A great joy of seeing a production at Act Two is the feeling of “discovering” a talented young performer who you just know will someday be a star. An even greater joy is returning to see that performer who you were rooting for in an earlier production take flight and grow into a superstar right before your eyes. Such was the case for me when I attended Act Two @ Levine’s Jekyll and Hyde.
Like most Frank Wildhorn musicals, Jekyll and Hyde is larger than life in practically every way: melodramatic lyrics, gothic scenery, acrobatic pop vocals, extreme characterizations, and high stakes. The story is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel about Dr. Jekyll (played alternately by Casey Klein and Alex Greenberg), a Victorian England scientist on a mission to extract all “evil” from mankind. When his attempt to conduct experimentation through proper scientific channels hits a brick wall, he uses himself as a guinea pig, and unexpectedly spawns a demonic alter ego named Edward Hyde. Hyde in turn complicates life for Jekyll’s fiancee Emma (Maya Bowman and Emily Cochrane), a streetwalker with a heart of gold named Lucy (Katie Gerard and Kayla Dixon), and half of London.
Having enjoyed Casey Klein’s performance as the vaguely nerdy boyfriend in Act Two’s Legally Blonde The Musical, I was thrilled to see him take on the title role(s) of Jekkyl/Hyde, arguably one of the most demanding roles in all of musical theatre. Klein’s voice soars where I have seen professional adult actors fail. He doesn’t even seem to break a sweat as he switches relentlessly between a pensive Dr. Jekyll, and a Svengali-like Hyde. Likewise, it was wonderful to see Katie Gerard return as lady of the night Lucy Harris. She really has the most remarkable voice, unlike any musical theatre icon I can pinpoint, and hearing her sing a big emotional number like “Someone Like You” or “A New Life” will bring tears to your eyes. She is perfectly cast in the role of an “every-woman” who finds herself trapped in a miserable lifestyle and a frightening situation; a character we have to love in order for this thriller-tragedy story to work.
The entire score is well sung, thanks to Vocal Coach Cate Frazier-Neely and Pianist/Music Coach Billie Whittaker, who keep the tempos moving during Wildhorn’s more somnolent recitatives. Maya Bowman is in fine voice as Emma, as is Kyle Louviere as Emma’s father Sir Danvers. Sean Watkinson rocks out on tenor vocals as John Utterson. The entire ensemble shines in “Facade” and “Murder, Murder,” filling the theatre with sound.
Max Fowler is amusing as a weaselly Lord Savage, and a hunchbacked Poole. Paige Beans, Justin Marks and Ari Goodfriend are energetic stand-outs as Newsboys – look for them in future lead roles at Act Two!
Director Kevin Kuchar and his team of directors and designers once again bring first class caliber design to this production. In addition to drawing strong performances out of his students, Kuchar also adds some fine directorial flourishes to the work – most notably the clever choice to set Jekyll/Hyde’s final “Confrontation” in Lucy’s room before her dead body. His elimination of the scene break sustains the dramatic momentum of Jekyll’s downward spiral to a thunderous climax.
Many of the principal roles are double-cast, so odds are good that you will see a different group of actors. Judging by their stellar past performances, I’m sure that Alex Greenberg will make a deliciously evil Hyde, and Kayla Dixon will be a knock-out Lucy. Either way, you’re in for some great performances, and I can’t wait to see their production of Next To Normal next season.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Jekyll and Hyde runs through Sunday, June 3, 2012at Act Two @ Levine at Georgetown Prep’s Figge Theatre – 10900 Rockville Pike, in North Bethesda, MD. Tickets available at the door only.
Act Two @ Levine’s website.
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