By Jim Rutter
For THE INQUIRER
Hypocrites never mind a mirror that flatters. This alone explains the theme, if not the success of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Jekyll & Hyde, the musical.
Bricusse’s book transforms Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis) into a do-gooder doctor seeking to cure his criminally insane father and liberate humanity from its evil nature.
A set of hypocritical authority figures (priest, dowager, general, politican, judge) stand in his way, each protecting their own little vices by impeding Jekyll’s work. Their admonition to “not play god” with patients forces Jekyll to self-test his serum, transforming him into the murderous Hyde, an alter-ego that quickly kills off these adversaries.
Jeff Calhoun’s lively direction renders this Victorian melodrama into a sensationally staged musical flush with exceptional stagecraft and sharp humor. Tobin Ost’s interlocking set pieces create credible cathedrals, asylums, brownstones and underground laboratories, all accentuated by Daniel Brodie’s thrilling multimedia projections, particularly in Maroulis’ solo “duet” as Jekyll against a 20 foot demonic projection of himself as Hyde.
A stellar cast amplifies Calhoun’s choices. As the prostitute Lucy, Deborah Cox seduces with a throwback cabaret style and submits to Hyde’s will with a powerful gospel belt. Teal Wicks’ (as Jekyll’s fiancee) lovely voice pairs well with Maroulis in their multiple numbers.
Maroulis’ dual portrayal excels in juxtaposition; his Jekyll starts the night in falsetto and mostly stays there, his Hyde hypnotizes with the devilish charisma and throaty vocals of a rock star.
Jekyll’s own private hypocrisy believes that he alone can conquer the dark impulses he wants to uproot from society. But rather than condemnation, the musical encourages empathy—not for the murdered hypocrites, mind you—but for the supremely narcisstic scientist
And where great art—such as Stevenson’s novel—transcends life to offer insights, this melodrama provides an easy moral holiday for those that believe the best way to do good involves responding to tragedy with a highly vocal, benighted concern, but little personal action that might otherwise risk catastrophic failure. The object lesson? Jekyll tried, but failed; we sympathize and never again lift a finger.
No doubt this gives great pleasure to hypocrites everywhere.
Jekyll and Hyde. Presented through December 30 at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut St. Tickets: $49.50 to $97. Information: 800-447-7400 or telecharge.com