Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of Jekyll & Hyde, Part 3

News   Playbill Critics Circle: Your Views of Jekyll & Hyde, Part 3
 
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.Owing to the unusual number and length of responses, we have created a third Critics Circle file for this show. Here are the results so far. Playbill On-Line thanks those who took the time to write.

From James I. Sammons:
I consider myself a lucky person,being one of the first people to see the musical Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway. This musical is gifted with the amazing talents of Robert Cuccioli, Linda Eder, and Christiane Noll. The vocal talents of these three carried Jekyll and Hyde away on a tide of pure sound. The score by Wildhorn and lyrics by Bricusse are wonderfull, but some of the songs from the "complete" album, that were later cut from the show, unfortunatly weakened the show. The opening of the show was weak...Jekyll's monologue from the [recording] and "I Need to Know" should not have been cut. This song gave the insight on Jekyll's obsession that was missing in the B-way production. The addition of his father being his reason for the need of perfection of his drug, however, was a very powerful addition. Before that, Jekyll simply seemed like an obsessed madman.
The character of Lucy Harris (Linda Eder)was very strong...maybe too strong. Ms. Eder's performance was, however, outstanding. More time is needed to be given to developing Hyde, to balance the "darker" of the two female characters. Emma (Christiane Noll) is beautifully balanced by the more subtle Jekyll, Hyde balanced Lucy. Hyde needs to have more time onstage, to balance the powerful character of Lucy.
The Dexter/sinister theme presented through the show was also very powerful. The idea that the left side was evil, the right side, good was very effective. This staging remained throughout the show, even with Lucy blocked stage left, and Emma, stage right.
Robert Cuccioli should get a Tony for his performance as Jekyll/Hyde. His "Confrontation" was stupendous, switching from the upstanding Dr. to the libidinous Hyde in a heartbeat, both characters believable and superbly acted and sung.
The show did not follow the story very much. In the book there is no Emma, Lucy, board of governors, well most of the musical's characters didn't exist in the book. Carew is simply a victim of Hyde's, leading to his discovery (Hyde kills him with Jekylls engraved walking stick, leaving half embedded in Carew's body, the part engraved "Henry Jekyll"). The only characters in the book (and musical) are in fact, Utterson, Jekyll/Hyde, and Poole (Jekyll's butler, actually a significant part of the book, nothing on stage). Obviously the musical needed more characters to give life to the story, since most of the book is a flashback.
In the book, Jekyll is simply obsessed with splitting the personalities, (no father), Utterson tries to find out what's wrong, doesn't in time, and discovers, with Poole, Hyde's shrunken body in Jekyll's laboratory, dead by suicide. He then discovers a confession written by Jekyll telling the story of Hyde.
The sets in Jekyll and Hyde were wonderfull, surprising for such a small stage. The use of the stage in blocking was also effective. The intertwining theme of "Facade" was a thread that pulled the show together, a good addition.
Jekyll and Hyde is a triumph. Wildhorn, Bricusse, Cuccioli, Eder, Noll, and the rest of the people involved, cast and crew should be very proud of this work, this, "streak of madness" and genius on Broadway. (4/17/97)


