Saturday, November 24, 2012

Phantom of the Chem Lab (aka Jekyll and Hyde)

Back from the limited run of Jekyll and Hyde playing at the Kennedy Center through tomorrow.

So I'll lead with the good news, which was that it got a standing ovation, orchestra and first tier, and I didn't hate it.

Truthfully, I just wasn't in the mood for a big overwrought Victorian melodrama. At least the production, which initially just looked cheap to me, was evocative and economical, using sets of moving scrims and projections to recreate the lab, brothel, board room, parlor, as needed. The projections also fairly successfully recreated the internal turmoil, the madness.

And with the main attraction, Constantine Maroulis (he of American Idol season four - the one who played the rock star on TV), you knew what you were going to get: ham and cheese and the whole blue plate special. I will say he delivers the goods.

What I hate about any musical that basically only has one good song is when they put it in the wrong place in the program. "This Is the Moment," one of the greatest show songs of all time, comes somewhere in the middle of Act One and is all chewed up with Constantine's hammy acting.

I'm a sucker for a great Act One finale, and the brilliant number given to co-star Deborah Cox as Lucy (the Prostitute with the Heart of Gold), "Someone Like You," again, was buried in the penultimate position before intermission.

As I said, I just wasn't in the mood this afternoon, but Cox's performance really was the only thing that hooked me. I'll be checking out her albums.

As for the story, really, why let the great morality fable of "Jekyll and Hyde" (how to extract and eliminate evil from humanity) languish in Victorian goth? (Even Round House's brilliant Dorian Gray a couple of years ago brought the aesthetic up to mid-20th century.) With all the hopeful-yet-playing-god controversy that today's mad scientists are dredging up in the transhumanism movement, isn't a 21st century update in order? And the takeaway is the same, to me: You conquer evil with kindness.

Love, hosaa

ETA link to the cast recording of the 2012 J&H "Concept" album.

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