Theatre Three is seducing audiences with an electrifying new production of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, a brilliant choice to kick off their 50th season of offering fine, regional theater on Long Island. Over the past half century, this dynamic theater has delighted with enterprising fare, from the avant garde Art to the holiday favorite A Christmas Carol and countless other memorable productions.
This time, all the stops have been pulled out with the spine-chilling musical Jekyll & Hyde, adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn, who also did the music, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg and arrangements by Jason Howland.
The original musical took a circuitous path to Broadway having first premiered in Houston, Texas followed by a national tour before it opened at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway in 1997. The original cast consisted of Robert Cuccioli as Dr. Jekyll and diabolical alter-ego Mr. Hyde, Linda Eder as Lucy Harris and Christiane Noll as Emma Carew. It closed on January 7, 2001 with the distinction of being the longest-running show at the Plymouth Theatre.
A tour was reprised in 2012 before heading for a Broadway revival in 2013 at the Marquis Theatre—this time Constantine Maroulis of American Idol fame took on the challenging metamorphosis from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde with Deborah Cox as Lucy Harris and Teal Wicks as Emma Carew. Closing after a brief run, the musical was adapted into a concert that toured North America and South Korea.
This gothic tale examines the duality of two natures, good versus evil. Dr. Henry Jekyll is overwrought by his father’s mental illness, which has left the patriarch doomed to life in an insane asylum, unless a cure can be found. Jekyll concludes there are two sides of the human soul, good and evil, and if one could chemically alter personality by separating these two forces, he could eliminate all evil. If Jekyll can accomplish this, he believes it could return his father to sanity.
To test this theory, and a potion he’s created, Jekyll needs a volunteer, a prison inmate from the asylum. He stands before the Board of Governors at the mental hospital and implores, “I can save many lives if you give me one man.” The board objects to his proposal with a resounding “No!” leading to only one alternative—test the potion on himself. With the support of his fiancée, Emma, Jekyll takes to his laboratory while Emma’s father expresses concern about the forthcoming nuptials.
Jekyll’s experiment goes awry, and in its wake he creates Mr. Hyde, a murderous creature who devastates the city of London with his brutality, leaving bodies in his wake. Now Jekyll is in peril of losing everything important to him, including Emma who grows fearful as his behavior becomes increasingly suspect. Lucy, a prostitute who Jekyll befriended, is thrust in the dangerous position of having to fend off advances from the villainous Hyde. Jekyll vows to destroy his evil alter-ego before he kills again, and the plot builds to an explosive conclusion.
In the dual roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde, Alan Stentiford gives a tour-de-force performance, transforming from the gentle, unassuming Jekyll into the maniacal Hyde. In the intense, climactic solo “Confrontation,” Stentiford is astonishing as he morphs from Jekyll into Hyde and back again until he convulses in a writhing heap on the floor.
As Emma Carew, Tamralynn Dorsa is innocence personified with an angelic soprano that soars as she valiantly defends Jekyll amid protests from her father, Sir Danvers Carew (Douglas J. Quattrock), who is intent on protecting his daughter.
TracyLynn Conner, as the prostitute Lucy Harris, has a voice that curls around each note when she belts “No One Knows Who I Am.” Her scenes with Stentiford are smoldering.
The show-stopper is a duet featuring Dorsa and Conner, “In His Eyes,” which mesmerizes as both women passionately confess, “Everything worth living for is there in his eyes.”
Jekyll & Hyde is a visual spectacle complete with period costumes and wig design by Chakira Doherty that projects the naughtiness of the Victorian prostitutes in rich scarlet and purple contrasted with the wholesome innocence of Emma Carew in pastels and white. The tableau of the chorus swirling in colorful, supple skirts adds exuberance to each scene.
Robert W. Henderson, Jr.’s haunting lighting design is particularly riveting during the “Confrontation” scene when it effectively flashes between the bright white lighting signifying Jekyll’s pure nature, versus torrid reds for Hyde’s dark, criminal mind. Randall Parsons’ set, replete with balconies and pieces of furniture that glide in and out announcing scene changes, is smooth and accommodating. Jekyll’s laboratory, with its white skull and test tube full of red liquid, adds to the macabre setting.
Nicole Bianco’s choreography is high intensity, with the spirited ensemble capturing the music’s provocative nature. The pseudo-operatic score weaves throughout the show demanding that the orchestra take on a major role with skilled musical director Jeffrey Hoffman at the helm.
Overseeing this ambitious production is director Jeffrey Sanzel who immerses us in a terrifying world, and then leaves us breathless at the end of this finely tuned stunner.
This is a must-see production, so catch it before it disappears.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical plays at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson (412 Main Street) through October 26. Call 631-928-9100 or visit theatrethree.com for tickets and info.