The Arts Theatre, Fri 26 May.
The classic story of the brilliant Doctor Jekyll, who believes he has the answer to eradicating evil and madness from the world, still feels relevant today. Adapted into a musical by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn, the lyrics and score are truly excellent, with songs examining how we all live with the dualities of good and evil, compassion and hatred within us, and how damaging the façade we build around us can be. Doctor Jekyll particularly feels the urgency of these issues because his father, a once brilliant man, has gone mad. Jekyll makes it his mission to develop a chemical cure for madness (why does that feel so contemporary and germane?) and in the process becomes mad himself.
While the story felt surprisingly modern, and the music and lyrics worthy of Broadway, it was the cast who were the most pleasant surprise. Their performances and talent did not fit any notion of ‘amateur’ theatre. Most notable was the astonishing David MacGillivray as Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. For most of the first act MacGillivray embodied the upper-class, charming, but slightly too-passionate Doctor Jekyll in utterly convincing fashion. His voice soared beautifully through the songs, showing a remarkable control and range. But it was when Mr Hyde reared his murderous head that MacGillivray displayed his true chops. In Confrontation MacGillivray is required to change from Jekyll to Hyde line by line – embodying the voice and physicality of the two characters from one moment to the next. He achieved this terrifically difficult task with apparent ease.
The two female leads, Ashley Muldrew as Jekyll’s fiancé Emma, and Sarah Wildy as Lucy the prostitute, are also tremendously talented. The roles of fiancé and prostitute are sadly outdated, disappointingly dreary and hardly pass the Bechdel Test, however this is only a criticism of the story, not the performances. Both Muldrew and Wildy have flawless voices that are worthy of the professional stage. Muldrew particularly shone in her jaw-dropping performance of Once Upon A Dream and Wildy’s scenes with Hyde were truly creepy and deeply frightening, providing some of the most powerful moments of the night.
Brendan Clare as John, Jekyll’s sensible and protective friend and lawyer, and the large ensemble cast, ably supported the lead actors and created a powerful presence on the stage. When the ensemble sang as a group the harmonies were strong and striking. Similarly the orchestra, under the guidance of Musical Director Ben Stefanoff, was excellent.
This is a production that bridges a gap between amateur and professional and in doing so soars well above its station. It will not disappoint.
Jekyll & Hyde continues at The Arts Theatre, at various times, until 3 Jun.
Book at Marie Clark Musical Theatre Company at marieclark.asn.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Images courtesy of Daniel Salmond