From cyberskier:
My husband and I saw the Thursday, April 10 show, and like the rest of the reviewers, I have mixed feelings about it. We saw the national company in Denver a year ago, bought the concept album, and promised ourselves that when it hit B-way, we'd make the trip...so we had some expectations. Now that we're back, and I've read some comments from the new director, I understand that bringing in expectations from previous performances is a bad idea, since this is conceived as an entirely new show, with a change of 90% of the cast alone. So, if the focus is supposed to be on the three leads now, I understand why so much of the "big" show was cut.
For instance..."Facade"--one of my favorite pieces--is cut at the beginning, and the society "Bitch Bitch Bitch" is totally eliminated. I get it...that's distracting from the core argument. Shutting down The Dregs is a shame, but the Red Rat still sets the mood well. "Good and Evil" continues in the theme, but is forgettable, unlike "Bring on the Men" which was a show stopper. Also, "Good and Evil" doesn't seem to set up the attraction between Hyde and Lucy very well. She's up there stage left with her two Boy Toys, and he's down in the pit stage right. The audience's attention is on Lucy, so, unless you're aware that this is a major set-up for these two characters, the audience doesn't track down to Hyde to see what his reaction is. He's supposed to be attracted to Lucy, but there's no chemistry and they might as well be in separate worlds.
Further, when Lucy joins him at his table, her straight-on proposition seems totally "business," but it should show more of the personal spark between the two. As it is, their attraction isn't really confirmed until she visits Jekyll at home; when he moves from lower center stage up to her for the Big Kiss, the audience gets the picture. It took too long to set up, and I think I was the only one paying attention to Jekyll.
Get rid of the umbrellas in Act II...someone's going to get hurt, and how come the poor people have umbrellas and the rich snobs don't? What am I missing here?
Hyde is very well done in many respects--he's definitely EVIL, and comes across as both enormously sexual and very dangerous (in Denver, he was just gorgeous and a little nasty--not enough to scare us). In this, I'm wondering what Lucy sees in him--Man, he is someone to run away from and fast! So, their duet "Dangerous Game" resonates with me. "Should she risk it and stay?" really made sense; I wanted to holler, "Get outa there, girl! He's a bad one!" Duh. I didn't get the sexual attraction between Hyde and Lucy at all; I mainly felt uneasy and fearful.
If the play is about three leads, then why is Emma cut such short shrift? Lucy and Jekyll-Hyde have all the tunes; Emma's character is only established as an addendum to Jekyll, and her vocals are all in duets, as I recall. The character needs more depth so that we can appreciate her loss at the end.
The "duet" between Jekyll and Hyde was laughable, I thought. It's "acting" in the melodramatic sense, and the stiff difference between the alter-egos is established only through body poses and mussy hair. Much better to have Jekyll singing his despair to Hyde in the distorted mirror; the pre-recorded Hyde on the road show worked VERY well--if it ain't broke, why fix it?
Finally, the ending just fell flat. What's with the sword? As if Jekyll could overcome Hyde enough to pull Utterson's sword into his own body to kill himself. Dumb. Also, Emma's lines are buried, and wham-bam, the play ends. The wedding reception scene in the concept album/road show was more effective. The critics are going to have a field day with this ending...they'll just shred it.
Yes, I'm still singing the tunes. I miss the girls from The Dregs, "I Need to Know" and a few other songs, but the play is complete without them. The opening is more effective (though I'm still unsure about the situation with "father"), and the stage lighting was under control when we saw it. Burning the Bishop was great, and Hyde now strangles Bessie instead of decapitating her--an effective and gruesome way to go. The tension with Simon Stride isn't as strong as it could be, but it gets the job done. My prediction: the public will continue to love this play, but the critics are going to rip it to bits. Still, I await the B'way stage album so I can finally have B. Cuccioli's voice in my head. Yum yum. (4/17/97)


From Mark Huber:
Finally, a Broadway musical with music. What a concept. I was truly surprised by what I saw at The Plymouth, because word of mouth had been mixed. But I thought Jekyll was a great show, full of interesting performances, a beautiful set and some great, great music. Unlike the other writers, I found the story gripping and interesting, and I was very caught up in the tragic ending. (Some of this may be that a guy in the lobby who was working on the show told me that two new book scenes had gone in and that the ending had been altered. It was VERY effective.)
As everyone else has remarked, the performances were fabulous. Cuccioli, Eder and Noll should all be nominated for Tonys, and I would bet that at least Cuccioli and Eder will win. They are unbelievably passionate, and they storm the stage with their talent. The set is beautiful, with projections and tracking, and the costumes are period perfect. The first five minutes were a bit slow, and some of the lyrics awkward, but believe me, compared to THE LIFE, it was La Boheme. Having already seen Steel Pier and Titanic, I'm amazed to be writing that Jekyll is, in my opinion, the best new show of the year, and I think it will surprise some of the critics. Director Robin Phillips has done a fabulous job. (4/15/97)


