Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of Jekyll & Hyde, Part 2

News   Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of Jekyll & Hyde, Part 2 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 rviagas@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 second Critics Circle file for this show. Here are the results so far. Playbill On-Line thanks those who took the time to write. From Jim Malloy:
I really looked forward to seeing Jekyll & Hyde last Saturday afternoon. I had heard much about it, but was personally unfamiliar with any of the road productions or the music ( I had only heard "This is the Moment" about three weeks ago!). And I certainly wasn't disappointed: Jekyll & Hyde is an intelligent musical, with a very fine score and some terrific performances. All is not perfect, but with some tweaking before opening night, all should be well. And the high points certainly outweigh the lows.
I had always wondered what happened to Robert Cuccioli after I had seen him in "As the World Goes 'Round" a few years ago (now that was the way to do a revue!). Well the wait to see him perform again was worth it -- he puts in a vocally powerhouse performance in this show and certainly, as far as I can see, is the Tony frontrunner for best musical actor. The Confrontation number could have been an unintentional hoot, but you really have to see it to believe it how spectacularly he accomplishes singing a duet by himself. The lighting is very impressive during this number, as it is throughout the show.
Of course, "This is the Moment" is a real crowd pleaser and show stopper, but I will make a comment here which is one of the two criticisms I have of the show. I felt the song was sung completely out of character as if he were on the Oscar telecast belting out a new, soon-to-be pop standard. This is the same with a few songs, most notable Lucy's A New Life and Someone Like You. Like Robert Cuccioli Linda Eder has a powerful voice, but many of these solo numbers are presented as if the characters were singing at a concert and not as part of the show. Believe me, I was madly applauding with the rest of them at the conclusion of each of these numbers, but thinking about it afterward, when my intellect took over, I felt that the songs at times are a little bit over-the-top, done just to please the crowd, and completely forgets we are watching a show. I fear the critics will have a field day with this!
Christiane Noll as Emma had a very good voice also, and her duet with Lucy "In his Eyes" is another high point. All supporting characters were fine.
I loved the sets and, as mentioned, the lighting was spectacular. And I had no problem with the ensemble number "Murder, Murder" as some other writers in this section seemed to have had. (the umbrellas did not bother me!). My only other criticism -- the book could definitely use some fine tuning. After sitting through such an enjoyable show, I was quite incredulous at the end where in a brief 5 minutes or less, we are witness to Jekyll turning to Hyde at his wedding, his fiance barely registers surprise, says I know it's you Henry inside, he proceeds to impale himself on a sword, she says rest easy my dear and Boom! it ends! Maybe a cute here or there earlier, and a little expansion of this scene would make it seem less like "we don't know how to end this show" so here goes nothing!
Ultimately, however, I was part of a very enthusiastic and well-deserved standing ovation, and with a little tweaking, this show is a terrific addition to Broadway and has brought some star-making talent to Broadway this season! (4/7/97)

 

