The bar is high for any revival of the 1997 Broadway cult-musical Jekyll and Hyde. At least for its hardcore fans – myself included. (We are known as "Jekkies.) Without question, the original stars were vocally as good as it gets: Robert Cuccioli as Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil alter-ego Edward Hyde, Linda Eder as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Lucy, and Christiane Noll as Hyde's fiancée, Emma Carew. Which is why it's so surprising that the show's new national tour actually does the musical justice.
Both traditionalists and newcomers will enjoy director Jeff Calhoun's take on Frank Wildhorn's musical, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novella about a respected scientist's experiments to help his ailing father. Calhoun and the show's lead, Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis (Rock of Ages), create an even darker tone than the original -- a tone that is more in tune with the expectations of a 21st century audience weaned on Twilight.
Maroulis makes the infamous title character hipper and sexier by adding a bit of rock-star-panache to the role. The actor, who first gained fame on American Idol, convincingly portrays the subtlety of the good-natured Dr. Henry Jekyll -- and unleashes the terror hidden in his alter-ego. While he sings strongly, Maroulis doesn't quite match Cuccioli's intensity in songs like "Streak of Madness" and "This is the Moment."
He does, however, show great chemistry with both of the show's leading ladies. As Lucy, R&B music superstar Deborah Cox (Aida) brings pop-stylized vocals to the mix, and shows great range in numbers like "Someone Like You" and "A New Life." As Emma, Teal Wicks (Wicked) captures the character's sweetness, while also creating intensity, passion, and sorrow with her voice. As a result, the duet between Cox and Wicks on "In His Eyes" is one of the most memorable moments of the show.
As John Utterson, Laird Mackintosh (Mary Poppins) has the daunting task of making the audience believe the show's pivotal scene: he must react to Jekyll's change into Hyde while the audience sees only Maroulis' back. Mackintosh's facial expression of horror, disgust, and sympathy does the trick. Still, one wishes that Calhoun could have found a more interesting way to accomplish the character's transformation than by having Maroulis remove his glasses and ponytail to let his hair down.
Costume and scenic designer Tobin Ost created a landscape that conveys the dark tone the story warrants, and Daniel Brodie has accomplished a great deal with his projection design, although the production's frequent use of screens sometimes takes focus away from the actors.
All in all, despite a few shortcomings, this production of Jekyll and Hyde is sure to bring about a whole new batch of Jekkies.