Jim Mack (Buffjimm@aol.com) , Buffalo, NY:
I attended the Sunday, April 6 matinee performance of "Jekyll and Hyde" which received a well-deserved standing ovation on the basis of the three lead cast members. Robert Cuccioli is fabulous in capturing the dual personalites of good and evil enbodied in J/H. Christiane Noll was perfect as Emma; she sings like an angel and acts with conviction. Linda Eder, as Lucy, tore the roof off the Plymouth Theatre with her soaring voice, but, while I enjoyed hearing her sing, her superb vocal qualities had a tendency to unbalance the overall production.
I was familiar with only the music from the initial concept recording with Colm Wilkinson and Ms. Eder. Therefore much of what was performed by the Broadway cast was new to my ears. The highlight for me was the duet, "In His Eyes," sung by Emma and Lucy, which should have received a standing ovation! And of course, "This is the Moment" (Jekyll), "Once upon a Dream" (Emma) and "A New Life" (Lucy) were also standouts. The rest of the music is very nice, although some of the lyrics use easy and repetitive rhyming schemes.
The set consists of a large, shiny red plexiglass frame (which does nothing to connote Victorian London!) surrounding the action: Dr. Jekyll's laboratory, the Red Rat Night Club, etc. The costumes are fine and the large crowd scenes are nicely directed. I applaud the director's decision to keep the show un-gory. The only blood in sight was the blood on Jekyll's shirt sleeve after he performs a murder or two as Edward Hyde.
I think this show will succeed on the merits of its music and the performers ability to deliver and not on the strength of its story. As cast now, "Jekyll and Hyde" should have a healthy run! (4/13/97)


