Review by Garry West
Venue: Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts (www.wcpa.com.au)
Cast: Dylan Shalless, Megan Scott, Carmen Morris, Garath Grainger
Director: Stephen Armati
Book & lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Set Design: Brenton Staples
Costume Design and Choreographer: Katherine Armati
Lighting Design: Matthew and Laurence Heenan
Sound Design: Greg Ginger
Stage Manager: Mitchell E Roberts
Projection Design: Glenn Fisher
Presented by Ballarat Lyric Theatre Inc
Executive Producer Michael Whitehead
Based on the horror tale by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ballarat Lyric’s latest production “Jekyll and Hyde-The Musical” needs to be seen to really understand Stevenson’s classic story which opens with Dr. Jekyll singing over his comatose father. It is Jekyll’s belief that the evil in his father’s soul has caused his death. Jekyll tells the audience about his passion to find out why man is both good and evil and his attempts to try and separate the good from the evil. The production is a pop-rock musical adaptation which has gathered an acquired taste over the years for theatergoers who enjoy something different and millions of people have acquired that taste so I wasn’t surprised that the musical received a wild response from the general public on opening night.
Director Steve Amati’s very competent mounting of this production is outstanding. Armati has the unique ability to produce the very best from his cast while offering many the opportunity to achieve success in the portrayal of their character in an onstage performance.
The brilliant set by Brenton Staples is an interactive assemblage of wrought iron lacework, stairways, and gothic arches, rotated and unfolded to various iterations by a highly skilled local crew retaining a high level of visual interest throughout the performance. The crew includes Jan Bonell-Huy, Tony Rowland, Ron Stead, Lachie Dewer, Ryan Armait, Blaise Mulrooney, Katherine Gale, Declan Kelly, Rylie Mulrooney and Lochlain Kelly. Excellent costumes by Katherine Armati and lighting design by Mathew and Lawrence Heenan along with some very clever special effects by Glenn Fisher give the show a look resembling a Victorian Gothic night out. A shout out to the brilliant orchestra conducted by award-winning musical director Ian Govan and on some nights ahead by Sarah Barlow which is another first for Ballarat, using a female conductor, the first time I believe ever in a major Ballarat Stage musical. The orchestra is superb and provide all the pathos the score offers.
In the title role Jekyll and Hyde, Dylan Shalless who co-starred as Judas in last year’s Jesus Christ Superstar really gets in touch with his feelings creating a disturbing transformation between well-meaning doctor and beast, driven solely by dark impulses. As Hyde, he is terrifying and he morphs dramatically between the two extremes. Frank Wildhorn’s music starts emotionally big and keeps Shalless at that level all night long.
By comparison, the musical’s leading lady, Lucy Harris (Megan Scott), is more of a supporting role but she sings some of the score’s best songs including the nightclub number, “Bring on the Men” and the tragic, but superb, “Someone like you”. Megan Scott is destined for great success.
Playing Dr.Jekyll’s fiancé, Emma, is another highly talented performer, Carmen Morris. She is beautifully cast here and brings some generally poignant moments to her performance especially singing “Once upon a Dream” and an early duet “Take Me As I am” opposite Shalless, as Dr. Jekyll. She is a vision of purity and her vocals are drop dead gorgeous. Both Lucy and Emma are also at their very best near the end of the show in the duet “In His Eyes”
Jekyll and Hyde moves between tense soliloquies and bustling street scenes with flurries of colour and movement made all the more exciting by the excellent chorus of singers under the direction of Robyn Womersley and Carolyn Bennett and the Choreography by the award-winning Katherine Armati. Together, they create an almighty sound and visual presentation. Other well-directed characters include Gareth Grainger as John Utterson, friend, lawyer and confidante to Dr. Jekyll, Carolyn Bennett as Lady Beaconsfield, Linda Ogier prominent as Nellie the lusty woman in charge of the prostitutes at the Red Rat club and bar. Liam Kelly as Spider, the owner of the shady Red Rat, Matthew Henderson as Simon Stride the secretary to the board of Governors at St Jude’s Hospital, the chairman of the board, Sir Danvers Carew, played by Chris Hiscock, who is also Emma’s father, Aaron Bonell-Huy as Lord Savage, Paul Roberts as Sir Archibald Proops, Phillip Howden as the 14th Bishop of Basingstoke who gets into all sorts of unfortunate trouble, Josh Lloyd as General Lord Glossop, offering a well rounded performance and Horace Tang as Poole, the loyal servant to Dr. Jekyll. In fact, the entire ensemble cast are worthy of mention as this works best as an ensemble event. So much so, that a number of the cast will feature in principal roles throughout the season. I was fortunate enough to see Mitchell E Roberts at a preview playing Jekyll and Hyde this young man was excellent and has a very bright future in musical theatre. He will be performing the role next Thursday night March 7th, other changes include the Saturday matinee March 9th Madelaine Johnson plays Emma Carew, and Sophie Walters plays Lady Beaconsfield. Sarah Barlow will conduct the orchestra on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights March 6th,8th and 9th. Tickets are on sale at WCPA ph: (03) 53380980 or online www.wcpa.com.au This production is highly recommended for all theatre lovers but is Not suitable for children. When all is concluded, “Jekyll and Hyde-The Musical” leaves you questioning whether man is basically good and compassionate, or if, in truth, it is ‘all a facade’?