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Jekyll & Hyde*, a sublimely suspenseful Broadway musical adaptation of the famous 1886 novella by Scottish novelist and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), will the next home-grown musical spectacular mounted by the North Carolina Theatre. This gala production, starring former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, will open Oct. 23 and run through Oct. 31 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts.
Originally conceived for the stage by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden in 1980, and first staged in 1990 at the Alley Theatre in Houston, under the direction former PlayMakers Repertory Company member Gregory Boyd, Jekyll & Hyde toured 28 cities before making its Broadway debut on April 28, 1997 at the Plymouth Theatre, where it ran for 1,543 performances and earned four 1997 Tony Award®, including a nomination for Best Book of a Musical.
NCT's presentation of this blockbuster musical, with bracing music by Frank Wildhorn and riveting book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, will star Sebastian Bach as the good Dr. Henry Jekyll and his murderous alter ego Mr. Edward Hyde; former Miss America 1988 and Broadway star Kate Shindle as the actress/prostitute Lucy, whom Dr. Jekyll meets on the mean streets of East London and Hyde haunts; and Broadway veteran George Merritt as John Utterson, Dr. Jekyll's increasingly concerned friend and lawyer. All three will reprise the roles that they played on Broadway.
Sebastian Bach is the former lead singer of Skid Row. He starred in Jekyll & Hyde for four months during 2000. In assessing Bach's performance on Broadway, Jekyll & Hyde composer Frank Wildhorn once said, "What Sebastian [brings] to the role of Jekyll/Hyde is incredible passion, power and enormous, dangerous charisma."
Director Casey Hushion, who staged NCT's crowd-pleasing version of The King and I this summer, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, will direct Jekyll & Hyde. The show's production team also includes choreographer Michele Lynch, musical director McCrae Hardy, lighting designer John Bartenstein, costumer Annie Bruskiewitz, hair/wig designer Patti Del Sordo, and sound designer Jonathan Parke. NCT will employ Sinfonia®, a computer that can recreates the sound of a wide variety of musical instruments and six live musicians to perform the show's scintillating score.
"As a director of musical theater," Hushion says, "it is not often that you get the opportunity to direct a psychological thriller! From a directing perspective, you are always attracted to a good story and this one is hard to beat — the classic struggle between the 'good and evil' within all us is a universally accessible and timeless theme.
"What I love about this version [of Jekyll & Hyde]," Hushion explains, "is that while it is makes its strong social comments, it does not take itself too seriously. Although the show is chilling at times, it's good fun too, with some heart-stopping moments set to a flood of pop-operatic musical melodrama. Frank Wildhorn's contemporary score is another one of the highlights of the production. His particular style of music adds a modern edge, a theatricality, and a sensuality that fits the gothic horror story like a glove."
She adds, "Jekyll & Hyde is a musical based on [Robert Louis Stevenson's] classic tale of good and evil. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Sebastian Bach), pursuing his lifelong quest, endeavors to separate the two natures of man. Refused help by his peers and superiors, he begins experiments on himself with his formula. He meets with success, and shocking results.
"The evil nature of Dr. Jekyll surfaces as a separate identity: Edward Hyde (Bach)," Hushion says. "Hyde begins murdering the members of the [St. Jude's Hospital] Board of Governors who previously refused assistance to Jekyll's cause. Meanwhile, Jekyll fights in vain to keep his darker half under control."
"Caught in the cross-fire of this epic internal struggle are Jekyll's fiancée, Emma Carew (Tobi Foster); her father, Sir Danvers (William Solo); Jekyll's best friend, John Utterson (George Merritt); and a prostitute named Lucy (Kate Shindle), who becomes entangled with Hyde," Hushion says. "This show mixes together characters from both ends of the social spectrum, powerful music, and a main character split between the extremes of morality. At the base of it all is the question, 'How do you tell evil from good?'"
Casey Hushion says, "The set gives a great sense of the darker side of Victorian London and is very stylistically designed in shades of black, white, and gray. The lighting for this show varies throughout. At times, it will be very atmospheric — murky and shadowy. At other times, it will look more like a rock and roll concert — modern and hip.
"The costumes span a very broad range of style," Hushion says. "The upper-class Victorian costumes are rich colors and beautiful fabrics, representing the extreme wealth of the aristocracy. The lower-class costumes are appropriately tattered and bawdy."
Note: There will be a special Student Preview Night performance starting at 7 p.m. tonight, followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast,. Full-time students and teachers with valid ID can buy tickets for just $10 each. For tickets, telephone the NCT Box Office at 919/831-6950. Tickets must be picked up at the Will Call window, which opens at 6 p.m. Friday.
*For a guest opinion column on this show's "virtual orchestra," click here.
The North Carolina Theatre presents Jekyll & Hyde Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 24, at 2 and 7 p.m.; 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/. 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.