One of my favorite films is the first installment in Krzystof Kieslowski’s Decalogue, which interprets the first of the Ten Commandments. It depicts a man who relies on technology instead of his own powers of observation with tragic results. I was reminded of this when watching the new production of Frank Wildhorn’s musical Jekyll and Hyde.
When Henry Jekyll (American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis) is denied funding for his research into the duality of man, he begins experimenting on himself. Though engaged to Emma Carew (Teal Wicks) with a wedding right around the corner, his experiments take priority. The good Dr. Jekyll becomes the violent Edward Hyde and acts out against those who previously denied him. Along the way he falls for a prostitute, Lucy Harris (Deborah Cox). Will the good doctor prevail over his violent altar-ego? Though Robert Louis Stevenson isn’t credited anywhere in the program, this is obviously based on his novella. This is also a new, improved, and streamlined version of the musical that previously played the Pantages in 1999.
Mr. Maroulis proves far more effective as the violent Mr. Hyde than he does as the nebbishy Dr. Jekyll. The highlight is "Dangerous Game," his sexy, edgy duet with Ms. Cox. As for his big power ballad "This Is the Moment," on opening night he was sliding into notes as opposed to just hitting them. There was also something different about the way his microphone sounded versus everyone else’s. It made his vocals stand out and not in a good way. In the second act when Jekyll and Hyde confront one another, director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun robs Mr. Maroulis of his big moment. Rather than allowing him to depict both characters live, Hyde/Maroulis is seen in a pre-recorded projection that plays like a video game on crack. The choice might be popular with millennials who are no doubt the target of this production, but it sends a message that either your actor can't handle both characters in one song in person, or that even if he could, technology is more important.
Ms. Cox is a total delight. She immediately garners our attention with "Bring on the Men," and when she isn’t on stage, she is definitely missed. Ms. Wicks also impresses as the fiancé. Their duet "In His Eyes" received a well deserved roaring ovation.
I wasn’t a fan of this show before, and nothing here has changed my mind. The songs are banal and the lyrics, worse. Mr. Calhoun seems to think that if you ratchet up the volume loud enough and add enough visuals (mostly projections), you can hypnotize your audience into believing they are actually watching something good. You can’t and they'll know it.