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Four high-octane performances fuel the North Carolina Theatre's powerhouse production of Jekyll & Hyde*, playing now through Halloween night in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts. Former Skid Row front-man Sebastian Bach, who played idealistic and innovative physician-turned-scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll and murderous Edward Hyde on Broadway with great success, is the nominal headliner here. But three other stellar performances — by Broadway veterans George Merritt, Miss America 1988 Kate Shindle, and Tobi Foster — heighten the horsepower of this home-grown musical spectacular staged with impressive style and great wit by Casey Hushion and choreographer Michele Lynch and accompanied with brio by musical director/conductor McCrae Hardy and six live musician supplemented by a Sinfonia®.
Tall, handsome, blond-ponytailed Sebastian Bach, who has a surprisingly soft voice and delicate manner for such a legend rock-and-roller, brings rock-star panache to the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Indeed, last Saturday night, the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium jumped to their feet at the final curtain like members of the Skid Row fan club to give Bach and company an exuberant standing ovation.) Bach's Henry Jekyll is a sweet tormented soul determined to unlock the secrets of the human mind, but his Edward Hyde is evil incarnate — a kindred spirit to Jack the Ripper. NCT's tagline — "Evil Never Looked So Good" — is especially apt.
Like Bach, George Merritt and Kate Shindle also performed in Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway. At NCT, they robustly reprise their roles as Dr. Jekyll's lawyer and friend John Utterson and actress-turned-prostitute Lucy Harris. Tobi Foster, who played Cosette in Les Misérables on Broadway, is likewise terrific here as Emma Carew, Dr. Jekyll's loyal but increasingly disturbed fiancée who cannot understand why Henry suddenly shuns her, withdrawing into his laboratory for weeks at a time. These three, plus Bach, make the musical gems in composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Leslie Bricusse's score sparkle.
William Solo is good as Emma's stuffy father, Sir Danvers Carew, the head of the St. Jude's Hospital's Board of Governors; and Darryl Winslow, Vinny Jenna, Barbara McCulloh, Larry French, Alton Cox, and James Zannelli contribute crisp tragicomic characterizations as five other highfaluting board members and a snooty secretary, all of whom sternly disapprove of — and decline to fund — Dr. Jekyll's proposed experiment to separate the good and evil in human nature, thereby earning the lethal enmity of the malevolent Mr. Hyde.
Julie Foldesi adds a sharply etched cameo as Lucy's friend and fellow prostitute Nellie, Jeremy Mills is deliciously low as Spider the pimp, and Dexter O. Morgan is good as Bisset the apothecary, who becomes increasingly concerned as Dr. Jekyll orders more and more exotic and dangerous drugs.
By superbly orchestrating the show's suspense, director Casey Hushion makes Jekyll & Hyde a musical thriller to treasure. The ingenious contributions of choreographer Michele Lynch and musical director McCrae Hardy likewise enhance this musical melodrama, which unfolds like a dark, dark flower on a magnificent set — recreating posh and not-so-posh portions of foggy London, circa 1888 — and in an impressive array of Victorian costumes — both provided by NETworks Productions, Inc. Technical director Curtis L. Jones, lighting designer John Bartenstein, costumer Annie Bruskiewitz, hair/wig designer Patti Del Sordo, and sound designer Jonathan Parke also do their best to make this vibrant NCT production of Jekyll & Hyde look and sound like a million bucks!
*For a guest opinion column on this show's "virtual orchestra," click here.
The North Carolina Theatre presents Jekyll & Hyde Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 26-29, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 30, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 31, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $20-$60. NCT Box Office: 919/831-6950. North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/. Sebastian Bach: http://www.sebastianbach.com/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=4863. Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical Official Website: http://www.jekyll-hyde.com/. Sinfonia®: http://www.rms.biz/docs/faqs.htm.