In this poll, we asked those who saw the musical Jekyll & Hyde during its pre-Broadway tour to explain the show's appeal to those who have not yet seen the show -- especially to New Yorkers who have heard rumors of its approach (previews are tentatively scheduled for January 1997), but who still know little about it.
Here is a selection of the replies. Playbill On-Line thanks all those who took the time to reply.
From Derek Andrus:
I believe there are a few reasons why Jekyll & Hyde is so popular, even before bowing on Broadway.
First, is the music and the accessability of it. Even long before the successful '95 tour, Linda Eder and Colm Wilkinson recorded an album of songs from an early version of the show.
These songs showed up everywhere. Miss America contestants were singing them; Star Search contestants were singing them. Leanza Cornette, the reigning Miss America at the time sang "Letting Go" at a presentation of the Aids Quilt here in Tampa.
The song was so powerful it moved the entire crowd. If she did that everywhere, the exposure would have been phenomenal. Eder and Wilkinson's CD proved to be extremely popular and the music was out there as early as 1993.
So, when the tour came, people were familiar with the music and excited about seeing it put together with the show. However, I think a bigger reason for the success of the tour and the second reason the show is so successful is Linda Eder, herself.
Since 1992, Ms. Eder has been building a sound fan base across the country with a couple of well-received solo albums and extensive tours. Her popularity is reaching a pinnacle with the show. People knew she had been involved with it from early on and part of the appeal of the show, I believe, was to see her perform in it. Word of mouth of her performance was excellent and in my opinion, she did not disappoint. If stars emerge on Broadway this season, my bet is that along with Davis Gaines, the other will be Linda Eder. Everything just seems right for her to explode. And even better, she really is as good as the hype.
Other reasons for the pre-Broadway appeal may be that the show already has a full cast recording available. Few shows have a recording available prior to a Broadway run and that allowed people to buy the recording and become excited about the show whether or not they saw it.
The music itself is terrific. Even though many of the songs from the early incarnation have been cut, showstoppers remain such as "Someone Like You" (also released as a single by Linda Eder).
Also I think the internet has a little something to do with it. I'm not sure why but the show has a huge following on the www. I think alot of it is the "little show that could" support. It seems like it has been around forever and people know that and are just waiting and hoping for it to get its big break.
So overall I think it's a combination of all these things. Plus Broadway promises to be a new incarnation of the show (reportedly scaled way down). This causes excitement in that those who've seen it will want to see it again.
I hope the show lives up the advance hype. I saw it in Tampa last year and it was good. It needed a little more work but it definitely was on the way. Maybe that's the biggest reason of all for all the hype: that it's really a pretty good show.
From Mark Adam Sengenberger:
Without much more than a tad of information regarding the changes new director Robin Phillips is making, I can answer that the appeal of Jekyll & Hyde is the fresh, popular composition of Frank Wildhorn.
The quality of lyrics by Leslie Bricusse have been the subject of debate, but lyrics and special effects (its existence being a necessity also is the subject of debate) are merely decoration for musical theater. Some actually do walk out of Phantom of the Opera impressed with the chandelier. Most others, though, appreciate the fine melodies of Sir Lloyd Webber.
Unlike the distinguished Lloyd Webber, however, Wildhorn writes from a philosophy that music of the theater can be incorporated with popular music and vice versa. Jekyll & Hyde has continued to grow since first conceived by Wildhorn and Steve Cuden in 1980, proof that its music can stand the test of time.
It's another gothic musical (sorry if you're looking for another Rent or Bring in 'Da Funk). Be prepared to be swept by the melodies and tickled in the evil bone by Robert Cuccioli's wonderful performance as Edward Hyde.
I think that the appeal of this show has alot to do with the "concept" albums; both of which have bolstered the show's popularity. As with "Evita," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "Chess," these albums, with heavty orchestrations and fabulous singers, i.e. Warlow, Eder, and Wilkinson on the J&H albums, the public falls in love with these shows without having seen them. The music to J&H is outstanding in many cases. People listening to this show do not worry about the obvious flaws therein, because they are not seeing a staged performance. When the show began the tour, the listening public became the viewing public. Most people were blown away by the staging, scenic elements, and voices of Cuccioli and Eder, and looked past the afore mentioned flaws.
Also, the fact that the show played on tour first, to a "non-discriminate" audience (not to be elitist) helped the success. I saw the tour and was entranced by the MTV-esque electronic music, over-miking and VariLight technology, but did not fall in love with the show. But, those who are easily swayed by these things were and well be when the show arrives on Broadway. From Gina Hodges Martin:
Having seen "Jekyll & Hyde" twice, and having listened to both of the concept albums over and over and over, it thrills me to no end to know that I have been party to something that the NYC theatregoers are wondering about!
Where do I begin to rave about the wonder of this show? From the opening notes of the Prologue to last notes of the Wedding Reception, the energy in this musical is nothing short of phenomenal! You stay on the edge of your seat waiting for the next twist in the plot. Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn have created an incredible piece of theatre that New York will soon be raving about. Good work, guys!
