‘Jekyll & Hyde’ at The Kennedy Center by Mara Bayewitz


Jekyll and Hyde is simply miraculous, and chilling, sexy, romantic, ironic, dangerous, tragic, jaded, modern, classic, kinky, edgy, and absolutely spectacular. The musical is based on the acclaimed novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, about a London doctor who accidentally unleashes his evil alternate personality in his quest to cure his father’s mental illness. Since then, the story has morphed from this version into several other interpretations, but this national touring production, headed for Broadway in April, stays true to the original, classic story.

Teal Wicks (Emma Carew) and Constantine Maroulis(Henry Jekyll) in ‘Jekyll & Hyde.’ Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

The twist? The music has been updated from the original score, to highlight the edgy rock vocals of Constantine Maroulis, and the soul-piercing vocals of Grammy-winning R&B star Deborah Cox. The result is like moving through a dessert buffet, from polite petit-fours one can handle delicately in one’s pincer grasp, to a cascading chocolate fountain that spills onto the floor – with well-dressed guests on their hands and knees licking it up.

From the moment he walks on stage as the introverted, awkward, doesn’t-know-he’s-sexy scientist, Constantine Maroulis drinks, eats and breathes his dual role. He sings like an angel and belts like a devil throughout the show, with vocals that will leave an indelible impression on your soul. As Henry Jekyll, his quest to cure his father leads him to a rejection by a five-person hospital board that votes against funding his research. When he finally chooses himself as the subject of his experiment, everything comes alive with Maroulis’ passionate self-actualizing rendition of “This is the Moment.” His earnest and desperate belief in the necessity of this experiment leads the audience to root for him to succeed, all while knowing that he is about to make a hideous mistake. You BELIEVE that he is good, which is what chills every fiber in one’s being when he morphs into Mr. Hyde. His first appearance as Edward Hyde shocks the system. His accent is thicker, his hair tousled as if he’s touring with Van Halen, and his body stands at a different angle. A fedora covers his face just enough to cast ominous shadows. Maroulis sneers, growls, saunters, screams, and tears through his victims like a rabid dog. This unearthly contrast between Jekyll and Hyde embodied by one actor must be believable for anything else to work. Folks, this WORKS. (I wanted to go backstage after the show with a bowl of matzah ball soup and ask Maroulis if he needed to have a good cry). What an intense, powerful journey he endures each night to bring the audience into his full experience. He abandons himself completely and I am humbled and honored to have joined him.

Deborah Cox’s Lucy is the person Jekyll will never be: Honest with both herself and others. She knows she is making money dancing and selling her body, she knows she deserves better, and grabs the opportunity to find it. She is the only character in the show who is comfortable with Hyde because she understands that everyone has good and bad in them. It’s no wonder that Hyde longs for her: she sees him. Cox accomplishes all of this when she’s not singing, so just imagine her doing so with her brilliant voice. She debuts halfway through Act I in the bawdy ensemble “Bring on the Men,” where we are introduced to the barely dressed ladies using spider web pulleys to tie up and drag men into their lair of seedy seduction. We know then, that she is strong and self-aware. Then, in “Someone Like You,” we see Cox glow like a teenager who was just asked to the prom. She is in love with the idea that Henry Jekyll respects her, and for the first time imagines a life filled with potential. Her duet with Teal Lake’s Emma (who is luminous as Jekyll’s loyal, patient and worried fiancee) in Act II is theatre candy; these women are meant to sing together. It’s her final song, “A New Life,” that truly breaks one’s heart. Cox finally sees her path and is ready to tackle the world while the audience suspects that her story is not yet over. Her final note can be heard for miles and never once gets lost on its way to the last tremendous vibrato. It was only then that I remembered to breathe.

Frank Wildhorn’s music is both true to the classic Broadway style and modern in its rock and roll nuances. He sets the tone for the entire production as he shifts the genre within songs, from ballad to rock. The delicate, jazz-like percussion in Jekyll’s thoughtful tunes contrast with Hyde’s AC/DC-style anger. Ken Travis designed the sound to flow into the music, and sometimes to start off a new number with a bang, literally. The intensely loud effects strike a balance so you feel and hear the sounds but don’t have to cover your ears. He never drowns out the actors, rather he enhances the music behind them. Billy Jay Stein’s lightning bolts of electric music blend with the live orchestra so well that it sounds like a new musical genre. If I had my druthers, I’d call it ‘TechnoHyde.’

