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To help balance the desires of rabid musical theater fans with the casually interested and easily distracted MTV and Glee crowd, the show’s inherent campiness has been ramped-up to the point of pure spectacle.

Theater Review: Does Garish ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ Satisfy ‘American Idol’ Fans and Theater Lovers?

Rating

B-

Location

Winspear Opera House 2403 Flora St. Dallas, TX 75201 Buy Tickets

Dates

Dec 4 thru Dec 16

The entertaining, albeit hollow, re-imagined staging of Jekyll & Hyde currently playing at the Winspear might as well be titled American Idol Presents: Jekyll & Hyde. Shrugging its shoulders at the line between musical theater and a pop concert, the show brazenly encourages its stringy-haired star—AI season four finalist Constantine Maroulis—to wail, hiccup, and melisma his way through Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Gothic-lite score. R&B singer Deborah Cox also stars, but she fares much better as unlucky prostitute Lucy than Maroulis does as the famously unstable doctor.

It’s not a stretch to embellish Wildhorn’s already bombastic score in this way—some of the musical’s bigger ballads had already found widespread fame before the show even landed on Broadway in 1997. “This Is The Moment” was blasted everywhere from the 1996 Olympics to the Miss America pageant, and songs like “Bring On the Men” and “Someone Like You” developed a heavy cult following thanks to the show’s groupies, affectionately known as Jekkies.

So ardent are these fans—who were out in full bustier force on opening night—that their preferences were reportedly taken into account by director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun (the man behind the hit stage adaptation of Newsies on Broadway), who restored “Men” along with Act I exposition song “I Need to Know” for this pre-Broadway tour. To help balance the desires of rabid musical theater fans with the casually interested and easily distracted MTV and Glee crowd, the show’s inherent campiness has been ramped up to the point of pure spectacle.

And that’s where Maroulis comes in. Yes, he has a Tony nomination for his role in Rock of Ages (which rolled through Dallas with him two years ago). And yes, he trained at The Boston Conservatory. But it’s a stretch to deem him an actor or even a solid musical theater personality based on this performance. His high tenor carries the powerhouse notes admirably enough, but an annoying habit of gasping loudly before each lyric and a mumbley British accent make appreciating his obvious efforts more difficult than it should be. He loosens considerably when embodying the scientist’s evil alter ego, but that’s only because his strutting, hair-tossing Edward Hyde could double as the lead singer of a Poison cover band. Suddenly the previous Broadway casting of Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach and “big in Germany” David Hasselhoff in the title role(s) makes much more sense.

Cox, on the other hand, is a delightful surprise. Her only prior Broadway credit was a stint in Elton John’s Aida, yet she commands the stage as gracefully as original leading lady Linda Eder. Able to dig out the tiny nuggets of humor buried within Bricusse’s melodramatic dialogue, Cox switches easily between flippant lady of the evening and earnest, yearning woman. Her powerful vocals are bolstered by this genuine foundation, helping the contemporary delivery feel signature rather than jarring. The duet “In His Eyes” between Cox and Teal Wicks, a former Elphaba in Wicked who plays Jekyll’s demure fiancé Emma, is one of the night’s truly satisfying moments.

Calhoun’s sexy and inventive staging offers a fresh take on a show that has seemingly been in a constant state of revisal since 1990. Particularly effective is “Façade,” the number which introduces the snooty hospital board responsible for striking down Jekyll’s proposed experiments. Through deliberate misdirection, it slyly toys with the audience’s pre-conceived notions of class and refinement. Tobin Ost’s sets and costumes, appropriately overblown and working in tandem with Jeff Croiter’s flashy lighting, benefit greatly from Daniel Brodie’s creepy projections.

Beginning with a blooming cloud of smoke that undulates and ripples on the pre-show curtain and continuing with an eerie, lurking silhouette of Hyde at intermission, the projection design only falters during the climatic showdown song between Jekyll and Hyde. Usually an invitation for the leading man to display his part-switching prowess in a lightning-quick musical back and forth, here Maroulis stays Jekyll while his pre-recorded Hyde taunts him from a portrait. It feels like a disappointing cop-out, largely because it’s the only scene where the projections spiral from subtle to garish. It also highlights the fact that Maroulis isn’t truly engaging in an internal battle of good and evil but rather shouting at a wall. No matter the amount of fancy tech tricks or desperate vocal slides the show possesses, it’s hard to get over something like that.

25 comments on “Theater Review: Does Garish ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ Satisfy ‘American Idol’ Fans and Theater Lovers?

  1. On the contrary @qtw, the women seated in front of me hear my companion and I talking at intermission and turned around to say that they couldn’t understand a single word Constantine was saying either. The lady seated next to me remarked that she thought it was “interesting,” and her friend replied, “That means you don’t like it either, right?” The majority of the applause seemed reserved for Deborah Cox, and deservedly so. As a longtime fan of the show (don’t judge, I have the original concept album on cassette), there were just enough cons to keep it from being a truly terrific production.

  2. ohhh so you’re a jekkie yourself! I think it’s too bad you weren’t open to change. It would be interesting for you to read all the other reviews that are so positive about the show. Clearly You don’t like Constantine, you don’t even want to give him credit for being a well trained and Tony nominated actor. Next review I hope you can leave your personal judgments at the door.

