Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Jekyll & Hyde - The Musical" - September 2007

As I've spoken about before, I have 'issues' with musicals. It takes something a bit special for me to get past the absurdity of what I'm watching and really buy into it. The big draw for us seeing Limelight's amateur production at Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall was the involvement of Kim Shepherd & Glen McGill whose performances had impressed in "We Will Rock You". But even with that, I suspected "Jekyll & Hyde" would be close to my tolerance threshold - I just wasn't sure which side it would fall. Fortunately the performances were strong enough to ensure that it fell the right side of the line, despite any remaining concerns about the material.

Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn's musical suffers from the fact that it's essentially a one man show with a large supporting cast rather than having a number of genuine lead parts. It makes it difficult to care a great deal about the other characters due to their limited stage time - despite the best efforts of the cast.

It also suffers from a lack of truly memorable songs - there's certainly nothing that you'll have stuck in your head for a week after leaving the theatre. It doesn't help that the ending seems rushed and unsatisfactory - the jump in time before the final scene seems to miss out much that would be of interest and the resolution lacks imagination.

Okay, enough about the problems with the show as the production more than makes up for them. As "Jekyll"/"Hyde" Bobby Mitchell puts in an excellent performance vocally and does a great job in representing the crucial transformation scenes. While "Confrontation" may not be memorable as a musical number, it most certainly is for Mitchell's alternating performance as both parts of his dual role.

Rachel Brown as Hyde's love interest "Lucy" and Kim Shepherd as Jekyll's bride-to-be "Emma Carew" both produce performances that delight, but their limited stage time leaves you wanting so much more. The supporting cast are universally strong with Glen McGill's "Sir Danvers Curew", Ian Hammond Brown's "Utterson", Ross Walker's "Spider" and Fiona Patterson's "Nellie" particularly noteworthy.

Limelight have done well to compensate for the limitations in some of the songs, ensuring that they are pretty spectacularly choreographed by Clare Stewart and just by sheer numbers of cast on stage. And what a stage! Ronan @ Fine Designs' set is nothing short of brilliant and the use of the laboratory set is particularly well done.

This was easily up to the standards of a professional production and if anything the venue seemed to restrict a production which could have been just as at home on a much larger stage. I still consider myself a reluctant attendee at musicals but this was certainly a very enjoyable evening and hopefully we'll be back through to Dunfermline for Limelight's 2008 production of "Chess".

Picture courtesy of Stagepics

2 Heckles

Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear your views on this production, which I have to say, left me cold. I have seen several productions and this, apart from the professional production, by far most missed the boat in terms of character development and empathy. There were some good performances and as a whole the company worked their socks of to perform and deliver the goods.

Having said that where it fell down most, for me, was in the music. You say there are no memorable numbers or ones that you could go away whistling ... done properly you would have them in your head haunting you for days to come. The passion of the music and depth to which you are transformed into the story can and should be astounding. The pace of the music was simply too fast. It didn't allow the characters time to develop, to show the pain, the hope - it basically didn't give them time to breathe. This musical relies on the depth of the songs to create atmosphere, tension and good old heart felt emotions ... the angst of Jekyll builds from ‘Lost In The Darkness’ thru to his realisation to the hugely famous realisation song ‘This Is The Moment’ and the manic angst of ‘Alive’. A lovely vocal performance from Emma but ‘Once Upon A Dream’, such a tender song, and the beautiful duet ‘In His Eyes’, showing another duality, would have been astounding if the brakes had been put on.

A good show that could have been so improved with a fuller orchestra, I understand limitations of budget and balance with a small company (balance being another problem). However, simply by giving the music some respect by delivering it at a more meaningful tempo could have raised this production enormously in my estimation . It saddens me that you don't remember the music as this show rises and falls on it - I need to feel drained because of it and sadly I didn't.

Well done, however, for the commitment and effort by all performers.

Waldorf said...

Good to hear your viewpoint. We came to the show completely cold, knowing very little about it.

Personally I thought the quality of the musical accompaniment was good, although the sound levels between the musicians and singers was off at times. I sometimes think I'm a little deaf because I often struggle with levels. Again some of the chorus numbers were a bit of struggle for me because of that.

It was an enjoyable night, if not necessarily a memorable one. I have to echo Statler's comments on the set - very well put together with some nice transitions.

What I would like to add is that we seem to be seeing more 'amateur' theatre. Those involved in this should be applauded for the time and obvious commitment they approach these shows with. We don't make allowances for it being an amateur show, but it has to factor in your thinking. What we saw last night would put some so-called professional productions to shame.