From daveku (daveku@net-gate.com):
I had the opportunity to preview Jekyll & Hyde on Friday April 4 and it has left me torn. Torn between the fact that the show's story line and morality held so much promise and the fact that I have forced myself to like a show because I spent 75 dollars for the ticket! I live in central NJ and have easy access to New York and the many performances both on Broadway, off-Broadway, as well as off-off Broadway. I am not a member of this Jekyll & Hyde following and I never even heard about it until an advertisement was printed in the New York Times. What is it about this show? Maybe people like it because the first saw it near there home and now there hometown boy is going to the Great White Way. Well Jekyll and Hyde, you're not in Kansas or Houston anymore! Welcome to New York. The creators of this show must realize that they are on BROADWAY and if they want to play with the big boys, they must play hard.
The Plymouth theatre is small and does not lend itself to large scale musical productions. Yes, Passion was staged there and it did win a Tony, but it also closed within months of winning such award. But a small stage is not a problem. Such a gothic tale as Jekyll & Hyde brought back visions of Sweeny Todd and Phantom of the Opera; of which Jekyll and Hyde is neither.
Sweeny Todd was in a small theatre (Circle in the Square) but Angela Lansbury had plenty of room to swing a knife and give the audience a real thrill. I guess, that's what is really missing; that chill running down your back when you cone face to face with something that is utterly and pure evil.
The sets failed to portray a period or time. Although one of the background scenery cloths showed a panorama of London. The sets were dull, and amateurish. At one point they even used the back wall of the stage complete with pipes and wires.It is also obvious that the smaller stage allows fewer people on it, so when it is time for a choreographed number it only makes sense that you only send out a few people, not the entire cast of Jekyll & Hyde. With all the talent up on the stage, all they had the room to do is shuffle back and forth and swing their umbrellas. I'm surprised nobody lost an eye.
The story line was sometimes disjointed. Jeykll alludes to the fact that his father is ill(?) but we are not sure. The only thing we do know is that Jekyll is doing this for him. Was his father such an influence on him that he would sacrifice his own life? Or was this the last chance show his ailing(?) father that he is going to make something of himself and finally gain his love and respect. WHY? All through the show I kept asking, WHY? The first time we are introduced to Lucy as she is singing about what a lousy life she has and then she goes into a more upbeat number, but to late, the damage is done. Probably the most disappointing of all was the amount of background action by secondaries going on while the leads are singing there big numbers. I wanted to say, "Hey, stop moving, I paid $75 to here this poor girl sing not what you make shadow puppets."
With that said, I feel that Jekyll & Hyde does have TONY written on it and it goes to Robert Cuccioli. I have seen him as Javert in Les Miserables, and his voice still sings with such force carrying his emotions as far back as those in the last row. You could feel the pain as he was being transformed and you could feel his devotion to his cause, although you did not know for sure why. (but that is the writer's fault not his. I can't say enough about his performance. I would only hope that some fast cash was invested into the show to bring it up to Cecile's caliber. (4/6/97)

 

From Charlie Veprek:
Having read the raves for Jekyll and Hyde, I know that MAJOR changes have been made. I am no "theater" pro, but I know sloppiness when I see it. Bear in mind that I saw the Wednesday, March 26th preview, which seems to be the earliest of any those who have written in. A number of things:
The performers were great. All had magnificent booming voices (though I did see Linda Eder's understudy).b Technically, the show resembled a BAD high school production. I know it was still previews, but I paid full (TKTS) price to see a professional, union production. What I saw was much less than that.
1. The number "Murder" which opens Act II needs to be dropped like a bad habit. Besides being lame and annoying, the choreography was appalling. Distracting umbrellas and decapitated heads only add to the pain of watching this number.
2. The other chorus numbers were good, but every "romantic" song in the show sounded too much like bad Celene Dion love songs. Linda Eder is supposed to be nominated for a Tony, not VH-1's "Artist of the Month." How good can the performers sing if the material they are given to work with sounds more like a lame Top-40 hit?
3. The cast needs to get a serious crash course in staying in their light. Jekyll and Hyde takes full advantage of Intelligent Light technology which are essentially computerized, moving spotlights which can quickly change color and gobo pattern. Too often I saw performers sitting on a stairwell singing, when their light suddenly moves off stage left and it takes them 30 seconds to realize: "Oh!!!! THAT was my blocking!" and act accordingly. I have the utmost sympathy for the show's stage manager who must sit in the booth and call his cues according to the book and cringe in horror as the actors look like fools.
4. Misfocused lights abound. Some specials did not have their shudders pulled, so instead of a nice, clean circle of light on the stage, we saw an oddly-shaped semi circle. I understand that the show is very dark and gothic, but there were times when I could not even find the singer because the stage was so dark. Two front-of house followspots are not enough to light three singers!
5. Other people loved the "Confrontation" in ACT II. I feel it could be better done with a mirror or with the actor standing still, since it is an INTERNAL struggle anyway. Cuccioli's character distinction is that Jekyll stands tall and keeps his hair in a ponytail while Hyde hunches over and his hair ism for lack of a better word, mussed. As it is now, Cuccioli jumps from standing, facing stage left and then hunching, facing stage right, a sight made worse by quick light changes that really did nothing to enhance the scene. It was like watching a tennis match as Cuccioli circles wildly and lights hit him in 3 second bursts from each side. It looked more like EFX in Las Vegas than a serious Broadway show.
6. There are numerous other complaints like costume inconsistencies, costume ripping and tearing, and line forgetting that I am sure have been changed.
All in all, I was disappointed because I felt I had wasted my money and, as someone who hopes to work professionally in technical theater, I was appalled by the simple lack of care and attention to detail that I saw. Maybe getting my union card won't be that hard. I am sure that the show will be technically better by the time that it opens, but they should not charge full price for a preview that they know will be less than par. In college theater we have no previews and our shows our just as technically complex (with the exception of computerized sets and intelligent lights), but we make damn sure that our show is technically flawless by opening night. I would expect the same from "professional" theater. (4/4/97)

