Review by David Munro
THE musicalisation of Victorian melodramatic novels seem all
the vogue today.
Following in the footsteps of The
Phantom and Les Mis
we have Woman in White
and now Jekyll and Hyde, with Dracula
waiting in the wings.
Both of the latter have music by Frank Wildhorn, who, according
to the programme notes, has also scored The Scarlet Pimpernel
and is now, Heaven help us, considering Camille and Trilby.
What is the fascination of the Gothic for composers? Lloyd Webber
gets away with it with the help of an effective score and fantastic
This production of Jekyll and Hyde has neither. None
of the plots lend themselves to gaiety and laughter and this one
is no exception.
Although Mr Wildhorn and his librettist, Leslie Bricusse, have
inserted some rum-ti-tum songs for the cockney chorus, the score,
as a whole, is sombre and, dare I say it, dreary.
The gloomy evening this engenders is not helped by the bleak,
monochromatic set, which comprises of two flights of stairs and
a balcony overlooking an open stage, which has to suffice for
interiors and exteriors, drawing rooms and laboratories achieved
by various items of furniture and chemical equipment being wheeled
on and off at the appropriate moments, none of which really adds
to the vermisilitude of a bald and unconvincing narrative such
as Leslie Bricusse’s dramatisation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s
study of schizophrenia.
Neither does Paul Nicholas’s portrayal of the shape-shifting
Mr Nicholas is a good actor and even better singer, and he does
his best to differentiate between the angelic Dr Jekyll and his
devilish alter ego, Mr Hyde, by letting his hair down (literarly)
and lowering his voice for the latter, but really to little avail.
He still gives the impression of an actor trying to play two
parts at once and not coping very well with either. He is not
helped by the fact that it is a sing-through libretto with a lot
of sub-operatic recitatives, which turn what have should have
been a red-blooded melodrama into a third-rate imitation of an
I also wish the director and choreographer had not seen Les
Mis, as all the ensembles and crowd scenes seem to belong
(as do the costumes of the chorus) to a French café concert
rather than an English pub.
This gives the impression that the
story is set in Paris rather than London, and that all the minor
characters are only waiting for an opportunity to mount the barricades
which, had it occurred, might have brought some life and action
to the evening.
However, it was not all doom and gloom, as the two female leads,
Shona Lindsay, as Lisa, Jekyll’s fiancée, and Louise
Dearman, as Lucy, an ill-fated prostitute, are more than worth
the price of admission.
Both have gorgeous voices and know how to use them. This, added
to their dramatic ability to 'sell' their lyrics, made the stage
light up when they were singing despite the setting.
They also convinced me that, when he had to, Mr Wildhorn could
write good ballads and I suspect that Someone Like You, In
His Eyes and Once Upon a Dream may well have a future
in the repertoire of female cabaret singers, but I doubt whether
many will be able to surpass the Misses Lindsay and Dearman’s
performance of them, either as solos or, in the case of In
His Eyes, as a heart touching duet.
I wish that the rest of the show could have lived up to their
standards but despite the efforts of the cast, most of whom gave
good performances, in particular, Charles Shirvell, as Utterson,
Jekyll’s friend and solicitor, and Robert Irons, as Lisa’s
slightly over the top, ( but in keeping with the tone of the production)
rejected lover, it was a losing battle against the libretto and
If there is a musical to be made out of Dr Jekyll and Mr
Hyde, this is not the one and I predict a similar fate to
the show, should it reach the West End, as occurred to its eponymous
hero - a quick and merciful death.
Jekyll and Hyde. Book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse;
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Director, David Gilmore; Choreographer, Chris Hocking; Set designer,
Charles Camm; Costume designer, Natalie Cole; Lighting, Neil Austin;
Sound, Glen Beckley; Musical director, Gareth Williams.
CAST: Paul Nicholas; Charles Shirvell; Shona Lindsay; Louise Dearman;
Christopher Blades; Winnie Clarke; Richard Colson; Robert Irons;
Garry Lake; James Head; Phil Cole; Gail-Marie Shapter; Chris Coleman;
Peter Edbrook; Jennifer Hepburn; Mark Powell; Holly Graham; Jessica
Punch; Bethan Eldridge; Natalie Winsor; Natalie Langston; Zoe
Presented by Peter Frosdick and Martin Dodd for UK Productions
and Paul Nicholas, by arrangement with Joseph Weinberger Limited,
on behalf of Music Theatre International of New York.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway , Wimbledon, London, SW19
Mon, Oct 4 – Sat, Oct 9, 2004
Evenings – 7.30pm/Matinees – Thurs & Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office – 0870 060 6646