The powerful, soaring melodies of Frank Wildhorn's musical "Jekyll & Hyde" filled the Camelot Theatre Company stage Friday night, settling in for a monthlong run. "Jekyll & Hyde" has all the vocal fireworks and the dark brooding subject matter of a big Broadway blockbuster of the 1980s, not unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera."
The show is directed by Camelot Artistic Director Livia Genise and stars Robin Downward as the noble Dr. Jekyll and his evil alter ego, Edward Hyde, with Kendra Taylor as Jekyll's long-suffering fiancée, Emma, and Kelly Jean Hammond as Lucy, the London prostitute in love with both the kindly Jekyll and the leering Hyde.
Genise's focused direction emphasizes the theme that everyone has a façade, the public face we all hide behind. Dr. Jekyll, ostensibly driven to find a cure for his hopelessly insane father, seeks the drug that will isolate and overcome a person's darker impulses. When the asylum's Board of Governors refuses his request to use a patient as a test case, Jekyll defiantly opts to experiment on himself. It is then that Jekyll's own repressed violent anger and sexual lust burst forth as he becomes Hyde and, as he exults, allows him to feel fully "Alive!"
What: Camelot Theatre's "Jekyll & Hyde," starring Robin Downward
When: 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through July 21
Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent
Tickets: www.camelottheatre.org or 541-535-5250
To succeed in the lead role, the actor who plays both Jekyll and Hyde has to have a strong resonant voice and a sweeping range. Downward has both and carries off the gentler melodies of Jekyll as well as the growling, lower-pitched dramatics of Hyde. Downward amazingly succeeds, even in the intense, pivotal "Confrontation" number where Jekyll and Hyde vocally duel to the death, and he does so without changing his "look." No split-screen projections, no distinguishing makeup or hairstyles — Downward does the role changes with posture, expression and voice.
Hammond, operatically trained, supplies dramatic fire to the vocally demanding role of Lucy, the prostitute who equally idolizes the gentlemanly Dr. Jekyll and lusts after the sexually charismatic Hyde.
Taylor, as Emma, Jekyll's bewildered fiancée, has a lovely soprano voice and brings some finely modulated acting to her role.
The rest of the production's large cast — especially Peter Wickliffe as Jekyll's nemesis, Stride, oily politician by day and vicious brothel owner by night — adeptly provides the ensemble commentary on the action.
Renée Hewitt ably designed the choreography, with even a wink and a nod to Bob Fosse and the sexy chair acrobatics of "Cabaret." Judith and Jean-Paul Bedford choreographed the steamy tango number performed by Lucy and Hyde ("It's a Dangerous Game"). Michael Wing is the musical director, assisted by Taylor. The spare, evocative set was designed by Taja Watkins with video projections by Brian O'Connor. O'Connor also provided the dramatic sound design.
"Jekyll & Hyde" was originally conceived by Wildhorn and Steve Cuden. Wildhorn wrote the music and Broadway veteran Leslie Bricusse was brought in to write the book. Bricusse, Cuden and Wildhorn co-wrote the lyrics. The show debuted in Houston in 1990. It was wildly successful and toured nationally before finally coming to Broadway in 1997 and running nearly four years. Jekyll's big number, "This is the Moment," has become an anthem of sorts, and was twice used at the Olympics as well as at the Miss America Pageant and the 1996 Democratic Convention.
"Jekyll & Hyde" plays at Camelot through July 21. For more information, call 541-535-5250 or log on to www.CamelotTheatre.org.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.