Jekyll & Hyde Go to College
Twelve years ago, SUNY Old Westbury’s performing arts program closed, and the campus hasn’t had significant theater on campus since. So selecting the school’s Maguire Theatre might initially seem to be an odd choice for putting on a large-scale, professional production of Frank Wildhorn’s hit musical, Jekyll & Hyde. But the show’s producer, Beverly Bell, had a very special motivation for choosing it.
“We want to bring the energy of a production this big, with some of the Broadway costumes and Broadway set and a full orchestra, to this campus, because we’re hoping the students will see what’s going on and want to become more involved with theater. Even if they get a little bit of theater on the side, they’re enriched,” says Bell, who has been involved in regional and community theater for over 30 years. “I think once they see live theater, they’ll see how different their lives can be.”
No students will be acting in the show, but Bell has offered show-related internships in marketing and law — her full-time job is as a senior partner at a law firm in Locust Valley — and she is also excited to have students integrated into the backstage crew. Additionally, Bell is working to bring a juried art show to the campus in February, to run in conjunction with the themes of Jekyll & Hyde, in which the Visual Arts, Graphic Arts, and English departments will be competing to create a work representing the dual nature of humanity. “That’s what the show is about, and the different mediums show how it can be represented in these other ways,” she says.
In a further effort to cater to the students, the show’s performing schedule is even based around the college calendar, with performances running now through November 21 and then a hiatus until February 3, when students will have returned from their winter breaks. Further complicating matters, the show is dark on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons to accommodate star and co-producer David Yudell, an Orthodox Jew, who will playing the title roles. (Yudell previously starred in a production of the show in the 1990s.)
In addition to everything else Bell has invested in Jekyll & Hyde, she has helped put together a massive advertising campaign that includes a billboard outside the Midtown Tunnel, sky banners in the Roosevelt Field Mall, Long Island Railroad train posters, and ads on television, radio, movie theaters, and web sites (including TheaterMania).
Moreover, on November 9 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, Rothmann’s of Long Island will be hosting a Jekkie party, at which WBAB’s Donna Donna will be conducting a remote broadcast and the public is invited to come out and meet the cast and crew of the production.
Another point of pride for everyone behind this production is that numerous charities will benefit from ticket sales. For example, there will be a special November 17 benefit performance where retired Yankees relief pitcher Goose Gossage will be hosting a pre-show party. “I never thought I would unite baseball and theater,” laughs Bell.
Although the charitable aspects of this project are important to her, Bell’s main goal is what keeps her going during the long production process. “This campus has lost a great deal,” she notes. “My aim is to make this show a success and to do another production with the same mission.”