|Brendan MacLean as Dr Jekyll
Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse - Music by Frank Wildhorn
Hayden Tee – Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator – Nigel Ubrihien
Directors – Chris King and Steven Kramer – Choreographer – Siobhan Ginty
29th July to 27th August.
on 4th August reviewed by Bill Stephens
“Jekyll and Hyde the Musical” is probably the most famous musical you’ve never seen.
Anthony Warlow released recordings of some of the songs from the show, and
headlined a star-studded cast for a 25th Anniversary concert version
which toured Sydney and Melbourne in 2019. The Canberra Philharmonic Society
produced its own concert version in the Canberra Theatre in 2001.
based on the turgid Robert Louis Stevenson 1886 novella, “The Strange case of
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, set a 19th century insane asylum, the
storyline is centred on the horrifying results of Dr Henry Jekyll’ experiments
on himself in an attempt to uncover the cause of his father’s madness.
Wildhorn interpreted this story as a full-scale musical with soaring arias and
choruses of operatic proportions. However the Broadway production of “Jekyll
and Hyde -The Musical” received generally luke-warm reviews. Despite running
for more than 1500 performances it still managed to lose over $1.5 million by
the time it closed on Broadway. The musical was revised and re-arranged for
national tours around America, but a full professional production of the show
has never been achieved in Australia. That is, until this drastically cut-down
version at The Hayes Theatre.
achieved an enviable reputation as a leading man in major musicals in Australia
and on the West End, Hayden Tee has turned his attention to directing. For this, his first production, Tee’s inspired concept is to set the entire action
in a single setting; a military mental
hospital in 1947, for which Melanie Liertz has provided a deceptively simple
atmospheric setting which makes the tiny Hayes Theatre stage look much bigger
than it actually is .
casting decisions have resulted in a remarkable ensemble cast of brilliant singers,
character actors and musicians who, costumed by Mason Browne in drab hospital
garb, become the staff and protagonists who inhabit Liertz’s strangely
unsettling environment. Some portray more than one character. Some play musical
instruments including guitar, double bass and accordion. All participate in the
For the most
part this all works amazingly well, but if you are not familiar with the source
material, confusion as to the motivations of some of the characters is hard to
avoid. In my case, not having seen the musical or even a concert version
previously, I was not aware that Jekyll’s close friend, Utterson for instance
is a male character, so despite the excellent performance of Madeleine Jones,
costumed as a fetching female nurse, initially wearing an un-laced
straight-jacket and with mannerisms which suggested she had been the subject of
previous experiments herself, I found myself puzzling over elements of her
relationship with Jekyll.
cast against type, Brendan MacLean is riveting in the dual roles of Dr Jekyll
and Mr Hyde. Adopting a snake-like demeanor his decent into madness is
chillingly depicted and deeply unsettling. His singing is magnificent,
especially his interpretation of the big showstopper, “This is the moment”
which begins almost as a whisper.
|Georgina Hopson (Emma Carew) and Brendan Maclean (Dr Jekyll)
lucky enough to have experienced Georgina Hopson’s starring performances in
Opera Australia’s “My Fair Lady”, The
Production Company’s “Ragtime”, and the HOSH production of “Phantom of the
Opera”, it was fascinating in the intimacy of the Hayes theatre to observe the
detail she brings to her performance as Jekyll’s hapless fiancé, Emma
Carew; and although her crystalline
soprano is as impressive as ever, it is the extraordinary trans actor Brady
Peeti, as the prostitute, Lucy Harris, the
other woman in Jekyll’s life, who steals the vocal honours. The depth
and conviction Peeti achieves with her haunting rendition of “Someone Like You”,
towards the end of the show, is astonishingly touching, and neatly encapsulates
Lucy’s journey in a memorable theatrical tour de force.
|Brady Peeti (Lucy Harris) and company in "Bring on the Girls"
But this production is awash with memorable performances among them Rutene Spooner’s beautifully sung Sir Danvers Carew, the seething malevolence of Mitchell Cox’s Spider and Mitch Roberts’ clever turn with double bass while maintaining character as Proops.
All stay in
the memory along with Melanie Bird’s perky Nellie, Luke Leong-Tay’s Bishop of
Basingstoke, Sarah Murr’s powerful Lady Beaconsfield and the committed ensemble
contributions by Gus Noakes, Billie Palin and Matthew Predney.
Theatre has built its reputation on producing brilliant re-imaginings of major
musicals. “Jekyll and Hyde The Musical” is a worthy addition to this enviable repertoire.
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au