Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh – Tue 22 – Fri 25 Nov 2016
Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Splendidly sung and with some excellent dancing, EUSOG’s Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical is a little deficient in both thrills and laughs.
Stevenson’s story about the different sides of human nature has of course been adapted many times in different media. The problem with just about every version is that, with the story so well known, they cannot rely on the original’s device of only fully revealing that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same towards the end.
Instead, there tends to be a twist. Here, the stress is on a simple good versus evil dichotomy that does not really do justice to the novella; Jekyll is not a ‘good’ man by the standards of his times, and seeks to create an alternative persona in order to indulge his secret vices safely.
Add to this a mawkish backstory about Jekyll’s father that ‘explains’ his research, unnecessary romantic subplots, and a generous helping of melodrama, and what could easily be claimed as the definitive piece of Edinburgh literature has become a retread of Sweeney Todd.
Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden’s musical, however, has a lot going for it – notably This Is The Moment, Jekyll’s song before his first transformation, whose fame far outstrips the show itself. Stephen Quinn performs it with aplomb here, and is impressive vocally throughout.
However, in a show that is dominated by one performer, Quinn does not always carry off the contrast between the two roles convincingly. Clever direction makes it clear which character is which, and he is certainly more diffident and withdrawn as Jekyll, but his Hyde is not quite as magnetically nasty as required.
Similarly, the relationship between Jekyll and his fiancee Emma does not have the impact it might. Ellie Millar’s beautifully pure voice is decidedly impressive, but their duets lack a certain sparkle.
Lydia Carrington, Lucy Dinozzi, Brett McCarthy Harrop, Mimi Joffroy, Caili Crow and Abi Stirling. Photo Erica Belton
This is not the case with Millar’s duet with prostitute Lucy (Giselle Yonace) on In His Eyes, another number that has become a staple of ‘songs from the shows’ celebrations. The contrast between the two voices is particularly intriguing. Yonace does not always resist the temptation to overdo the power, with her solo on A New Life tipping over from emotional into raucous, but when she channels the power carefully she is extremely dramatic.
This is evident on Bring On The Men, where the chorus of underdressed prostitutes is extremely strong – aided greatly by Felicity Thomas’s choreography, which is noteworthy throughout and repaid with strong dancing. The ensemble is very female-heavy, with a couple of male roles taken by women; this might have been taken further, as not all of the male performers impress. Instead of dark humour, what comes over is often decidedly more camp.
Dan Carpenter (the Bishop of Basingstoke) and Calum McPherson (Lord Savage) do have a nasty charm, while Gordon Horne, in the dual role of Simon Stride and Spider, is fascinatingly louche and supplies the compelling brutality that is absent from Hyde.
clear and purposeful
Mark Wilson (Utterson) and Mark O’Brien (Danvers Carew) sing well, but it is significant that a couple of the ensemble have more impact with one or two lines than several of the featured performers.
Jo Heinemeier’s direction is clear and purposeful, and an uncluttered stage makes for a smooth production. Unfortunately, the few pieces of scenery do seem to be moved at the most inopportune times, with the three most dramatic songs having their early stages interrupted by some furniture removal that is not quite surreptitious enough.
An equally strange note is struck by the make-up. Whatever the intended precedents may be, under harsh lighting the white faces and red eyes evoke a plague of zombies.
MD Thomas McFarlane presides with brio over a band that is spirited if not always consistent. Musically, the production is strong enough to overcome a certain lack of oomph in the drama.
Running time 2 hours 25 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 22 – Friday 25 November 2016