When this time of year rolls around, we want everything to have that kind of gothic, Halloween sheen to it. And classic monster stories have always been fodder for great musicals — just think The Phantom of the Opera. So it makes complete sense that, last week, the Westchester Broadway Theatre unveiled Jekyll & Hyde, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, as its newest musical.
Robert Cuccioli, who originated the roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde on Broadway (and recently starred in the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of Nine), returned to direct this production. Mostly, though, he stayed out of the story’s way, doing more with less, and letting the actors deliver their parts without fussy staging. The sets were more elaborate, with platforms that raised or lowered to allow Jekyll into his underground laboratory.
Jean-Paul Richard, not Cuccioli, did the choreography, but in a similarly spare style. Don’t expect lavish, show-offy numbers. When the entire cast does gather on stage, they move in tight geometric patterns. It is a paragon of precision, but not one that highlights any kind of dancing abilities in the cast.
What the production does show off, however, is its cast’s voices. This is most notable with star Xander Chauncey, who really has to give two vocal performances: a vulnerable, higher-pitched one for Dr. Jekyll, and a deeper, snarling growl for Mr. Hyde. If nothing else, his range is to be commended — the highlight of the show is when the two square off in the climactic number, “Confrontation.” It is an astonishing, powerful duet, made all the more impressive by the fact that there is only one performer on stage who has to shift not only his voice, but his body language between lines.
Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there is two. The first, Emma Carew (Jennifer Babiak), is the high-society, supportive fiancée of Dr. Jekyll. Babiak gives a sweet performance, gently hitting all of her soprano notes. But the real big numbers go to Emma’s romantic rival, Lucy Harris (Michelle Dawson), a prostitute, paramour of Mr. Hyde, and friend to Dr. Jekyll. Lucy Harris gets more songs and better numbers — delivered with a fun sultriness by Dawson — which makes it mostly a one-sided rivalry: Emma can’t really compete for our attention, and her presence in the show is almost besides the point.
Still, with Emma and Lucy running around in their corsets, being menaced by the crazed doctor, the show can put you in a dark Halloween mood as fast as any Headless Horseman can.
Jekyll & Hyde runs at the Westchester Broadway Theatre until November 28, and returns for a second run from December 29 to February 6.