Robert Cuccioli is wonderfully upright and morally torn as Jekyll, and equally wonderful as the degenerate and depraved Hyde. His differentiation of character is subtly diverse, adding so much to the relationship between the two. When he sings "This is the Moment" it is wonderfully pure, in stark contrast to the raw animalistic power of "Alive". He is truly multi-faceted.
And who can say enough about Linda Eder? Her voice alone is amazing, but when added to her stage presence, the outcome is truly magnificent! New York, hold on to your hats and be prepared for the ride of your life when she tells you all to "Bring On the Men"! And the sheer beauty of "Sympathy-Tenderness" and "A New Life" is enough to bring tears to the most unwilling of eyes. (Go Linda!!!)
The power in this entire show is amazing. The supporting cast is strong and the supporting roles are extremely well written with alternating humor and intensity. The "Board of Governors" is fraught with tension, while Lucy's friends, "The Girls of the Night", are poignantly pragmatic about their situation.
New York, if you see nothing else that season, don't miss "J&H". If you do, it is your sad loss.
From Brian Pier:
I saw Jekyll & Hyde in Chicago. The show's popularity is even more of a mystery AFTER seeing the show. The worst musical I've seen since Cyrano! (Linda Eber was good but poorly directed.)
I have to assume that theater-goers outside of New York are desperate for new musicals. I also predict that the show will never arrive in New York because producers cannot afford the inevitable disaster of the reviews. (The reviews in Chicago were appropriately critical; how were the reviews elsewhere?)
From Kristen A. Lindgren:
I think the show is just completely wonderful! I personally love the song "Alive" and think the lighting in that scene is phenomenal since it makes Hyde seem somewhat demonic. If you haven't seen a picture of this scene, you should try to find one.
Another very cool scene is when Jekyll turns into Hyde. It is amazing how someone can look so different just with different lighting. He also takes his hair out of a ponytail which surprisingly makes a big difference in his appearance.
The confrontation between Jekyll and Hyde near the end of Act 2 is very well done with a screen behind Jekyll where a face in the glow of a green light is projected and is supposed to be Hyde. Jekyll stands in front and it really gives the feeling that Hyde is in his head, not on a screen behind him.
Another character which I am very fond of is Lucy, portrayed by the wonderful Linda Eder. Her voice is exceptional and her performance of "Bring on the Men" (one of my personal favorites along with "Alive") and "Someone Like You" definitely adds to the show. "In His Eyes" is also very well done. One scene is after "A New Life" (also extraordinary) when Lucy is sitting in her room which is completely white and she is wearing white as well. Hyde enters all in black and eventually kills her and her blood splatters all over the white sheets. Very symbolic.
Unfortunately, some other of my favorite songs [from the concept album] were omitted from the score [of the touring production], such as "I Need to Know," "No One Knows Who I Am," and "The World Has Gone Insane," but the show is none the less terrific. Fortunately "Dangerous Game" was kept intact.
Overall, I was very impressed with the performance of "Jekyll & Hyde" and I highly encourage others to see the show.
From Anthony Braxton, Merced, CA:
I think it is the popular nature of the score. The score is replete with Pop music. There was the highlights album, then the concept album, and then the Nat'l tour. Here was a mass of people who had heard the score and built their own imgage of what the show would look like. Each of us were able to conjure up our own images of what each scene would look like and for many who have not seen the show yet are enthusiastic about it - its production exists only in their minds.
What a privilege. Oh, back to that score. Songs like "Someone Like You" and "This is The Moment" have that Whitney-Houston-play-at-ice skating events-and-the-Olympics appeal that makes the average Jane and Joe think this is a musical with a story (getting rid of all evil - how enticing) they can understand and relate to. Not to mention the fact that "Jekyll and Hyde" are part of our cultural lexicon.
How many folks had heard of Les Miserables (now this is average Jane and Joe) before the Musical? Or Madame Butterfly (Miss Saigon?). Every high school student has probably heard and scene or read an incarnation of the story of Jekyll and Hyde.
One more thing - there is the aspect that we who have followed the show online through the Newsgroup and Web Page are able to watch the show as it is fine tuned and even feel like our critical feedback has helped shape the show into a winner.
Oh - another thing - we have the opportunity to watch the deification of a new Diva in Linda Eder. From Star Search to Broadway. What a story (wasn't that done before - 42nd Street or something?)
The music is great--even songs that have been cut from the show are really good. Now if they can just get the story as entertaining as the music . . .
From Cedric Bridges, New Orleans:
I have had the oppurtunity to see the show twice, Once in Houston and then when it toured to New Orleans. I believe that it is one of the best shows that I have seen. It upsets me that it is having such a hard time making it to New York because the critics did not like it.
