked the umbrellas - especially the fabric that made them appear to be wet.
And I liked the lighting effect in Victoria Station, but really wasn't sure that's what it was until I read the Playbill. The magic cane reminded me of the Phantom's in the "Wishing You Were Here" scene in that show. I thought the set transition in the "This is the Moment" number was excellent, moving from study to lab - nicely done. In fact the staging and lighting and costumes were a pleasure to observe- all the more considering the lack of story momentum and character involvement. Eder's character seemed to have far too much to do given the lack of relationship shown. On the other hand, we wanted more of Miss Noll, whose role seemed to justify a couple of more dramatic scenes. (P.S. I would like to know if Eder sounds a bit like Streisand in the 'Somebody Like You' song? Or could it be the song itself that has that Streisand quality - or maybe Steisand has already recorded it and that's what I was hearing???)
All considered - this show should have had more excitement and drama, as well as a better developed theme of good & evil. It all seemed too simplistic and superficial, and unsuspenseful.
By the way, do not sit anyway within the first seven rows or you will not see the performers' feet. Most of the action occurs on a stage which has been constructed at least five steps above the normal level. Some of the $20 first-rowers headed for the hills with sore necks at intermission. It's no bargain in the first row, or the next 5 or 6 rows. Row G and back is best. Since the scenery and lighting are among the better parts of the show, you'll want a good seat. So don't sit too far back either, or the mezzanine overhang will cut off the top of the stage. So sit between rows G and M. Forget rear orchestra. (4/21/97)

 

From: Anthony Rizzo (Ozirra 1@aol.com) Delran NJ:
I have been intrigued with Jekyll & Hyde ever since the concept CD was released in 1990. Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse have written some of the most beautiful songs that I have heard in a very long time. I was excited year after year at the prospect of Jekyll & Hyde getting a full length production and coming to Broadway. When I heard that this would be realized in 1994, I could hardly believe it! Unfortunately, I was unable to see this production on its tour, but listened to the music constantly. Finally being announced for Broadway in 1997, I became ecstatic! To coin a phrase, "this is the moment" for which I had waited 7 years.
I read that the Broadway version would under go many changes from the road show, making it more intimate. Fine, I know it can work. With eager anticipation, I went to NYC on April 2nd to see the show. As I held the ticket in my hand, I couldn't wait to walk inside the theatre! The anticipation was killing me, I expected to be blown away.
Well, someone once told me, "No expectations, no disappointments". I know now to listen to these words in the future! I wouldn't say I hated the show, for it does have some redeeming factors, but I was truly disappointed, almost to the point of being embarrassed. (I had taken 4 friends with me, and constantly talked up the show.)
Some of the problems I have with the show are:
1. The set! The frame during the preshow does not get us in the mood for "A Gothic
Thriller". The constantly moving steps are annoying, and the red floor is distracting.
2. The opening! Why? It doesn't make sense. Jekyll didn't do everything for his father (according to Stevenson) so why bring this in? It was too much, and many people just "didn't get it."
3. The decision to change Lisa's name to Emma! If Jekyll is to become so disillusioned, that he "envisions Lisa and Lucy as the two blurred halves of the same woman," then why not be obvious about it...their names should be similar.
4. The transformation scene! With a mirror on the set that encompasses almost the entire playing area, one would expect a wonderful effect to happen. But no, Jekyll merely pulls the pony tail out of his hair....and becomes Hyde. Some special effect is definitely needed here! Also, why change Jekyll's formula from a liquid that is drunk to something injected via a needle?????
5. Effects! It seems that there are no special effects (that work) in the show. The ones that are there, are laughable. I.E.: burning of a body...very poorly done; rain...looked more like snow to me.
6. Replacing "Bring On The Men" with "Good and Evil." Not necessary. Bring On The Men is a much better character song.
7. Deleting some other wonderful songs! Letting Go and We Still Have Time from the original CD, and The World Has Gone Insane from the Alley Theatre CD. Letting Go could be sung by Jekyll and Lisa after he finds her in his lab, instead of Once Upon A Dream. We Still Have Time could replace the awful song in the church at the end. Lisa could then sing Once Upon A Dream, over the body of her dead husband. Think about it! The World Has Gone Insane is a terrific look into the tormented soul of Jekyll.
8. The umbrellas! Seen better choreography in community theatre.
9. Sir Danvers Carew! In Stevenson's novella, he is the first person Hyde kills. Why notstay true to that? Wouldn't Jekyll despise him most of all for rejecting his findings? Lisa would be left alone, the same as Jekyll. A father figure is not really needed. Dr. Lanyon (a friend of Jekyll's) could replace him after his death, if another "older male figure" is needed.
10. Staging of Ms Eder's solos! What a beautiful voice!!!!! Let her sing, but, is she a character in a show, singing to reveal her thoughts and emotions, or is it The Linda Eder Concert?????
11. The confrontation of Jekyll & Hyde! What a chilling song! However, it is not staged that way! I thought the poor actor was going to get a headache from the constant jerking of his head back and forth. Come on, there has to be a better way!
12. Gothic thriller status! With all the changes in the current production, it seems that the dark, chilling, psychological thriller of the material is overlooked. Remember, this is not a pretty subject! We need to see a dark, ominous, gloomy production. How can Hyde kill several victims, and everyone remain blood free??? I am not suggesting a blood fest, but I think some blood is needed, and not just on Jekyll's sleeves.
I can only hope that the long preview period, and several concerned fans giving opinions, can help to change this show for the better. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see this show have a run that rivals Phantom and Cats...we need that! I just don't think that in its current status, this show can survive the critics, and last. (4/19/97)
From Gilmania:
On Friday, April 4th, I saw "Jekyll & Hyde" and I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about the show.
First let me say I am an avid theatre-goer and have loved the music I heard in 1990 on the concept album. At that time I became a fan of Linda Eder and have waited and looked forward to seeing her on Broadway--her voice is incredible! The vocal performances during "Jekyll & Hyde" were well worth the price of the ticket. Not only Linda, but Christiane Noll (whose voice was beautiful and incredibly clear), and Robert Cuccioli was excellent as Jekyll/Hyde. He has a strong, handsome, commanding presence; in fact, all of the vocal performances were excellent.
However, some of the wonderful songs have been replaced by trite songs with rhymes so ridiculous that the audience actually laughed at some of them. The costumes and sets were fair. Whatever dancing there is should really be either improved or done away with, especially the awful scene with the umbrellas swinging through the air--totally unnecessary and distracting. I felt like I was seeing a regional theatre show, not a Broadway performance--except, as I said, for the amazing voices of the performers.
My suggestion about "Jekyll & Hyde" is--see it, if only to hear the incredible vocal prowess of Linda Eder, Robert Cuccioli, and Christiane Noll (and the other wonderful cast voices)--but don't expect a Tony-calibre show. Accept "Jekyll & Hyde" for what it's worth, and you will enjoy it. (4/19/97)