 

From Jason Ramirez(Teech2act@aol.com):
First let me say that my wife and I have been in love with the Jekyll & Hyde concept album since we originally purchased the Colm/Linda version back in 1990. We have waited for this show to hit New York since then and always wondered why it was not making it to Broadway. Well...lo and behold, we finally got to see the Wildhorn & Bricusse play on Tuesday, April 1st and were happily pleased.
Though I have not kept up with the song changes over the years, I was very happy to hear the score as it was presented. Though I personally missed my favorite song from the original album, Love Has Come of Age, we were impressed with songs like Good and Evil and A New Life.
As for the performance itself, Linda Eder has the greatest voice presented on the Broadway stage in a very long time. Her delivery of Someone Like You, Good and Evil, and especially A New Life (which brought the house down) brought such power and emotion, that the audience was moved to a frenzy. Bravo, Linda!!!!
Robert Cuccioli is also an extremely powerful presence but his delivery of Henry Jekyll lacked a certain amount of verisimilitude, needed when playing this kind of role. Cuccioli's extremely handsome looks make Jekyll's alter ego a winner, bringing great sex appeal and animal magnetism to Hyde, while his Jekyll was often stoic and overdone. His over the top portrayal of Jekyll did not make me a believer until his Transformation. It seemed that he needed the alter ego of Hyde to make his character complete.
Now for the bad...the direction was often high schoolish and comical. The Murder, Murder scene just does not work!!! Some of the bodies need to be done away with in other ways, possibly trap doors or lighting. The simple blocking of slashing or neck breaking without blood or guts, leaves the audience wanting more. This entire scene needs reworking. Also..what's up with the crew? The stage manager is present in the wings throughout the entire show. He is on stage more than most chorus members!!! If he is going to appear to snuff out fires, he should wait until a total blackout. A total technical run-through is necessary, with the director sitting in the audience. If Robin Philips does this, I guarantee some problems can be fixed!!!
I highly recommend J & H for an entertaining night of theatre. Go see Linda Eder's first Tony Award winning performance!!!! (4/3/97)

 

From Dasfrauen:
On the first day of previews I arrived in line at the box office at 9 a.m. to take advantage of the $20. front row seats ( of which 18 are available per performance ), I was number 19.
To insure this would not happen to me again, I decided to attack this situation bright and early the following week. On Thursday the 27th of March armed with a doughnut, coffee, pack of cigarettes, and forty bucks I jumped in a cab at 7:30 a.m. At 7:45 I arrived at the Plymouth Theatre, thrilled and in deep r.e.m. sleep. Like a clown I stood out there alone for over an hour. Around 8:55 some people began arriving, thank God ! Time flew quickly as we shared our theatre stories, and before I knew it I had my two tickets and headed back home.
Twelve hours after I had waited in line, my roommate and I made our pilgrimage to the glorious lights of Broadway and onward to the Plymouth Theatre. We were amazed to see just how close our seats were, as the orchestra was hidden stage right, we were only two feet away from the stage.
George Merritt, (Utterson) opens the show with a direct address explaining his relationship with Jekyll/Hyde. His voice is booming and his command of the stage is very strong. He sets the tone for what is about to unravel before us and he does it exceptionally well. His performances throughout were stellar.
" Facade" is the second number which demonstrates the strength of the ensemble. It was as well performed as their opening of the second act with, "Murder". But the umbrellas were distracting. They'd be better substituted with oil cloth or plain cotton. And cut off the "tab" that dangles---they looked as though they came directly from Bloomie's.
The first time we see Robert Cuccioli, (Jekyll/Hyde) he seems stiff and stoic at best ( perhaps it's the character). But soon we witness the strength and passion of his voice. His acting is at times over the top, but remember this is "theatre." Mr. Cuccioli's presence is mesmerizing and I'd be hard pressed to find another musical actor as virile and comanding. His best aria is, "This is the Moment" (but the set moves too much and takes away from his performance). His duet with Linda Eder in "Dangerous Game" is both sensual and sinister. The two together possess great charisma.
Christiane Noll is wonderful in her role as Emma. Her voice is clean and clear, and her acting is adequate. Her "Once Upon a Dream" is beautifully sung.
Linda Eder triumphs in her role as Lucy. Her acting ability is surpassed only by her exquisite vocal qualities! We first see her at the Red Rat when she sings "No One Knows Who I Am" and "Good and Evil", both excellent performances. But her delivery of "A New Life" is by and large a tour de force and was met with a rousing round of applause. Linda Eder will quickly and deservedly become a brilliant star on the Great White Way! Kudos!
There are a few problems with the show, however. Never have I seen so much movement in the wings. Stagehands can be seen changing sets. The least they could do is wear black. Fat men in green shirts is not what what waited in line for two hours and fifteen minutes for! The show in general needs a little polishing. I didn't care for the wedding scene and I hated the lyrics of "Dear Lord." Dear Lord is right, especially the line "...beauty and the beast". I realize this is no reference to the "other" play on Broadway, but the mere mention of it nauseated me. The overall wedding scene looks sloppy. God knows I'm no Bible thumper, but the use of expletives at the end of Cuccioli's gripping "Confrontation" sound very awkward.
In closing, I highly recommend Jekyll & Hyde . I look forward to seeing how it'll change in the upcoming performances. And I long to see Cuccioli and Eder again, even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to wait in line again! (3/31/97)

