Jekyll concocts catchy tunes

The house was packed with an all-ages crowd of about 100 anxious and excited theatre patrons. The small, cozy campus theater venue known as the “black box” was filled near capacity with people experiencing the good kind of stress—the tension of waiting for the beginning of an extravagant DramaTech stage show almost a year in the making.

Of course, this was opening night at DramaTech Theater, and the tension might have partially been due to the fact that many in the crowd were friends and family of the actors and actresses that would soon be littering the stage.

Nevertheless, this sense was palpable while in wait for the beginning of the performance, the musical epic Jekyll & Hyde. The two-act musical tragedy is an adaptation of the 1886 novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a story depicting Victorian Era ideas of the internal struggle between good and evil.

Dr. Henry Jekyll (Bryan Lewis) is a talented and respected scientist of his day, yet he remains highly controversial due to his experiments on the human mind. Jekyll seeks to understand the nature of good and evil in the hope of separating out the “evil” that imprisons his mentally ill father’s mind.

Unfortunately, in one of the perennial cultural archetypes of zealous human audacity leading to unintended consequences, something goes horribly wrong. Frustrated with the establishment and unable to secure a test subject for his latest concoction, Jekyll chooses instead to test it on himself. Once he makes the soon-uncontrollable transformation into the horrific Edward Hyde (also played by Lewis) by night, Jekyll is tasked each morning with picking up the broken pieces of his own and others’ shattered lives left behind by his hideous alter ego.

Besides the excellent marathon performance put on by lead actor, Lewis, the supporting cast was spot on. Brian Hughes as Jekyll’s confidant and lawyer John Utterson was particularly charismatic and compelling in his role (and also wins the award for the least grating imitation of a British accent).

The first act contained what was probably the most memorable song, “Façade.” It is a catchy anthem reflecting a key thematic element of the musical: appearance versus reality. There was also the hilarious “Bring On The Men,” led by boisterous lady of the evening and love interest Lucy Harris (Katie Mashni). The second act started off strong with another ensemble musical number, “Murder, Murder,” and though the second act was overall a bit weaker musically, it was more than made up for in the energy and intensity of the plot, as Jekyll’s world collapses around him while Hyde’s body count increases.

The ensemble was incredibly well-organized, and timing was impeccable on the part of every cast member. This is not surprising, considering that the cast has been rehearsing and breaking the show down into “moment-to-moment” segments since late January. The polish that director and choreographer Jeff McKerley put into the show was definitely noticeable.

On the technical side, special effects were used with occasional mixed results. Those sensitive to strobe lights should probably skip this show. The “confrontation” scene in the second act was a particularly impressive–if perhaps strobe-excessive–use of special effects. There were also some small issues with the sound, but all of this was pretty minor in comparison to everything that DramaTech was able to get right, both technically and theatrically, with this performance.

Overall, Jekyll & Hyde was essentially perfect, apart from some small technical issues with the audio that were left unresolved during the show. It comes highly recommended to anyone that loves musical theatre or anyone new to the genre.

DramaTech will be performing Jekyll & Hyde tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday through Saturday of next week, at 8 p.m. at DramaTech Theater.