Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical - New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon

Music: Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Director: Martin Connor
Reviewer: Michelle Smith

You’re plunged into Jekyll & Hyde with Henry Jekyll (Marti Pellow) desperately trying to convince the authorities to allow testing of his controversial experiments. Nearly condemned as a heretic, Jekyll is forced to test his findings on himself with disastrous results. After having his good and evil side separated, Jekyll’s alter ego Hyde supresses Jekyll, becoming all the more dangerous whilst on the streets of London. There are comedic offerings throughout this production where, for a minute here and there, you’ll be caught so unaware that you almost jump in shock at the toe-tapping numbers such as Bring on the Men  you will be giggling in no time, which makes the darker elements all the more ominous.

Split into two acts, the first is primarily dedicated to setting the historical and social context creating a complete understanding of Jekyll’s reasoning. Pellow does well to set up Jekyll’s personal context as well as his passion for his work which only serves to isolate him more. His ability to maintain the audience’s attention is inconsistent but when the two sides of his character start to swap and change, he demands your attention be right on him. Pellow introduces his Edward Hyde to you in a rather childish fashion at first, popping children’s balloons and hiding behind false walls, wreaking havoc and darting around the stage.

Straight away you’re treated to the surprisingly chipper Façade, a song which, whilst providing a spectacular opening, introduces the main themes. Emphasised by mirrors and the constant presence of at least three doorways, the idea of moving between different aspects of each character and how a person changes according to the social roles they are expected to perform is all too apparent. Thus Jekyll & Hyde is just as much about the shedding of social norms and giving into your deepest darkest desires as it is about the relationship between good and evil. This strength and literal interpretation-you see Hyde astonishingly taking on a life of his own-come about when Jekyll feels the guilt of Hyde’s actions, instantly knowing that he has done wrong as soon as his social consciousness returns. When Hyde becomes stronger, Pellow’s Jekyll is truly heart breaking as he becomes serpent like in movement showing Jekyll aching over what he has created,  Pellow portrays this inner turmoil perfectly.

The supporting cast help make this show, the song by Henry’s fiancé Emma (Sarah Earnshaw) and a local ‘dancer’ Lucy (Sabrina Carter) provides a lighter tone that soothes the audience before the big finale. A west end star in the making, Earnshaw portrays Emma’s innocence and concern for Henry with such emotion it will move even the coldest of hearts. Alternatively is Lucy (Carter) who portrays such sadness and vulnerability effortlessly.

Applause needs to be given to the orchestra here as not only is the mood set but, at times, manages to outshine what’s happening on stage. Most impressive here was the reinforcement of the themes which run through the famous gothic novel, remaining true to it and leaving no doubt as to the genre of this piece with its haunting tones which grab and astound you. Transporting you into Victorian London the music is one of the many factors which portray the dichotomy between Jekyll and Hyde.

Overall Jekyll & Hyde is a rollercoaster of a show with its memorable songs which you’ll be singing for at least the train ride home. With Martin Connor at the helm as director this great gothic novel has become something that can be enjoyed by everyone. Although starting slow, Jekyll & Hyde is exceptionally entertaining.

Runs until: Saturday 5th March 2011
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