 

From Kyle Clausen (kyclaw@aol.com) St. Paul, MN:
I saw the preview of J &H on March 23rd. I have enjoyed the concept recording immensely for a long time, and was looking forward to the show very much. I couldn't have been more disappointed. The score has been changed drastically, and not for the better. The ensemble numbers have been made less powerful, and less impressive. Most notably "Murder, Murder" and "Facade" have been torn apart and reconstructed very weakly. Also, there have been changes made in the story line which are not conducive to the telling of the story or to achieving the appropriate effect of the show. An obvious one is that Emma (formerly Lisa)'s father, Sir Danvers Carew, is now brought into conflict with Emma over Henry. He doesn't like Henry in this story line. The side plot is obstructive to the effective telling of the story.
Other downfalls of the show include a severed head that appears during "Murder, Murder" that literally made the audience laugh at a time when laughter wasn't (or shouldn't have been ) intended. In general, much of the show is very chintzy and cheaply produced. In addition, the choreography is very rough and not style appropriate. The umbrella dance that opens up Act II again beckons for laughter for the audience. A very disappointing experience. I only hope that immense changes can be made before the show opens officially. (3/30/97)

 

From: Michael R. Morales (mrm5523@is.nyu.edu):
I saw last Saturday's evening performance after a year and a half of waiting for the show to reach Broadway. When it was on tour, I saw it in Dallas 3 times. After such a long wait, I think I built up the show to be bigger than life in my mind. I remember how flashy and exciting the tour was and expected the same. The new, revised show is still great, but lacks a few elements: pyrotechnics, dance numbers, and special lighting effects.
I thought Robert (Jekyll), Linda (Lucy), and Christiane (Emma) were all sensational in their performance, but it was the technical crew that disappointed me a little. The lamp in Hyde's laboratory kept flickering on and off through the show. A front row seat also gave me a view os the stage right wing, where actors/actresses were constantly changing. One new aspect I loved was in one of the reprises of "Facade" when the chorus walks in front of the first row and down the aisles. This made for an exciting interaction between the actors and the audience. I hoooope to see the shooooow soon again on Broadway, once some things have been fine tuned. Keep up the great work cast & crew of J&H and best of luck! (3/30/97)

 

From Theresa Mazzaro:
I had the honor to see the Tuesday 3/25 preview performance of this soon to-be hit show. I am a great fan of Broadway, and musicals in particular, and have been fortunate enough to see most of the shows currently out. I can say, in my opinion, that I do not remember hearing voices as strong and spectacular as those in this cast. Robert Cuccioli was nothing short of unbelievable -- his rendition of "This is the Moment" stopped the show and the "duet" of "confrontation" needs to be seen to be believed. At this particular performance the part of Lucy was performed by and understudy, Laura Hocking. Ms. Hocking is extremely talented and did an excellent job. She whet my appetite for when I see this show again after it opens, with Ms. Eder in the role of Lucy.
Can you say Tony? (3/30/97)

