CITY THEATER’S “JEKYLL AND HYDE” IS 5-STAR MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA

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Jason Phillips as Dr. Henry Jekyll and Alyssa Rojecki as Emma Carew. Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

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Jason Phillips as Edward Hyde and Karleena Stoner as Lucy Harris. Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

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A scene from Biddeford City Theater’s “Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

October 2015

Imagine a doctor so passionate about saving mentally-challenged patients that he concocts a potion that could separate the good from the evil that lurks inside one’s head. Imagine he pitches his theory to a hospital Board of Governors and is mocked and scorned for such a crazy idea. Imagine he then becomes his own self-monitoring patient but things go awry and the fine line between his inner good man and inner mad man becomes a battle line for his life, destroying lives and wreaking havoc in a small Victorian London town before everything comes to a horrific end.

Imagine no more. Biddeford City Theater brings it all to life with the frightful, chilling Jekyll & Hyde, the gothic musical thriller based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When the musical first came to Broadway in 1997, it was described as a 3-star show and did not receive favorable reviews from the standard critic outlets. It did, however, run for almost four years and in that time developed an ever-growing stall of “Jekkies,” loyal fans to the Frank Wildhorn (music) and Leslie Bricusse (books and lyrics) collaboration. Something must’ve changed because the Jekyll & Hyde that opened on Main Street in Biddeford in October of 2015 was nothing less than a flawless, spectacular 5-star entertainment extravaganza loaded with amazing “eat-your-heart-out-Broadway” talent.

Jason Phillips has waited 17 years to play the dual roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. “This Is The Moment” was his moment, but just one of many. Phillips nailed it all with laser-focused precision and powerful emotion. We know the “Jekyll and Hyde” expression is used to describe a personality disorder of someone alternating between good and evil behavior, but to witness one actor so skillfully weave in and out between Dr. Nice Guy and Psychopathic Monster is a tour-de-force not to be missed. “Streak Of Madness,” “The Way Back” and “Confrontation” were masterfully rendered.

The two female leads perfectly represented the diabolically opposing slices of 19th century London cultures: Alyssa Rojecki as Jekyll’s fiancé, Emma Carew, from the rich and pompous society, and Karleena Stoner as Hyde’s “love” interest, Lucy Harris, portraying the seedy side of Camden Town’s street scene.

Rojecki and Stoner are each powerhouse performers who absorb their characters and pour out their heart and soul in every scene. They both deserve highest acclamations for their innate stage skills and their impeccable and most impressive vocal gifts. Their performances could not have been outdone.

Rojecki’s “Once Upon A Dream” and Stoner’s “Someone Like You” and “A New Life” were prime solos, but the audience was doubly mesmerized with their duet, “In His Eyes.” “Take Me As I Am,” was another great moment between Jekyll and Emma.

The array of other characters were quite interesting, some eerie and sinister, some bizarre and comical—all so well portrayed. Joshua Adams as John Utterson and Peter Salsbury as Sir Danvers Carew were wonderful. The Board of Governors was a terrific menu of quirky behaviors: Lynn Boren-McKellar as Lady Beaconsfield, Tad Williams as Lord Savage, Kevin Reams as The Bishop of Basingstoke, Chris Roberts as Sir Archibald Proops, and Jonathan Carr as General Lord Glossop.

It was fascinating to watch the ever-vital “Ensemble” seamlessly play duel and very distinctive roles (and you KNOW the show is going to be great when you see such an impressive list of stalwart and seasoned performers in the “Ensemble”): Dustin Pazar as Simon Stride and the menacing Spider, Gretchen Wood as Nellie/Poole; Caleb Steadwick as The Newsboy, Adam Gallant as The Minister, Ryan Lane as Bisset, Greg Brackett as Jekyll’s Father, and Gaia Ayres, Rebecca Cole, Alex Pease and Bethany Perkins.

The production numbers were breath-taking, particularly the many “Facade” variations and “Alive.” Credit is given to Choreographer Mariel Roy. Her direction of The Rat Club Dancers (Adelyn Bell, Kaya Brown, Briana Chu, Cate DeMuele) for “Bring On The Men” was reminiscent of Fosse’s “Mein Herr.”

The music is delightful—from lyrical-to-dissonant conversations to melodic pop show tune fare—and addictive (warning: one may desire to go out and purchase the soundtrack after the show).

Music Director Rebecca Rinaldi works the magic with her top-notch pit: Jeffrey Coogins, Piano; Kevin Smith, Synthesizer; Ray Libby and Jean Quinn, Winds; Jimmy McGirr, Bass; and Bill Manning, Drums/Percussion.

For this show, Set Designer Karl Carrigan extended the front of the stage, creating even more stunning dimension to the already vast depth and height that Salle de l’Opéra boasts. Carrigan’s duel stairs with the second-level cross-over is most effective and allows Director Sturdivant to put people everywhere. The Victorian steam pump motif frames the entire stage adding a subliminal twisted/mechanical/sci-fi feel to the experience.

The authentic and rich period costuming was superb…thank you Costume Designer Barbara Kelly. And last but not least, a Bravo! to all those individuals who were part of the stage crew, set crew, technical crew, building and painting crew for contributing to such a massive successful endeavor.

City Theater’s reputation of casting the best local talent and nurturing every cast and crew member for the most professional and creative results is no secret. I’ve reviewed what I thought were some of City Theater’s “best” shows…but they keep raising the bar. So I would have to agree with many of the patrons who congratulated Producer/Director Linda Sturdivant last night for her “best show EVER!”

Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical runs through November 1st. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM. City Theater is located at 205 Main St., Biddeford. Tickets are available online at www.CityTheater.org, or by calling 207/282-0849.

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–Louis Philippe

 

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2 Responses to “CITY THEATER’S “JEKYLL AND HYDE” IS 5-STAR MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA”

  1. Eric Graffam Says:

    Hey lovely review. But I think the set painting was pretty awesome too. Why no mention?? Considering it’s done on a volunteer basis and what represents hours of someone’s time and energy it should have gotten at lest a sentence. Anyway awesome set painting Jessica Chaples!!!!

    • Thanks, Eric, for noting Jessica’s fine work. In her welcoming words to the audience, Director Linda Sturdivant mentioned there were over 150 people who helped make J&H the success it is. I wish I could’ve listed them all. Whenever I review a City Theater production, I get so inspired by the acting and singing that I always end up going well over the 750 words generally allowed. So when I write: “And last but not least, a Bravo! to all those individuals who were part of the stage crew, set crew, technical crew, building and painting crew for contributing to such a massive successful endeavor,” I am referring to the many talented folks like Jessica Chaples. Feel free to pass on any such notations in the future.

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