The show is unique in its use of set and lights. These two production elements are like characters themselves. They are integral to the story, not just decor, mood setters or diva spotlights. Jekyll’s lab is larger than life, with wires and test tubes 100 + times their normal sizes. Jeff Croiter’s lighting design is most impressive on this set, as he uses color to change the appearance of Jekyll’s potion from green to red. He uses lights as props, catalysts, and visual representations of smaller actions. Here’s me going out on my limb: at Tony Awards time. I expect to see him on the stage reading off his crumpled index card. When Scenic Designer Tobin Ost’s set is put in neutral, there are five long, thin panels that dangle from the ceiling at various heights, depending on their use. Ost uses these panels as mirrors, walls, doors, barriers, and at their most interesting, projection screens. The images cast on these screens serve as explanation, irony, plot device and portrait.

Projection Designer Daniel Brodie has incorporated technology in order to bring the audience further into the moment, unlike many other productions which attempt classic/techno fusion yet end up distracting from the heart of the show. I won’t say more because the images are plot devices and I cannot in good faith spoil any surprises just to make another clever analogy. Just know this: the set and light effects are not bells and whistles, they’re gongs and megaphones.

Tobin Ost’s costume design looks to be fashioned after the Urban Decay cosmetic line: moss green, slate gray, black and white, and an occasional red accent that evokes images of fresh blood more than fresh tomatoes. The tufts in the backs of the ladies’ dresses make obnoxious, haughty Lady Beaconsfield (the show’s comic relief portrayed by the strong and extremely watchable Blair Ross) resemble the peacock she fancies herself to be. They are perfectly period and blend with the mood.

Director Jeff Calhoun creates a nightmare for his audiences, bringing out the deepest levels of abandon in all of his actors. His staging keeps the eye moving all the time while never detracting from the intended focal point. He bottles all of the above–cast, design and music–and delivers it person-to-person. His bold, kinky, violent, tender choices are what truly make Jekyll and Hyde into more than just a show; it’s an experience one takes home and caresses until the vision of evil dissipates. I, for one, will put this in my own bottle and admire it for many years to come.

Constantine Maroulis (Edward Hyde) and Deborah Cox (Lucy) in ‘Jekyll & Hyde.’ Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Jekyll & Hyde plays through November 24, 2012 at The John F Kennedy Performing Arts Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600/(800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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11 Responses to ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ at The Kennedy Center by Mara Bayewitz

  1. Vicky W November 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I had the chance to see this wonderful production right after it opened in California, and I have to say that your review hits it dead on. Perfect. Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox are magnificent both together and solo and present some truly riveting performances. Everyone should go see this excellent show while they have the chance and experience it for themselves.

  2. Season November 21, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    I agree 100% with everything you said : )

  3. Jyes November 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Thank you so much for this extremely thoughtful, well-written review. I saw this new, updated version of Jekyll and Hyde with Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox and Teal Wicks in San Diego and look forward to seeing it again when it is back on the west coast at the Pantages in LA in February. You have managed to capture my own sentiments about the creative direction, terrific voices, charismatic acting, ingenious sets, clever lighting, soaring Wildhorn music and ‘techno-hyde’ orchestration of this production perfectly- truly a show worth seeing more than once!

    • Susan November 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      I couldn’t agree MORE! I was very concerned about The Confrontation as I enjoyed watching the You Tubes versions of other actors with this song. I was hoping to see Constantine with his great hair, doing that part, HOWEVER…WOW! I was pleasantly suprised! And overwhelmed with the EXCITEMENT of the new version of The Confrontation! One of my favorite parts! The show is so NEW, and invigorating! Can’t WAIT to see it again and again!

  4. Susan November 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Mara, I do believe your review is “spot on!” in that the NEW J&H was Wildly Entertaining! Deborah BELTS out those amazing notes with such ease, and Teal is such a delight as her voice is angelic matching her beautiful appearance as Emma. As for Maroulis, I simply must say “Make ROOM for that Tony display!” Over the top amazing vocals and his acting ability had me in tears by the end of the show! What an evening! Feel EVERY THEATER LOVER SIMPLY HAS TO SEE THIS MAN PERFORM! Great job on this review!

