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Article posted: 3/17/2013 6:00 AM

Well-cast 'Jekyll & Hyde' reflects the good and the bad

By

Early on, Dr. Henry Jekyll muses in his notebooks about the "primitive duality of man." That same duality is reflected in the pre-Broadway tour of the revamped "Jekyll & Hyde," now at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre.

On one hand, the production is like the good Dr. Jekyll: bursting with talent and ambition. On the other, it's theater run amok, a Hyde-like mishmash of mood, melodrama and madness elevated by an extraordinary cast led by Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox.

The Robert Louis Stevenson story is a familiar one. A kind, well-meaning doctor in Victorian London -- motivated by his father's mental illness -- seeks a way to separate good and evil, to extract the darker side of man's soul. His work dismissed by those whose approval he needs to begin his experiments, Dr. Jekyll (Maroulis) decides to take the treatment himself, unwittingly releasing the madman Edward Hyde.

Jekyll is crushed by the evil he has unleashed. But at the same time, he seems to envy Hyde's passion -- and his ability to pursue what the engaged, respectable Jekyll cannot: the beautiful prostitute Lucy (R&B star Cox).

The past of this much-revised, often-derided Frank Wildhorn-Leslie Bricusse musical is nearly as tormented as its central character. This version has been trimmed, tweaked and toured on its way back to Broadway.

Having not seen a previous incarnation, I can't compare the new version to the old. The lyrics seem uninspired at times, the relationships feel underdeveloped and the overwrought nature of the drama -- especially near the end -- occasionally borders on comical. Yet, the tour's cast and production team, under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, are top-notch.

Past "American Idol" finalist Maroulis embraces both his roles. One minute, he's meek and repressed as Jekyll. The next, he's tossing his trademark tresses and skulking about as the sexually charged Hyde, a murderous rogue ripped from the cover of a torrid romance novel.

As Lucy, Cox's soaring, powerhouse vocals stir in all the right places. Her "Someone Like You," a poignant wish that the gentle Jekyll would take notice of her, is a highlight, as is her feisty, sensual "Bring on the Men." And Teal Wicks brings sweetness and vocal clarity as Jekyll's devoted fiancee Emma.

Designer Tobin Ost, with help from projection designer Daniel Brodie, makes high drama out of his versatile set. Projections turn moving panels from the stark brick walls of a mental hospital to the lush wallpapered confines of an upper-crust drawing room, and the use of light and shadow creates a lingering Gothic feel. The mood is carried through even during intermission, when a giant shadow of Hyde appears to pace behind the curtain.

Overwrought? Sure. But fitting just the same.

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