Perhaps not an obvious choice for musical theatre, Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde owes a lot to other ‘gothic horror’ musicals, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd that have come before. Indeed they seem to have borrowed heavily from these, and other hugely successful tragi-musicals, like Les Miserables and Oliver!, to come up with what should be a superb piece of theatre. Sadly, although it has many commendable elements, and should have everything going for it, Jekyll and Hyde suffers from a number of insurmountable flaws.
The story, of the misguided Dr Jekyll, who, having been thwarted in his plans to experiment on a living person, to identify, isolate and control the evil that exists in all human beings, subjects himself to his own scientific study and thereby unleashes his evil alter-ego, Mr Hyde, is straightforward enough. However, in this adaptation at least, there is little attempt to create any empathy with the character. Unlike both the Phantom and Sweeney Todd, where you can just about understand why, victims of circumstance, they become what they are, there is no noticeable attempt to explain or justify Jekyll’s ambitions, and so when he sets out on his murderous campaign, you are left wondering why, and worse, not really caring what happens to him, or his victims.
And because the score, with an uneasy mix of opera, pop ballad and show tune, is rather generic and the narrative formulaic, there are no real surprises on offer. Indeed so predictable is the story, that when Lucy, the poor prostitute who has the misfortune of encountering and falling for Jekyll, delivers her belting soliloquy about “A New Life” when she escapes from the old one, you know she is going to end up being carried off in a body bag – or in this case a wheelbarrow!
That aside, Marti Pellow, as the eponymous doctor, and his evil counterpart, is extra-ordinary, with strong vocals, and a fine acting style, unexpected from a pop-star-turned-musical-theatre-actor. He is suitably devilish, and charismatic, and gets to sing the show’s stand out anthem ‘This is The Moment’ which fairly brings the house down. Audience favourite Sabrina Carter, as the unfortunate Lucy, Sarah Earnshaw (Jekyll’s stoic fiancée Emma) and Amira Matthews as Nellie, are terrific, and the entire cast are excellent.
The sets, costumes and production values too are excellent – everything you would expect from a Bill Kenwright production.
Perhaps I was just expecting too much from this musical, and my disappointment is not completely justified. But having seen such splendid examples of this genre before, Jekyll and Hyde does not really reach those lofty heights. However it is enjoyable enough, and undeniably a crowd pleaser.