  5. audrey November 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Saw Jekyll & Hyde today at The Kennedy Center. An amazing show and there are no words strong enough to describe the brilliance of Constantine’s performance. Most definitely Tony worthy! Can’t wait until the show opens on Broadway so that I can see it again and again.

  6. Tom November 25, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Sorry to disagree with you guys -but this show ranks right down there with the likes of “Legally Blond: the Musical” and “Young Frankenstein”.

    There is no passion in the love interests (except perhaps the relationship between John and the doctor); there is no menace or evil; there is no passion. The production lacks energy. The scenic design is boring.

    The lyrics of the “you and me, down by the sea, sitting on my knee, it’s all heaven you see” ilk are dreadful. One can predict every other word. And I don’t count “reaching the high notes a la American Idol style” real Broadway singing.

    Someone remarked on this site about Eric Schaeffer’s “First You Dream: The Music of Kander and Ebb” that he was offended that this production replaced the scheduled revival of “Pal Joey” and that the Kennedy Cen should be ashamed to charge Broadway prices for a show of this ilk. Well, guys, that show had more class than the revival of J and H will ever have.

    At the performance of J and H I saw, many in the audience were at the doors ready to get out before the ushers had even opened them.

    I only stayed for the second act to see if it actually could get any worst – and yes, it lived up to my lack of expectations.

    • Susan November 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Sorry you feel the way you do about your “Broadway Shows” and the J&H performance at The Kennedy Center, HOWEVER, if Broadway is to CONTINUE it’s sucess, it has GOT to change with the times and reach a younger audience and one that is very in touch with a stonger, more Rock sound rather than the “old traditional” vocals of Broadway! As you stated…those AI “high notes; held to eternity” EXCITE most who enjoy music & they add to this rather “dark” show! I may agree ONLY with the fact that the new version of Murder is rather “boring” but I believe the producers are trying to get that Dark, more gothic feeling to this show. And the younger audience is thriving on the dark, gothic, vampire, dreary, themes. The OLD version of Murder, However, …DOES makes one leave the theatre SINGING that song constantly so yes, I do agree with that! I usually love a show where you leave SINGING those catchy phrases, and BOTH Murder, and Facade are a bit weak in writing, but the vocalists in this show are truly an amazing talent! I am hoping that when this show gets to broadway the producers think strongly about changing Murder BACK to it’s old, more catchy tune! I TRULY FEEL that this show is WONDERFUL and that Maroulis is remarkable playing both roles to perfection. The new songs feature notes much more challenging than in the past so I feel Maroulis is really going “…outta control” to be able to sing both parts to perfection. Sorry, but I VERY STRONGLY disagree with your review. YES! ~ I too saw a few of the “Theatre Goers” at the door earlier, however if you took really good notice, they were the “White Hairs” who frequent the theatre. And…as stated….THIS SHOW is trying to capture a younger, NEW audience! It is NOT the Old Jekyll and Hyde and does not claim to be a revial but a rather unique and new adaptation of a great story!

      • Tom November 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

        Hey, I’m a “white hair” who attends many shows in Washington, New York, and Baltimore.
        I am offended by your crack about age. Hey, experience counts for something. And if J and H is supposed to attract a younger audience, I can’t see how. This show is the pits – no question about it. I just talked with a theatre friend in New York who remembers the original production and she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to revive this show. When producers can’t raise the money to get Rebecca from London to New York, one wonders what really is the state of Broadway when this turkey can get cooked there!

        • Susan November 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

          ;) ~ actually Tom, if I were to allow it ~ I’d be a “white hair” too! ;) I just think the “normal theatre goers” of the past aren’t the same “theatre goers” of today! “Bring it On” is certainly not like Phantom, but bringing in crowds each day! The J&H show does not “claim to be a revival” and it IS trying to be new, so I say “Give it a BREAK!” ;)
          Wishing you many wonderful theatre experiences! ;)
          …and everyone is entitled to their opinion! Mine, however, is that Maroulis is BENDING OVER BACKWARDS to give his audience a thrilling experience!

      • Tom November 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

        Now here’s a review that gets it right:

        http://www.talkinbroadway.com/regional/sandiego/sd102.html

        Check it out.