To begin with, Linda Eder is a phenomenal singer/actress who really brings the stage to life with her redentions of "Someone Like You" and "A New Life." Other songs, for example, "Bring on the Men" and "Bitch, Bitch, Bitch" are great production numbers that are wonderfully entaining. Also, "This is the Moment" is another one of the shows "showstopping"song, and to see Jekyll change into Hyde during the song "Tranformation" is a fabulous spectacle. Also the ending song, "Confrontation" where the two actually meet "face to face" sent chills down my spine.
I am of the opinion that this musical is truly worthy of the same recognition as LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Musically, it resembles those two the most.
The sets are another remarkable attribute of this show. As in most cases these days, it is all run by computers and the set pieces just float around the stage as if my magic, only to enhance the intenseness of this musical thriller. The inside of Dr. Jekyll's lab is my favorite scene. It is lots of chemicals boiling and electicity, much to the effect as Dr. Frankenstein's would have been.
I can't say enough wouderful things about this show. I hope that the New York audiences will get the chance to experience this show very soon. Thank you for letting me air my opinion of this show.
From Dave Barnum:
Two words : Linda Eder
From Thomas Conroy:
I saw the show in October of 95. I knew many of the songs, I was familiar with the story, and I was familiar with the venue in Pittsburgh where it was playing. So, all I had to do was pay attention to the show.
That was the challenge. I did not like it. The ensemble, while being a group of very talented performers (I've seen many of them in other shows) was given bad material to sing in the "MURDER" sequences and also was given horrible choreography. Whenever the show is discussed by "theatre" folk, everyone laughs at and mimmicks those group wavering motions that take place in "MURDER".
Other problems: there are some songs that want to be other songs. I no longer remember the title, but one of the songs in Act I wants to be "BE ITALIAN" from NINE mixed with "THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIENDS". Continuity in style of lyric and style of music will help correct some of these problems. It seems as if there are too many timbre choices, too many choreographic choices, too many musical styles. Unity is not a significant element in this piece. That is why it appears to spread out and not hold a specific shape. I can't sum that J & H is __________! The pieces don't come together to form an overall critical idea or concept, even though we all know that one must be under there somewhere.
There was a reprise of "NOBODY KNOWS WHO I AM", yet the song did not appear in its full form early in the show..... I call it a reprise because it was a snippet of the song. This is a discontinuous and useless element. It recalls feelings of . . .what? . . .from . . . .when? . . .
Many younger friends of mine have seen the show and loved it. They also don't have many evenings of theatre under their belts. So, as a spectacle and thrill for novices, I understand its appeal. I think there is enough good material to shape it into something worthy of viewing. We want to like and/or be interested in those main characters and ideas . . . please give us a break by not breaking the flow of unity, style, and cohesiveness.
I've seen J & H twice, once during the world premiere in Houston and another time around Christmas last year. I would have to say that the first performace, which contained all the songs from the cast recording, is by far better.
I think the things that kept me hooked on the show would first of all have to be the recording. I think that Anothony Warlow is by far better than Robert Cuciolli. There was more passion and drive in Warlow's performance. But I think that the things that drive me to the performance itself would be the eerie darkness that is felt throughout the ENTIRE show. The intimacy of Jekyll and Lucy at the beginning plays backwards in the rough-edged Hyde. I love the way Warlow and Cuciolli can completely change appearance, as well as vocal style. It's rather impressive. Besides the beautiful Linda Eder's voice, the climactic scene "Confrontation" steals the show. It's a concept that I've never seen used on stage. (Keep in mind I'm only 19 and although I have seen a large spectrum of shows, the originality still stunns me.) I did think that the ending was incredibly weak, ending with the horrid "Go to sleep, my tormented love." Give me a break!
Overall, I'm really satisified with the changes made in the current production, but the story remains mostly true and still provides a decent escape from everyday life.
From ALBERT GUERRA:
I saw the play in San Antonio, TX while it was on tour, and I dont see the big deal. There is nothing extraordinary about it except that it did need quite a bit of work. The songs are very similar--all ballads-- and one scene where Linda Eder sings on her knees at the foot of the bed in her Victoria Secret nighties was very distracting.
Most scenes were delivered too dramatic for me especially when J&H would sing and move his locks of hair with the beat of the music and even did it at curtain call. Most of my friends were not impressed I hope they did improve on the production. I wouldn't know because I won't see it anyhow!
From Nelson Gonzalez, Southport, CT:
My partner and I saw J&H opening night at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven last year it was great. Linda Eder has an angelical voice and Robert Cuccioli was marvelous.
I bought the original recording of J&H with Colm Wilkinson & Linda Eder back in 1990 or 1991 and fell in love with the lyrics particulary "This is the moment". Then in 1995 I bought the double CD recording with Anthony Warlow amd Linda Eder. It was a wonderful experience. I love "Bring on the Men" "Letting Go" & "Take Me as I Am," among all the others. I hope it comes to Broadway. I'll be there to see it again.