The many faces of 'Jekyll & Hyde'
Robert Louis Stevenson popularized the notion of a split personality through his 1886 fictional novella "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Hence the respectable Dr. Jekyll has a lascivious and murderous side in the form of Mr. Hyde.
Now if only the many guises of the much-revised Frank Wildhorn/Leslie Bricusse musical based upon that novella could be so simply explained. Or how the musical's fanatical fan base, known as "Jekkies," have latched so passionately to "Jekyll & Hyde" even though it has historically received very little love from mainstream theater critics.
"The 'Jekkies' are everywhere," said director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun, giving one reason why lead producer Nick Scandalios, the executive vice president of the Nederlander Organization, decided to tour the show so extensively before New York.
"Jekyll & Hyde" first burst onto the scene in 1990 as a concept highlights album featuring original "Les Miserables" star Colm Wilkinson and the former Mrs. Wildhorn, Linda Eder. Though set in Victorian London, Wildhorn and Bricusse wrote a contemporary pop and rock score for "Jekyll & Hyde" with songs like "This is the Moment," "No One Knows Who I Am" and "Once Upon a Dream."
That same year, "Jekyll & Hyde" was staged at Houston's Alley Theatre and again in 1995 prior to its first national tour. A more complete recording came out around 1994 (subtitled "The Gothic Musical Thriller"), and a Broadway cast recording became available after the show opened in New York in 1997.
Since then, there have been numerous foreign language recordings. But for English-speaking markets, there was a 2000 video taping of the Broadway production starring David Hasselhoff, a 2006 audio recording called "Jekyll & Hyde: RESURRECTION" and a new 2012 concept recording featuring Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox of the current tour.
With so many songs and scenes being added or dropped through various audio and stage versions, fanatical Jekkies are bound to be upset at certain omissions.
"There are a lot of Jekkies who are really very, very passionate and close to the show. But we love them because they let their opinions be known and without them, there would be no 'Jekyll & Hyde,'" said Cox, who adds that it's bittersweet sometimes when fans ask her why their favorites were left out. "You have to tell the story through songs, but you can't have 50 songs in the show, so it's a bit of a compromise."
Calhoun noted that he has shaved about 25 minutes off the running time and that the show's authors have used this tour to "synthesize the best of all the incarnations."
"My goal was to please the Jekkies, but also to maybe create a whole new generation of Jekkies," he said.
For Maroulis, who has built a career straddling the worlds of rock bands, "American Idol" and musical theater with critically acclaimed turns in "Rent" and "Rock of Ages," "Jekyll & Hyde" has been a great experience so far because of the style and challenging nature of the score.
"I'm very connected to the material and I think that helps," Maroulis said. "Clearly, it's one of the most challenging musical theater roles, but I love it."