Jekyll & Hyde The Musical - MKT (review)

I KNOW I’m on a hiding to nothing with this review of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical which is currently playing at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. As a critic I empathise with the title character’s split personality. Do I give the public what they want to hear or strike out with my own personal impression of this former Broadway production?

Thursday, 30th June 2011, 1:07 pm

The first night audience gave the show, which stars former Wet Wet Wet star Marti Pellow, a standing ovation (at least from the middle-aged female members of the star’s old fan base) and I will agree that the singing was outstanding, particularly from the two female leads Sabrina Carter (as Lucy) and Sarah Earnshaw (as Emma).

The set was spectacular and the orchestration impressive and I know that it has a rich pedigree behind it of books and lyrics by Leslie (Dr Dolittle) Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn - and yet....

While the production has always won the audience vote I feel I have to join many critics in saying that I was bitterly disappointed. This revived production is very much a Curate’s Egg and perhaps the yolk’s on me.

Cutting through all the gothic horror shtick you’re left with dialogue that was cringe-worthy, acting overly melodramatic to the point of comedy, and a story totally inappropriate for the musical genre.

Jekyll & Hyde is probably the most violent musical you will ever see. It features rape, torture, mass murder and a touch of S & M, while the cast sing wholly forgettable, mediocre, songs.

It was a considerable improvement on the hammy and hopelessly miscast Paul Nicholas version which toured to MKT about six years ago but I felt let down. This came across as a something Lloyd Webber should have written but was passed over by the great man. It has all his hallmarks without any of the finesse.

I saw Marti sing jazz at Woburn Abbey and admired his performances in The Witches of Eastwick and Chicago but here he struggled with the dual roles of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

The production numbers didn’t suit his style of singing. His one big show tune, This Is The Moment, saw him momentarily step out of the musical to grandstand at the front of the stage before resuming his acting duties a few minutes later. Tremendous song but it was the only one that stood out.

Bring On The Men, performed by a group of sleazy showgirls, although toe-tappingly catchy, sounded too much like Mein Herr from Cabaret. The rest too upbeat for such a dark story.

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, J & H was ripe to be plundered by the horror film industry, but does a story about a Victorian scientist intent in trying to wipe out Man’s dark side, sit comfortably as a musical?

Thank god we weren’t treated to a Hammer moment during the character’s transition from good to evil, but relying on a personality change rather than a make-up jobbie was similarly comic. Simply letting down a lock of hair and donning a rather OTT cape (and a rather large Topper) just failed to convince.

It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just that the base material was very much a story of its time and hasn’t travelled through time at all well, especially translated into a muscial format. No matter how you dress it up the tale of Jekyll & Hyde was always going to be hackneyed.

J & H runs until Saturday. For fans of the story or Mr Pellow. Tickets can be bought from the box office 0844 871 7652 or online www.ambasadortickets.com/miltonkeynes

*Star Marti Pellow was treated for a suspected broken nose during Tuesday night’s show after he was accidentally hit by one of the dancers in the show. His understudy had to go on during the second act.

ANNE COX