Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: 'Jekyll & Hyde'

This thrillingly staged musical adapation of Jekyll & Hyde pushes the limits of hypocrisy in social engineering.

Review: ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

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Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis in 'Jekyll & Hyde'

By Jim Rutter


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

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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