Chicago Theatre Review
A Revival in Need of More Work
What has become of legit singing? Where is simplicity? Has musical theatre totally morphed into a reflection of what the rest of America has become: a land of excess where, like the cars it drives, the speeds at which everything travels, the prices we pay, and 99% of its music have evolved into more, bigger, faster and louder? This seems to be director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun’s modus-operandi for his revival of Frank Wildhorn’s reworked magnum opus, which has been around in some form or other since 1990. It ultimately made its Broadway debut in 1997 and, between that production, national and international tours and local productions, it has developed quite a cult following. And like this pre-Broadway tour, that earlier incarnation also played Chicago prior to opening in New York City. Hopefully there will be some adjustments made before this production reaches the Big Apple.
Fans of all-out, no-holds style of performance, the kind found in TV shows like ”American Idol” and “The Voice,” will love everything about this production. Indeed, Constantine Maroulis, here playing the dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde, gained early fame as an “American Idol” finalist and has gone on to successfully star in several Broadway and National Tours. His resume includes leading roles in such pop rock musicals as “Rock of Ages,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Rent.” The performer’s talent, both as a rock singer and as an actor, is formidable, and his performance in this pre-Broadway tour will no doubt increase his already sizable fan base. Maroulis gives everything in this performance and the contrast between his two characters is stunning. His stamina alone is worth the highest praise, not to mention his handling of the two diverse characters with their challenging vocal demands.
My problem is that, while Maroulis’ Dr. Jekyll is sweet and gentle, he also comes off as a nerd. Why does Emma, his devoted, upper class fiancee (well-played and sung by “Wicked” star, Teal Wicks), fall in love with this fellow? As Lucy the prostitute, clearly the starring role in this production, pop-rock recording star Deborah Cox also finds Jekyll’s gentle kindness a welcome change from her usual clientele. However she literally falls victim to the savage S&M brutality of Edward Hyde, Jekyll’s ulter ego. Both actresses possess the necessary vocal chops making them naturals for this pop rock style, while also demonstrating a much welcome Broadway blend in their powerful duet, “In His Eyes.”
The score, filled with many power ballads like “Someone Like You,” “Once Upon a Dream” and Maroulis’ anthem to going it alone, “This is the Moment,” are sung with energy, conviction and enough vocal acrobatics to impress younger audiences. Other numbers, including “Bring On the Men,” “Facade” and “Take Me as I Am” are thankfully presented in a more traditional musical theatre style. But the entire production, which lacks any humor to contrast with all the darkness and depravity, comes to a musical climax in Jekyll’s duet with himself (as Hyde) in “Confrontation.” The volume, pitch and pyrotechnics go way over the top. Any patron seated (as I was) near the giant onstage amps left the show with their ears ringing.
If Mr. Calhoun tries stripping away some of the excessive theatrical tricks (the play opens with a man writhing and screaming while crucified to a giant, vertical gurney), injecting some much-needed humor and warmth to contrast with the never-ending darkness and depravity and dial down the volume a few decibels, he may reach Broadway with a Best Revival of a Musical that will appeal to audiences of all tastes.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented by Broadway in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, playing a
pre-Broadway engagement March 14-24.
Tickets are available at 800-775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayinChicago.com
For more information about this and other shows go to www.theatreinchicago.com