  3. @HJL, I welcomed most of the changes that Jeff Calhoun implemented in this production, as is noted in my review. There’s no personal bias against Constantine–he was well suited to his “Rock of Ages” role–but I really don’t feel he succeeded in this particular role (and I’ve seen quite a few actors perform it, as is my job). I also believe noting that someone has received a Tony nomination and trained at a prestigious school is the very definition of giving credit. As I stated in my review, the show is still entertaining in this incarnation but I’m not proclaiming it the must-see show of the year.

  4. I thought Mr Maroulis performance was one the best I have ever seen anywhere. He was breathtaking.

  5. It would appear that the only thing I have in common with the author of this review is my name because I couldn’t disagree more!

    It would seem as though she was critiquing a different show because I understood everything Mr Maroulis was saying and I did not notice any gasping when he sang. I thought he did an outstanding job at both singing and acting in this role. I did not know who he was before this because I have never watched American Idol, but I have to say that he impressed me and I would recommend seeing him in this role, or any other for that matter.

    I’m not sure Miss Wilson, if you are of any authority to deem anyone an actor or not.

  6. Who are YOU to say someone isn’t an actor based on a role that YOU don’t like? I don’t like your review so I don’t think you are a writer.

  7. I definitely noticed during the show that Constantine seemed more focused on keeping up his accent than projecting…. Overall a great show but not the best version of Jekyll & Hyde I’ve seen. Some of the updates were very welcome. I thought the staging, set design and lighting were the highlights.

    Good review! I wholeheartedly agree.

  8. You are free to judge my qualifications, Jon, but I would encourage you to read the other reviews for this show’s Dallas stop (dfw.com, TheaterJones, etc). You’ll see that I am not the only critic who had reservations about Constantine’s acting chops/pronunciation/suitability to this role, and that we all seem to agree more of less that this production’s new take on the show is entertaining, if not entirely satisfying.

  9. Saw the show last night in Dallas. A disappointment. Would have walked out, if I wasn’t there with friends. So many brilliantly written ballads, which are just hacked to pieces by this production’s interpretation. The narrative which is told through music is lost, because of the muffled words of the actors as they sing (a la ‘pop’ or ‘rock’ style). The pace of several songs was slow, where it should have had driving energy forward. Of the notable let-downs, was “This is the moment”, where the intensity of the song’s long phrasing was broken up by the singer. To much riffing with the score’s notes by the singers didn’t work, it took the emotion and impact away from the music as songs should have come to a climax, but so many times fizzled away. The one shinning star was the actress, Teal Wicks, who played Emma. Her songs were brilliant. Unlike Hyde’s song ‘Alive’, which was unintelligible. At the end, the terrible staging where Jekyll/Hyde sings the duet with himself, alternating good and evil, a true crime to have the actor sing along with a pre-recorded video, right up there with lip-synching in seriousness. The director should be fired, my opinion. I was trying not to boo. I hope this production gets boo-ed off the stage when it gets to New York.

  10. People like different things. I find the traditional musical baratone sound boring and annoying, much preferring this very daring interpretation. When I saw it I was stunned by the vocals and did not notice any mumbling or gasping. Live shows can be better some nights than others. I don’t know how they can possibly do that eight nights a week.

  11. Having just seen the show in Detroit, I can tell you that ALL the women and men seated around me LOVED the show. I overheard many wows while Constantine was singing. When he transformed from Jekyll to Hyde, it was truly amazing. I got chills.

  12. Though we are all entitled to our own opinions, I’m pretty sure D Magazine wouldn’t just hire anyone off the street to write for them.

  13. Ms. Wilson, I couldn’t have said this any better. I enjoy reading your reviews as we, for the most part, agree on the same things. I was a huge fan of Constantine while he was on American Idol, but I definitely think he should stick to singing and not acting. At least not in live arenas. He just didn’t make dazzle happen for me.

  14. And I don’t like your name so I don’t think you are a person. About the same logic you used, amiright?

  15. And I don’t think a Broadway Musical would hire just anyone off the street either. She us entitled to her opinion but that does not qualify her to say whether someone is an actor or not.

  16. That isn’t a review it is more of an erotic novel of how this guy love this play and I don’t think anything could have changed his mind.

  17. Half the audience left at Intermission Saturday so I would say this was the same junk I saw as well. You couldn’t understand any of the vocals over the music. My favorate part was when Lucy Tripped and totally lost her accent and yelled “Oppps” so loud during the Rope song. I did like some of the sets but other than that this was an embarrassment to the Winspear.

  18. I didn’t even know who he was or that he was associated with Idol until right now but he was pretty poor the entire evening. But to blame any one actor for this mess is not fair it was a failure from almost every angle except for one or two sets that were nice it was sad.

    Unlike those around us we stuck around to see if it got better after intermission. It didn’t.

  19. did anybody else notice the ‘swinging sets’? the mirrors that the actors would rotate in their staging (such as in the song ‘Facade’) were dropped down on wires, but they weren’t resting on the floor.. yes, part of the set design, I get it… but these drop down sets wouldn’t hold still, so then as the scenes would play out, there was this undulating background movement… maybe just me, but I found it distracting…. I’m so confused, how could the producers’ have put together such a sloppy show? Is this show still in development? What I saw at the Winspear seemed more of a show in ‘previews’. In the future, I’d prefer the AttPac organisation to only book productions after their run in New York.

  20. Confrontation has been changed?! I was afraid of this after seeing preliminary reports a year ago. That number was by far my favorite (if not most painful) part of doing this show in community theater three years ago. I haven’t seen the current rendition, but I fail to see how it could compare to the original.