Review by Miranda Michalowski
Jekyll and Hyde is a timeless tale of good and evil. The operatic musical is based on the 1886 Gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, and centres on Dr Jekyll, an ambitious doctor, intrigued by the inner workings of human morality. Jekyll creates a potion to split humans into their 'good' and 'evil' selves and accidentally animates an alternate self: the violent, sinister, Edward Hyde. Bloodshed ensues (spoiler alert, I guess).
While the original novel is a dark exploration of human morality, the musical is more camp in tone. Some of the more complex, emotional elements are lost in this interpretation, but it’s safe to say that Hayden Tee’s rendition of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ at Hayes Theatre Co is a deliciously camp show... with some seriously killer voices.
Speaking of "killer"... Brendan Maclean is delectably good in the lead role, doubling as the misguided Dr Jekyll and the monstrous Mr Hyde. His vocals are impossible to fault, and his physical transformation into Dr Hyde is mesmerising. Maclean’s ability to flip between characters in seconds is on full display in the song ‘Confrontation’, and it’s a hell of a show.
This particular production of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is set in a military asylum, post-WWII. As a viewer, I tend to be cautious of stories that use ‘mental asylum’ settings, as this setting and the tropes attached often perpetuate harmful stigmas about mental illness. However, I don’t believe this was the director’s intention, and it isn’t the lasting effect of the show.
This choice of an ‘asylum’ location also led to some brilliant production design and costume choices. However, on a character level, some choices didn’t quite click with me. Specifically, the character of Utterson (played by Madeleine Jones, in what is traditionally a male role) is a lawyer and close friend of Jekyll. Utterson first appears on the stage in a straitjacket and remains in this costume for the rest of the show (luckily Jones’ arms are soon untied). I was perplexed by this choice to emphasise the character’s ‘madness’, as Utterson is depicted as the reliable ‘voice of reason’ in this tale. He is not the one driven insane by ambition… Dr Jekyll is.
While Jones is undoubtedly a talented performer, the choices made with this character meant that I didn't find Utterson very compelling. Although gender-swapping the role is a wise choice in a musical that gives sub-zero agency to its female characters.
This is the fate suffered by Georgina Hopson in the role of Emma Carew, Dr Jekyll’s wife-to-be. Hopson’s voice is breathtaking, and her renditions of ‘Take Me as I Am’ and ‘Dangerous Game’ gave me shivers. However, I wish that there was more to Miss Carew.
Brady Peeti plays Lucy, a sex worker who falls in love with Dr Jekyll, and she is undoubtedly the soul of this production. She first encounters Dr Jekyll in a bar called ‘The Red Rat’, where she is suffering at the hands of an abusive bar owner. The vulnerable Lucy falls for Jekyll, even as she is visited at night by the abusive Mr Hyde, unaware that the two are one and the same. While Peeti has a wonderful voice, it is her sheer emotional conviction that makes Lucy totally compelling, particularly in ‘Someone Like You’. It’s a shame that this character has such little agency, as Peeti makes you root for Lucy until the very end.
The ensemble is full of brilliant singers, who also give enjoyable comic performances (I especially enjoyed Sarah Murr in the role of Lady Beaconsfield). A few of these performers even double as musicians, which proves effective. The virtuosic orchestra remains on stage for the duration of the show and comprises musicians playing a keyboard, cellos, guitar and double bass. I also enjoyed Anthony Pearson's dramatic lighting design, which was particularly vivid against the green and blue hospital colour palette.
Overall, the Hayes production of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ features incredible vocal talent. While some of the creative choices did not fully resonate with me, the show is a marvellous and utterly camp night at the theatre.