Totally Goth

Jekyll & Hyde returns to the Westchester Broadway Theatre.



There’s something about gothic horror tales, from The Phantom of the Opera to Sweeney Todd, that go hand-in-hand with musical theater—it must be all the theatrical capes. So, it was only a matter of time before someone adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, into a Broadway musical. Jekyll & Hyde opened on Broadway in 1997, and now the Westchester Broadway Theatre has found a way to bring a slice of that production to our local stage.

Robert Cuccioli, who originated the roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde on Broadway, came to Elmsford to direct the Theatre’s production. The Tony nominee is no stranger to the WBT, most recently starring in its production of Nine (in the role that Daniel Day-Lewis played in the film).

But, even though Cuccioli has brought a bit of Broadway glamour to Westchester, don’t expect flashy direction. Mostly, Cuccioli stayed out of the story’s way, doing more with less, and letting the actors deliver their parts without fussy staging. The sets were more elaborate, with platforms that raised or lowered to allow Jekyll into his menacing-looking underground laboratory.

Jean-Paul Richard, not Cuccioli, did the choreography, but in a similarly spare style. Don’t look for lavish, show-offy numbers. When the entire cast does gather on stage, they move in tight geometric patterns. It is a paragon of precision, but not one that highlights any kind of dancing abilities in the cast.

What the production does show off, however, is its cast’s voices. This is most notable with Xander Chauncey, star on our visit, who really has to give two vocal performances: a vulnerable, higher-pitched one for Dr. Jekyll, and a deeper, snarling growl for Mr. Hyde. If nothing else, his range is to be commended—the highlight of the show is when the two square off in the climactic number, “Confrontation.” It is an astonishing, powerful duet, made all the more impressive by the fact that there is only one performer on stage who has to shift not only his voice, but his body language between lines.


(Above): Xander Chauncey (Mr. Hyde) duets with Michelle Dawson (Lucy)—or is that a trio?
(Top of Page): Jekyll & Hyde musical numbers are big without being showy.

Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there are two. The first, Emma Carew (Jennifer Babiak), is the high-society, supportive fiancé of Dr. Jekyll. Babiak gives a sweet performance, gently hitting all of her soprano notes. But the real big songs go to Emma’s romantic rival, Lucy Harris (Michelle Dawson), a prostitute, paramour of Mr. Hyde, and friend to Dr. Jekyll. Lucy Harris gets more songs and better numbers—delivered with a fun sultriness by Dawson—which makes it mostly a one-sided rivalry: Emma can’t really compete for our attention, and her presence in the show is almost beside the point.

Still, with Emma and Lucy running around in their corsets, being menaced by the crazed doctor, the show can put you in a cool gothic mood as fast as any other monster musical can. Who needs the witches in Wicked?

Jekyll & Hyde runs at the Westchester Broadway Theatre until February 6.

Westchester Broadway Theatre
1 Broadway Plz, Elmsford  (914) 592-2222

 

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