 

From atlga2u:
After following Jekyll & Hyde from its origins many years ago, we waited with much anticipation for the opening on Broadway. We were not disappointed. Yes - minor changes will (and should) be made - but that is why previews are held - to see what works and what doesn't.
To focus on the POSITIVES - The performers could not be any better. There are no weak links in the production. ROBERT CUCCIOLI has perfected his art and is at his peak. We predict a glorious future - he will be a major star within the theater world. His "confrontation" scene is nothing short of amazing and left many in the audience in a state of awe that any one individual could be two people so instantly. LINDA EDER - what more can be said about her - her voice and range are so wonderful that chills result from listening to her performance. Once the "world" discovers her - there will be no stopping her rise. CHRISTIANE NOLL's voice is so natural and real that one just always expects (and gets)the best from her. Her casting in this part was a stroke of genius. The "magic" on stage is real. "Tony winners" are the words most heard in discussions in the audience and by the stage door. ALL deserve any top awards that can be presented (perhaps Robert deserves two - one for Jekyll and one for Hyde!)
Staging in this production can be described as clean and modern. The small theater atmosphere allows the audience to be close to the action and there are no bad seats in the theater. The characters of Jekyll and Hyde are much more clearly defined - as is the love between Jekyll and Emma. The role of Lucy has been down played somewhat and it is hoped that her character regains some of it's strengths and appeal. We have a better knowledge of Emma but this needs to extend again to Lucy. The original Lucy was a smart but unlucky individual who just could not get a break. The current portrayal of a silly, dumb hooker with no real ambition is lacking.
Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, Jeremy Roberts, Gregory Boyd, The Alley Theatre, Gary Gunas and the Pace Theatrical Group are all to be congratulated for their development of this production that lead to its rightful place on Broadway. New direction by Robin Phillips will enable it to claim its place as one of the truly great theatrical productions. Jekyll and Hyde already has an amazing following and this following will only continue to grow as more and more people discover this magical production. (3/30/97) We heartily recommend this show to anyone wanting to see a memorable event and to join those already captivated by JEKYLL AND HYDE! (3/30/97)

 

From Robert Ackerman (BobAckers@aol.com) Hershey, PA
After seeing Jekyll & Hyde in Hershey last year, I was eager to enjoy a triumphant Broadway debut, and was fortunate to get tickets to last Friday evening's first preview.
Theatergoers expecting to see the same show that toured so successfully are in for a big surprise. For starters, this is a much more intimate production, playing in a small venue. The most significant change, however, is that this production has dialog, and lots of it. While this makes the transition from a large scale operetta to the intimacy and time limitations of Broadway possible, it had the tendency to slow down the pace of the first act, and at times, Robert Cuccioli seemed at a loss for the proper inflection in his speaking voice.
Another addition to this production is scenery, and this is definitely a positive. While the lighting needs to be improved ( particularly the side lighting ) the visual production is stunning. Scene changes are smooth, and the presence of the red cube as you enter the theater properly sets the stage for the evening.
An addition not necessary is the dog. He spent much of the first act barking off stage, and when he appeared for his walk on role, the giggling in the audience took away from the moment of the scene. No one would miss the dog if he was exorcised from the production. [Editor's note: the dog has since been cut.]
Aside from some microphone problems on Linda Eder, the vocals were flawless, with the greatest audience response coming from "...Moment" and "Someone Like You ". I was hoping for a better experience on " Take Me As I Am ", and I think my problem was that Emma and Henry were holding each other through too much of the song, and were not able to project the words as well as they could had they been standing apart.
A small technical glitch that has probably been corrected already, when Hyde kills Lady Beaconsfield, it appears that he breaks her neck. Then moments later, her severed head is lying on the stage ( looking like a Barbie Doll head that had been pulled from its socket ). Of all the murders, this was a bit disjointed ( no pun intended).
The opening night audience was most appreciative, and was on its feet as Christiane Noll walked on stage for her curtain call. Linda Eder got screams, and Robert Cuccioli brought the house down. I love this show, and am hopeful the minor glitches can be worked out by April 28. If so, this will be a ticket to cherish in the coming months. (3/30/97)

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