Jekyll and Hyde the Musical; Raw musical talent carries this twisty tale – By Julia Bottoms



Gothic musical Jekyll and Hyde the Musical swept the Sherman Theatre for two nights earlier this June, bringing the award-winning cult classic musical phenomenon to Cardiff. Loosely based on the original novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the theatrical adaptation is written by double Oscar and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse, featuring a tracklist of lively pop rock hits from multi-Grammy and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn. Director Kevin McCurdy presents the amateur production by arrangement with Music Theatre International.

The production pulls off the classic storyline but with an unexpected twist; in a surprise turn the production features a Mrs Hyde. Indeed, long blonde locks was the last thing I expected for a Hyde, but the two actors smoothly metamorphosed with the help of some cleverly choreographed stage direction, dramatically pivoting the production into exciting subversion.

The production elaborately expands the literary universe of Stevenson’s novel to evocatively depict the raunchy criminal underbelly of Victorian London, The main attraction of the dregs of Camden, the stage’s setting of ‘The Red Rat’ creates a visually enriched spectacle out of the Girls of the Night that frequent the bar, revolving around a confidently and animatedly played Lucy Harris. Remarkably intricate and sumptuous costume design elevates the visual details of the production, as the girls’ shimmering scarlet skirts and velvet black garters are set aglow by the red, rosy and indigo lights reflecting off the grimy window set design feature atop the stage.

What carried the production through was the virtuosic musicality of the production – not a note was off tune, nor a single beat missed. The cello, violin, piano and woodwind quartet to the side of the stage animated the production – the dissonant and folky timbre of the strings standing out as particularly stylistic and evocative. Particularly powerful was the chorus of voices singing in unison at times throughout, and also the technically tricky number ‘His Work and Nothing More’ featuring Jekyll, Emma Carew, Gabriel Utterson and Sir Danvers Carew singing in playful polyphony. Duplicitous duetting duo Jekyll and Hyde blended their voices together to harmoniously contrast each other with both power and grit at moments of heightened tension, but also harnessed technical control at more tender moments. Jekyll’s soaring projection during ‘This is the moment’ stood out as particularly noteworthy, as Hyde roared and growled with real passion and fervour during ‘Confrontation’. Adroitly accommodating the difference in vocal ranges between a female Jekyll and Hyde, music director Christopher Fossey adapted the key changes to accommodate for the duet between Jekyll’s tenor range and Mrs Hyde’s alto intonations.

Whilst an enthusiastic and lively spectacle that vividly captures the chaos and cacophony of raucous Victorian London, the production ultimately wasn’t quite brave enough to pull off the radical reimagining of the gender roles that it sets out to challenge. Mrs Hyde’s thoroughly rehearsed kick-ass killing spree was excellently polished and gave a convincing impression that characters were genuinely being violently hurled across the stage. However, the production strays away from a fully fleshed exploration of the practical implications of gender-bending that miraculously and inexplicably happen to beset the central pair. The final climactic scene defies the physical limitations of the production’s established universe as Jekyll and Hyde exchange blows with each other, contradicting the fact that they are meant to somehow represent the same person.

Missing an opportunity to push the production into being a truly subversive reimagining of the story, the violent power struggle between good and evil that lies at the heart of the play seemed to only peripherally inform the production’s overarching intentions. Instead, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical seemed to be more concerned with spotlighting the technical talent of some supremely gifted actors and singers, an outset which the production wholeheartedly succeeded in showcasing.