York Musical Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, York Musical Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
ON the only previous time CharlesHutchPress encountered Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn’s Broadway musical, at Leeds Grand Theatre in July 2011, this was his verdict.
“In a nutshell, it is a very good performance of a not particularly good musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella that has but one memorable song, This Is The Moment,” he wrote, before concluding: “A deliciously wicked way to spend tonight or tomorrow awaits you”.
Eleven years on, This Is The Moment continues to stand out, but once more, Jekyll & Hyde The Musical’s story of love, betrayal and murder hits the mark in performance, this time under the gothic-inspired direction of Matthew Clare.
The aforementioned 2011 touring production relied on the handsome pop star chops of Marti Pellow in the dual role of upstanding, if obsessive Dr Henry Jekyll and his vengeful, sadistic, chemically altered alter ego, Mr Edward Hyde.
Clare goes with freelance actor, singer and voice actor Steven Jobson, whose love of performing was triggered by witnessing The Phantom Of The Opera at the age of 14, another show that ventures deep into the dark side.
Jobson can certainly act; he sings Jekyll & Hyde’s difficult, impassioned, narrative-driven songs adroitly too, and you can hear why he is a voice actor as he switches between the urbane, educated, tenor airs of the romantic scientist Jekyll and the guttural bass growl of Hyde, ably retaining the distinction in song.
In one early moment, his agitated singing voice for Hyde becomes muffled in the sound mix, but let’s put that down to this being the first night.
Jobson is equally convincing in his physical transformations, never straying into Hammer Horror melodrama. His monstrous madman always lurks within, those inner demons brought to the surface by reckless scientific brio as much as by his experiments.
Alexandra Mather vowed to make Jekyll’s trusting, unknowing fiancée, Emma Carew, more three-dimensional than on the page, and she delivers on that promise in her characterisation, while her pure, operatic voice wholly suits the score.
Director Clare has decided to split the role of love-struck but fearful prostitute Lucy Harris between York musical theatre regular and radio presenter Claire Pulpher (next performance, Saturday matinee) and Scarborough professional Nicola Holliday in her YMTC debut. Holliday was on duty on Wednesday, growing into her performance the more she sang, conveying both Lucy’s untrusting, self-protective nature and quest for love.
Strong support comes from Anthon Gardner’s lawyer John Utterson and Nick Sephton’s Sir Danvers Carew, and the ensemble relishes Bring On The Men, choreographed sassily by Hannah Wakelam.
John Atkin’s band is in good order throughout, steering the path between big balladry in the Lloyd Webber mode and a sly wickedness more in keeping with Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
Costumes and wigs serve the primary role in evoking the Victorian era; the plain set design, by comparison, is a modern construction of metal stairways and a mezzanine level, more in keeping with a pop concert, but the use of blue lighting to denote Jekyll and red for Hyde is effective. Everyone stands, no-one sits, such is the restless, unrelenting, unnerving progression from Jekyll to hellish Hyde.
Director Clare had called Jekyll & Hyde a “niche musical”, but he has successfully brought it out of the shadows, and in Steven Jobson he has found just the man for the job.
Review by Charles Hutchinson