 

From Martin Platt (Santa Fe, NM):
Based on April 15 preview:
Full of sound and fury but signifying nothing...
This is not the worst musical ever produced. It's just the worst musical I've seen in the last year.
After hearing Barbara Cook sing Hammerstein at the Carlyle on Friday night, the sheer wanton witlessness and banality of Leslie Bricusse's lyrics hits home like an atomic bomb blast. How about those Vcitorians singing a lyric where the rhyme is "balls" in the physiological sense? Doesn't anyone involved realize how stupidly sophomoric this is?
Linda Eder has a nice voice. Well - a loud voice. Looking a bit like a dark haired Dolly Parton on Slim-Fast, Miss Eder's acting talent is non existent. She sings her numbers to the audience - but like an automaton. See how loud I am! See how long I can hold the notes! See how I can croon up or down to find the pitch? Do you like my wig? Are my breasts pushed up enough? Do you love me? I can sing louder if you want!
The production is so wrong-headed, that we have a plot that turns on grisly murders without a spot of blood ever being spilled. (heaven forbid we should muss up Miss Eders hair or corset).
The first 20 times that Robert Cuccioli flips his hair back and forth as he sings a duet with himself is mildly clever. After that, it's like one of those never-ending Saturday night live sketches. Yeah yeah, we get it. can we move on now? Do you have any other ideas?
This show died more than a cat's nine deaths on the road. Is Mr Wildhorn's passion to see Miss Eder on Broadway so great the untold millions must be spent on the ultimate vanity production? JEKYL & HYDE was DOA in Houston, and on the road. Perhaps Broadway will have the honor of passing J&H on to RIP. (4/19/97)

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