By Kenneth Jones
05 Jan 2001
While the Frank Wildhorn-Leslie Bricusse musical thriller was maligned by critics in 1997, the fans ate up the bloody pulp and were fortified enough to start newsletters, join fan clubs and send e-mails extolling the virtues of Wildhorn's score or Bricusse's lyrics. They would travel around the world to see various productions of it. They collected each recording. The swapped Playbills. The fans, Wildhorn has always said, carried the torch and kept the show alive.
The casting of a couple of stars — including the current David Hasselhoff — over the years also helped keep the Broadway blood flowing, as did aggressive TV ad campaigns. Wildhorn is likely to attend the show's final performance, beginning at 3 PM, and some remarks are expected at the final curtain, according to a spokesman. Jekkies are expected, en masse, all during the final weekend, according to fans who contacted Playbill On-Line.
The production, which opened April 28, 1997, will have played 1,543 performances and 44 previews. It is the longest-running show ever at the Plymouth. The next tenant there is the breezier musical comedy revival, Bells Are Ringing.
"I've been involved (on the sidelines) with the show since 1990, when I first saw the workshop at the Alley Theatre in Houston," he told Playbill On-Line. "I'm glad, however, that the show did at least have a great run. Four years is something to be proud of. Jekyll & Hyde survived so much. As it is, it outlasted all the other musicals that opened the same season."
The musical, drawn from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, with book and lyrics by Bricusse and music by Wildhorn, is directed by Robin Phillips, the respected Canada-based director.
Over the years, there have been so many changes and developments with the show that only the most devoted "Jekkies" can diagram the history. The show first appeared in the late 1980s with a score by Wildhorn and lyrics by Cuden but Broadway hopes disappeared due to financing. Bricusse later came aboard and the show was rewritten and had its world premiere at the Alley in 1990. At that time, a concept recording was released with Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder; many of those songs don't exist in the current show. The musical was further developed in Houston and Seattle, with Cuccioli as star, in 1995, followed by a tour 1995-96.
"Originally the marketing people in New York sort of tolerated us," said Edwards, "but the marketing people for the tour and for international productions were extremely open and sharing, and they enjoy us."
The Broadway production was preserved on video in December for a TV showing on the Broadway Television Network (BTN), a pay-per-view venture that offered viewers Smokey Joe's Cafe on TV in 2000, and also has Putting It Together in the wings.
The staging closes Jan. 7 with the expiration of Hasselhoff's contract, which comes at the beginning of a traditionally slow ticket-sale period, when New Yorkers and tourists avoid the cold of winter. TV actor and singing star David Hasselhoff ("Baywatch") joined the company of the gothic tuner Oct. 17.
The musical will have recouped about 75 percent of its $7 million investment, according to a spokesman. The 10 current international productions, a non-Equity North American tour, and stock and amateur stagings in the coming years will certainly make the project profitable, eventually.
"Even though it's closing on Broadway, it's still alive for me in other places," said fan Edwards, who has seen the show, in various incarnations, more than 20 times. "The best thing I'll take with me when the show closes is all the friends I've made. Whether it be within the cast or creative team, or all the other Jekkies, some of my closest friends are among them. The show may close on Broadway, but it'll always be open somewhere if the Jekkies have anything to say about it."
The year 2001 is the first year since 1997 that there is no Wildhorn show announced for Broadway. During the run of Jekyll & Hyde, Wildhorn's The Civil War and The Scarlet Pimpernel opened and closed on Broadway. He is working on a number of new shows, including Havana, a vehicle for his wife, Linda Eder.
Donny Osmond, who was on the wish-list of SFX producers for the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, coincidentally or not, recorded "This Is the Moment," the major anthem from the show, for his new Broadway-themed album, expected in February 2001.
According to the Oct. 26 issue of Time Out New York, Osmond was a dream candidate of SFX Theatrical Group associate producer Heather Hamilton, who previously wooed soap star Jack Wagner and rocker Sebastian Bach to play the dual roles personifying good and evil.
The magazine reported she was hoping for Osmond (late of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), rocker David Bowie and KISS singer Paul Stanley (late of Toronto's The Phantom of the Opera) to one day take the role in the show. Those dreams won't be realized.
The title role(s) was created by Robert Cuccioli, who was nominated for a Best Actor (Musical) Tony Award. Cuccioli will make his directorial debut staging a resident production at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in suburban New York City in summer 2001.
The current Broadway staging also stars Coleen Sexton as Lucy, Andrea Rivette as Emma, George Merritt as Mr. Utterson and Barrie Ingham as Sir Danvers. The roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are played at Wednesday and Saturday matinees by Robert Evan, a favorite of many fans. The production features Martin Van Treuren and Rebecca Spencer, with Whitney Allen, Juan Betancur, David Chaney, Sheri Cowart, Bill E. Dietrich, John Treacy Egan, Robert Jensen, Peter Johl, Douglas Ladnier, Stuart Marland, Brandi Chavonne Massey, Corinne Melancon, Kelli O'Hara, Brad Oscar, Joel Robertson, John Schiappa, Bonnie Schon, Craig Schulman, Jodi Stevens, Russell B. Warfield and Carmen Yurich.
Produced by SFX Theatrical Group and FOX Theatricals in association with Jerry Frankel and The Landmark Entertainment Group, Jekyll & Hyde was conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. Designers are Robin Phillips with James Noone (scenic), Ann Curtis (costume), Beverly Emmons (lighting), Christina Poddubiuk (props and set dressing), Karl Richardson (sound). Choreography is by Joey Pizzi. Orchestrations are by Kim Scharnberg, musical supervision by Jeremy Roberts, musical direction by Jason Howland, vocal arrangements by Jason Howland and Ron Melrose and music coordination by John Miller. Jekyll & Hyde's special effects are by Gregory Meeh. Gary Gunas of SFX Theatrical Group is executive producer.
Director Phillips is the Canadian director respected for his Stratford Festival productions and his reinvention of Aspects of Love for a Toronto run and subsequent tour. The Jekyll & Hyde national tour was not staged by Phillips.
Beyond being known for the standout tune, "This Is the Moment," Jekyll & Hyde is remembered for its much parodied transformation of Dr. Jekyll to evil Mr. Hyde, which requires the actor to shake out a long mane of hair to suggest the character's chaotic nature. Wagner was wigged, Bach was not, Hasselhoff, who has curly hair, is wigged.
The Plymouth Theatre is at 236 W. 45th St., between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.