From FELIXPT (Felixpt@aol.com):
What an opportunity it was, I thought, to be among the first to see a new Broadway musical. Alas, what a disappointment it was, this mishmash of rehashed concepts, wasted talent, and missed opportunities for all involved.
I knew nothing about this show before April 4, and barely remembered the Robert Louis Stevenson story from my childhood. The deja vu I experienced during this show was not from what I recalled from Stevenson's novella, but rather from what I had already seen and heard from other shows.
Let's get to the positive aspects of this production first. The show is packed with talent. I would agree with those say that Robert Cuccioli, in this show, firmly establishes himself as a Broadway leading man. He says that "angst-ridden characters" are his specialty, but I'm sure that with his looks and powerful voice, he will likely be expanding his repertoire after this run.
LInda Eder is an incredibly gifted singer, who, no matter what may happen with this, her first Broadway production, has a solid future as a theatre legend if she wants it. There can be no doubt about this, if an audience's reaction to her presence on the stage has any bearing at all on the matter.
The crowd I sat with that Friday night seemed to be as thrilled, no--mesmerized--as I was during every one of Miss Eder's solos. Which points to one of the major problems with this show. Her character, Lucy, has four solos and two duets--all of them no less than powerful in their renderings, but disproportionate to the show itself in their styling and staging. Her powerhouse voice is clearly being showcased here to the point of breaking all boundaries of story and character. Undoubtedly, her presence in this production is a draw, and accounts for the eager anticipation of this show's arrival to Broadway. I can not help but wonder if the producers and the creative team had the good sense to fear that this show could not stand on its' own merits, and so made the decision to throw this show to Miss Eder--great for her career ( in fact, I've become one of her cheerleaders myself), but it will do more to sell cd's than help us overlook the mess this show is in.
I have no idea how faithful this show is to the book, since I read it so long ago. In fact, I wondered if my confusion at what was taking place onstage was the result of knowing nothing about the story. I told myself, read the novel and understand. Nonsense. I understood Les Miz the first time, and never attempted the novel. It's all in the translation from book to stage. This translation is never clearly developed. Questions abound--What were those references to Jekyll's father? How were we to believe that Jekyll and Emma Carew shared the depth of love indicated by"Take Me As I Am"? Jekyll displayed no real passion for her, and there were no scenes that solidified the relationship between them. As a result, the wedding scene builds no suspense or anticipation. You wonder how they ended up there, but by the time Jekyll is killed, the wonder is replaced by the relief that it's finally over.
Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse provide us with pop tunes that are great for ice skating competions and Miss America contenders. Bricusse deftly rhymes pray with day, with may, with way. Not to mention, promenade, boulevard, pomade, and facade. "This Is The Moment" has to be one of the silliest songs I've ever heard--especially for a show that thinks of itself as a gothic thriller. Here we have Jekyll making what amounts to a life-threatening decision, belting out "this is the time when the momentum and moment are in rhyme" in the style of Tom Jones on his tv variety show. It hardly conveys the drama of this "moment" in Jekyll's life.
"In His Eyes" is finely executed by Lucy and Emma, but reminded me too much of "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden. The prostitutes, we've seen gathered together before, in Les Miz, and Miss Saigon. Nothing new here. The protracted "Murder" sequence brought to mind Sweeney Todd setting his grisly operation into motion, but not anywhere nearly so brilliantly written and staged as Harold Prince's Sweeney Todd was. The chorus running back and forth, and into the audience, with those umbrellas, no less, was nauseating. Bad regional theatre comes to mind. The staging of "New Life" looked far too much like Miss Saigon. There are endless reminders in this show of songs, themes, and staging techniques from other shows. Are there truly no new approaches to be created?
The sets and staging are in a word, overwrought. It takes too much time to put Robin Phillips' elaborate sets into place--especially the laboratory set. The transparent sliders at the rear of the stage seemed a good idea, if they could just stop sliding long enough for one idea to be conveyed. Chairs and other pieces slide in and out from the wings at a maddenly slow pace--but then, so do some of the characters. If this is a deliberate staging technique, its nuances escape me. I found it distracting.
The principals in this show, Cuccioli, Eder, and Christiane Noll, are working far beneath their talents. It's a shame that the best thing I can say about my experience is that I'm glad I discovered Linda Eder. I wonder what Forbidden Broadway might have to say about this production--I suspect their version would have to provide me more entertainment than this. (4/13/97)


From John Williams (mws@epix.net):
I attended the Sat. evening performance, April 12, 1997. It is a little more than two weeks to opening and little seems to have changed from most of the reviews submitted by Playbill on-line members. The book is very poor, and the staging is not up to B'way standards. All the singers are wonderful, and the songs may some of the best on B'way in a long time. The lyrics and the musical numbers are out of place. No one could possibly understand the story line. It is impossible to relate to (and become involved with) the characters. Did anyone see the Houston tour? Was it better? I think the people putting this together need some outside input, as they have been too close to the story for too long. Neither I nor the other two people with me understood WHY anything was happening. And please stop the scenery from swaying in the back. I like the music and the singers, but I feel sorry for them when the reviews come out. (4/13/97)


