The “Jekyll & Hyde” musical revival’s pre-Broadway express derailed at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace March 14, replete with theatrical carnage demanding its patrons look away.
Put the debacle squarely at the feet of the show’s producers, undaunted by the musical’s original 1,543-performance run from 1997- 2001 that still managed to lose more than $1.5 million and lack professional acclaim.
Three-cabaret-worthy tunes do not a hit musical make; “Jekyll & Hyde” has no business being revived in favor of fresh offerings. Outside of Frank Wildhorn’s signature songs, “This is the Moment,” “Someone Like You” and “A New Life,” there’s so little to enjoy about this production.
It’s a morose allegory for addiction that, aside from a few moments calling for Victoria’s Secret sponsorship, is also visually uninspiring. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the story follows London doctor Henry Jekyll’s self-inflicted experiment to separate the good and evil in humanity that, along the way, points to the presence of both across all elements of society. A synopsis of the story can be found here.
Even a talented cast can’t save this Dr. Jekyll from an unredemptive Hyde-of-a-book. American Idol and “Rock of Ages” Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis does an admirable job as meek Dr. Jekyll and his out-of-control alter-ego Hyde.
R&B star Deborah Cox, as London hooker Lucy, and Broadway veteran Teal Wicks, as Jekyll fiancée Emma, illustrate why the show’s cast recording is must-listening for musical-theater aficionados. Their lovely duet of, “In His Eyes,” is indeed a performance highlight.
All three and their capable ensemble would be better served by a treatment offering a few laughs or capitalizing on the myriad possibilities to turn this into a melodrama. Instead, Director Jeff Calhoun has the cast take themselves as seriously as evangelical theologians tackling the central philosophical battle of good vs. evil without offering a warrant for hope. For this, Leslie Bricusse’s book smacks of theatrical (and theological) malpractice; it’s Good Friday without the promise of Easter Sunday.
With music as good as Wildhorn’s, it’s a shame it isn’t displayed in an equal-quality showcase. To wit, the soaring ballad, “This is the Moment” will be more appreciated as background music to NCAA basketball highlights on ESPN this month than it is on this stage to grossly oversell Dr. Jekyll’s decision to make himself his own experiment’s guinea pig.
The producers who green-lighted this pre-Broadway tour that ends in Chicago before heading to the Great White Way in April must realize every patron of the arts has a limited amount of time and/or money to spend on entertainment.
This production of “Jekyll & Hyde” isn’t worth a portion of either.
“Jekyll & Hyde” plays through March 24 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago. Tickets range from $33 to $95 (plus fees) and are available at 800-775-2000 or ticketmaster.com. More information may be found at BroadwayinChicago.com.
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.