Getting to The Marquis Theatre in Times Square likely involves passing by a few theme restaurants: gimmicky, spectacle-minded dives aimed at drawing in the tourists who crowd the area. They aren’t the kinds of places you’d go to without being dragged in by a visiting aunt but, once there, if you resign yourself to what’s happening and order a strong, overpriced drink–actually, sorry, could you make that a double?–there’s a certain kind of fun to be had. Jeff’s Calhoun’s current production of Jekyll & Hyde, playing on the third floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway, has a similar appeal.
The show, a stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that originally debuted on Broadway in 1997, has never been accused of being contemplative. There’s really only one narrative theme at work, and as themes go, it’s the stuff of high school Literature classes: “in each of us there are two natures . . . good and evil.” Haha, okay. This dichotomy is treated as self-explanatory by the story, and what the hell, you’ve already ordered your drink by now, right?
What Calhoun’s adaptation gets very right are the moments where it revels in its atmospheric gimmicks. Stage designer Tobin Ost and projection designer Daniel Brodie work together to create impressive, versatile installations out of moving panels and projected images. There’s even a cool, creepy shadow of Hyde that stalks across the curtains at intermission, a surprising treat when you first notice it.
If anything, the show relies a little heavily on the sets for atmosphere. There are a few numbers when the choreography is notably static, even for a musical. It isn’t aided in this by Frank Wildhorn’s occasionally droning score, or Leslie Bricusse’s phoned-in lyrics, but these handicaps merit a certain showmanship to compensate, and most of the heavy lifting falls on the set design.
The performances are essentially very good, with R&B singer-songwriter Deborah Cox standing out as Lucy, the show’s resident hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. She brings potency to the role that’s bigger than the character, and often bigger than her constant antagonist, Mr. Hyde. Every number she’s in is better for her. Former American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis’s Jekyll/Hyde combo is more of a mixed bag. His accent is sometimes unplaceable, and he doesn’t always meet the demands of the music, but he’s likeable as the not-quite-buttoned-up Dr. Jekyll. Maroulis is at his best, though, as a long-haired, metal rocker version of Mr. Hyde–echoing the persona that earned him a Tony nomination in Rock of Ages.
Jekyll’s support structure is made up of his fiancee, Emma (Teal Wicks), who is at times worryingly doting, and her understandably concerned father, Sir Danvers (Richard White). The two have a familial chemistry that feels much more natural than what either of them has with Jekyll. He’s also aided by John Utterson (Laird MacKintosh), his lawyer and best man, whom I couldn’t help but sympathize with as he was pulled into his friend’s manic spiral. The guy just wanted to throw a quiet, reasonable bachelor party.
If you’ve never seen the show, or if it’s been long enough that you wouldn’t mind seeing it again, it’s a showy, uncomplicated spectacle. Visitors new to Broadway might get more out of it, especially older kids and teenagers, or American Idol lovers who are excited to see a fan favorite up on stage. Many of the same charms and flaws of the theme restaurants that dot the surrounding neighborhood are present in the production, and unfortunately the drinks are just as expensive. Let me still suggest that you get one.