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Nicholas finds himself on a Hyding to nothing!



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 production values.

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 Doctor.

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 Opera Seria.

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 static direction.

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 Rainey.
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 1QG.
Mon, Oct 4 – Sat, Oct 9, 2004
Evenings – 7.30pm/Matinees – Thurs & Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office – 0870 060 6646

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