From Girodet:
There is a bright new superstar scheduled to emerge on April 28th at the Plymouth Theatre and her name is Linda Eder. Having waited seven years to see this woman perform, and with the many chances to see her live falling through, my experience on the Wednesday, April 9th matinee of Jekyll & Hyde was worth the wait. What seems like too many years ago in 1990, I purchased the concept recording of Jekyll & Hyde and was immediately hooked on the magic of Linda Eder, and played “A New Life“ and “Someone Like You“ over and over - 8 and 14 on the CD. However, I feared the manipulation of high tech recording devices might have assisted her voice and convinced myself that she could not possibly be as good live. Not to fear, Ms. Eder as Lucy is the standout performance of the season without a smidge of disappointment. The most amazing aspect in her performance is her seemingly effortless ability to project her songs to the audience. After seeing all those performers in other new musicals looking like they were experiencing convulsions to get out a note, it was truly refreshing to witness this woman merely open her mouth as if to whisper and penetrating my ears with a perfect sound.
As for the musical itself, despite a few flaws, it will most likely settle at the Plymouth for a lengthy run even though followers of this musical are prepared for the worst from the New York critics. The show has come a long way since its initial run and should be a valuable example to those producers who threw together Steel Pier and Titanic that out-of-town try out is the only route way to go. I did not see Robert Cuccioli, but instead saw Robert Evan as he performs the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. He was very good in the role, though I desired to see the much raved about Mr. Cuccioli. Christiane Noll was enchanting and had a gorgeous voice for delicate role of Emma. I was very intrigued and satisfied with the scenic design for J & H. One cannot help feeling devilishly voyeuristic with its kaleidoscope of windows and in this sexy show, it feels good to watch. The costumes were attractive and convincing for 19th century London.
Shame on Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse for their caving into the annoying critics who pounded the “show tune“ theory into their heads. When the concept album was released, there were some terrific pieces that would have fit in perfectly to the current score and allow the definition of “show tunes“ to move up to the 90is. There was finally a chance for a pop composer to bring to Broadway a much needed boost to contemporary music in the theatre. With all the musicals filled to brim with great show tunes, why canit Broadway leave room for a handful of shows that appeal to the new pop-oriented generation? “Rent“ and “Bring in eda Noise...“ just arenit enough. (I wouldnit be so annoyed about this if I hadnit just found out that the new Broadway production of Wildhornis “The Scarlet Pimpernel“ slashed nearly 1/2 of the songs from the concept album). Now, aside from the appealing pieces that survived the cut from the concept album, “This is the Moment“, “Someone Like You“, and “A New Life“, the majority of their new work is awful, particularly “Murder, Murder“ and “Facade“. They are trying to pass off this cheap junk as show tunes just to satisfy the critics and their attempt is a waste. However, much to the director's credit, the staging is captivating enough to allow the audience to look through the triteness of these pieces and enjoy the moment before them. Two of the new songs that lean more toward a pop sound are more welcome, most notably, the duet between Emma and Lucy “In His Eyes“. An additional gripe is to cut down on the number of times the performer has to show off their lungs at the end of a song - itis redundant and not required.
Another disappointment was the direction for the highly anticipated signature piece, “This is the Moment“. Though I enjoyed the performance of the song, it bothered me a great deal about the decision to drop a new set midway through the song. The director fails to allow the song to stand on its own and I think it is a crime to distract the otherwise content audience during such a terrific number. This is not to say that the set for the laboratory is bad, in fact itis quite beautiful. But why the director felt the need to combine the two moments is beyond me. The set would still laud equal praise if it was dropped after the song was complete. The way it works now is one cancels out the other. On the contrary, the most effective moment of the show is when Lucy sings “Someone Like You“ - the set is pulled off entirely, giving Ms. Eder the stage completely to herself and thus, allowing her to give herself completely to the audience.
I could go on and on about this show and nit-pick more, but, the bottom line here, is simply to Linda Eder - welcome, welcome, welcome to Broadway. Her performance alone is worth the price of the ticket. (4/11/97)


From Jessica (Reflections25@hotmail.com), Clude, NY:
I saw the evening performance April 5, and I would just like to say that Jekyll and Hyde is now one of my favorite musicals. I am currently looking for a copy of the soundtrack because the music was just incredible. "Facade", a hard driving song pointing out the masks we all wear each day, was my favorite, closely followed by the heartfelt "In His Eyes". Also, I loved the actor who played Jekyll/Hyde. It was amazing the way he sang in the confrontation between the tow. With merely a flick of posture and a small voice change he seemed to be two totally different people. I have never seen anything like that in any musical I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few. I would encourage everyone to see this!!! (4/8/97)


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