FINALLY, DIRECTOR BOYD AND MUSICAL DIRECTOR JEREMY ROBERTS SET AN APPROPRIATELY SURLY, EVEN MACABRE, TONE, YET THEY HAVEN'T DECIDED JUST HOW CAMP THEY WANT CERTAIN PARTS OF THE PRODUCTION TO BE A ALL OF WHICH RESULTS IN INCONSISTENCIES. ACTOR ROBERT CUCCIOLI WRITHES IN FULL CAMP GLORY AS JEKYLL TURNS INTO HYDE AND BACK AGAIN; AS A SADISTIC HYDE, HE LOOKS LIKE A CROSS BETWEEN DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S ASSISTANT IGOR AND RADIO PERSONALITY HOWARD STERN (WHO SOME ALREADY CONSIDER THE EMBODIMENT OF EVIL). ON THE OTHER HAND, ACT TWO'S OPENING NUMBER, "MURDER, MURDER!" BEGS TO CROSS THE LINE INTO PARODY, PARTICULARLY WHEN A (FAKE!) DECAPITATED HEAD GETS TOSSED ACROSS THE STAGE, BUT THE NUMBER TAKES ITSELF TOO SERIOUSLY.
FLAWS AND ALL, HOWEVER, JEKYLL & HYDE SUCCEEDS CHIEFLY BECAUSE IT DOESN'T ATTEMPT TO BE MORE THAN IT ISo a florid popular stew with flashing lights, creepy atmosphere, and gorgeous stars performing stirring solos and duets. Cuccioli approaches his plum double-edged role with messianic fervor. Instead of portraying a do-gooder mistakenly seeking the antidote to human evil by indulging in that evil too intently, the actor depicts Jekyll as charismatic, megalomaniacal, and, finally, weak A addicted to the rush of becoming Hyde even as he's appalled by the character's criminality. Cuccioli belts out "This Is the Moment," then effectively snarls his way through Hyde's signature tune, "Alive!" And he shares a bare stage with Christiane Noll, as Jekyll's fiancee, during an emotional rendition of the duet "Take Me As I Am." In turn, Noll boasts a lovely voice and a self-possessed stage presence perfect for the perplexed but loyal Lisa.
Linda Eder's plush voice caught the world's attention during a twelve-week winning streak on television's Star Search. Since then, along with creating the role of J&H's Lucy, she's cut solo albums and played the cabaret circuit from Chicago to Los Angeles to much acclaim. The statuesque chanteuse makes an undeniable impression when she first appears on-stage to headline the cheeky "Bring On the Men," and she confirms rumors of her fabulous range, from lower-register growling to soaring on high, beginning with the plaintive "Someone Like You" and ending with the wistful "A New Life." As an actress, however, she proves a bit inhibited, although her understated style does provide counterpoint to Cuccioli's scenery chewing.
Other notables include Philip Hoffman as Jekyll's pragmatic friend Gabriel John Utterson, Nita Moore as Lucy's comrade Nellie, and Martin Van Treuren doubling up in another split role as the good Sir Danvers Carew and the smarmy Spider, Lucy and Nellie's pimp. Vince Mountain's two-tiered set and Howell Binkley's lighting (which vacillates between shadowy and stark) convey a gritty, early Industrial Revolution ambiance appropriate to Victorian London. Jekyll's underground laboratory, complete with fetuses floating in jars, evokes the nebulous zone between science and magic in which the doctor dwells. Jonathan Bixby provides the cast with layers of sumptuous Victorian-era costumes.
Jekyll & Hyde does not reinvent the musical wheel. In fact, it recycles aspects of previously proven shows, from the Bill Sikes-Nancy relationship in Lionel Bart's Oliver! to the smoky nineteenth-century milieu of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera to the multiple murders of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeny Todd. Yet it does so with memorable music and a talented cast who provide a highly entertaining evening of over-the-top theater.