If ever anyone is in doubt of the future of the arts, go and see a production by the Young Artists of America (YAA). Celebrating its 5th anniversary this coming year, YAA took on the chilling tale of Jekyll and Hyde, with music by Frank Wildhorn and Book and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. With singers, chorus, and full orchestra entirely composed of young musicians from the DC area, the YAA In Concert production was as delightful as it was musically impressive.
Ari Goldbloom-Helzner playing the title roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was simply put: incredible. I have never heard such maturity from someone so young before. From his precise diction to wonderfully supported tone, he tackled each of Jekyll and Hyde’s momentous showstoppers with professional levels of poise. While, Dr. Jekyll might be best known for “This is the Moment”—which was wonderfully executed—it was “Confrontation” at the end of the evening’s selections that really drove home the marvelous talent that this young man possesses. He deftly popped between both tormented men and, with the help of clever sound engineering and reverb for Mr. Hyde, gave both the pain and concentrated devotion needed: Jekyll protecting society, hating himself; and Hyde protecting himself, hating society.
The ladies in Jekyll and Hyde’s life were brought to the stage by a rotating series of talented young singers. Dr. Jekyll’s betrothed Emma, was played by Jillian Tate, Emma Rothfield, and Madeline Statter, with tonal range from a strong alto earthiness to a warm, rounded soprano. For me, Emma’s character highlights were in “Once Upon a Dream,” sung by Madeline Statter, who reminded me of an alto Charlotte Church with both her gentle presence and connection to the song. Also in “Letting Go,” whose Emma was embodied by the forward vocals of Jillian Tate and joined by Sam Nasar in the role of Sir Danvers. A brief look shared between the two of them as the song ended spoke volumes to the bond of their characters and the passion for music the actors possessed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hyde’s favorite, Lucy, was voiced by Elizabeth Doerrman, Brenna McFarland, and Sophia Anastasi. Together with Emma Rothfield as Emma, Brenna McFarland as Lucy gave one of the night’s showstoppers, “In His Eyes.” Their tones soared blending together beautifully and once again had me forgetting that the group before me was made up of high school students.
A benefit to having so many voices represent the same character that I hadn’t initially considered was that it allowed for different styles to be heard throughout the production. Where Elizabeth Doerrman in “Someone like You” was as strongly classical as could be, “A New Life” sung by Sophia Anastasi brought a mixed straight-toned rendition than hadn’t been heard with the other Lucys. Both varieties brought unexpected and appreciated twists.
Behind the scenes, the YAA production was supported by several charismatic and invested individuals. Music Director Kristofer Sanz led the impressive full orchestra. From the first creepily sensitive chord to the last, both the orchestra and conductor (Sanz) gave it everything they had to wonderful effect. Artistic Director Rolando Sanz and Vocal Director Maureen Codelka were equally as successful with the chorus. Jekyll and Hyde is not an easy musical to be in the chorus for and yet these young folks spit out fast-paced lyrics of “Facade” and sufficiently filled the audience with dread in “Murder, Murder.” Also kudos to Orchestra Manager Francisco Cosio-Marron for his contribution.
The Guest Narrator of the evening was none other than Kim Scharnberg responsible for the orchestrations of the original Jekyll and Hyde production. While not as smooth as I would have hoped to hear, it was exciting, particularly for the young students he worked with, to have such an integral piece of the Broadway team on stage with them last night.
It is always a treat to see the dedication and talent of young musicians in the theater. The YAA’s production of Jekyll and Hyde in Concert was no different. They started off the night with a tribute to the recent horrific events in Paris and evoked, as the arts community often does in times of tragedy, the words of Leonard Bernstein. “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
These high schoolers have taken to heart this charge and I have no doubt will continue to play or sing with the impressive passion I saw last night.
Bravo to Young Artists of America and everyone involved in this extraordinary production. Well done!
Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Jekyll and Hyde in Concert was a one-time performance by the Young Artists of America performing at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center – 3800 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, in College Park, MD. For future performances and information, call the box office at (301) 405-2787, or view their calendar of events. For future Young Artists of America’s 2015-2015 events, go to their website.
Read DCMetroTheaterArts’ coverage of Young Artists of America.