‘Jekyll and Hyde – the musical’

‘Jekyll and Hyde – the musical’ is loosely based on the 1886 book ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ by Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The adapted storyline for this adult musical was by Leslie Bricusse, with the music being added by Frank Wildhorn and the lyrics by Frank Wildhorn Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cuden.

The musical’s 1990 Premiere was in Houston, with the musical not making its UK debut in Eastbourne until August 2004. In Concert form the musical arrived in Australia in 2019 at the Melbourne Arts Centre.

It is rare to have so much experience and talent in one show. This beautifully staged, two-and-a-half-hour wonderful production is being presented by Laughing Horse Productions in association with The Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, Lot 13 Murdoch Road off Forest Lakes Drive in Thornlie. The performances are on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7.30 until Saturday 21st March. Please note the matinées are on SATURDAY at 2.00 pm.

The Scene: is the poverty-stricken East End of London in 1886. First scene is St Jude’s (the patron saint of lost causes) Asylum.

The set: The design team were Karen, Russell and Zoë Jay. The set is mainly black drapes with a few very good items of furniture. There is a raised walkway (60 cms high) across the back of the stage. It has black iron railings, a central set of steps down to ground level and with concrete pillars on either side – a flickering gas light is on top of each.

In a room of the asylum is Dr Jekyll’s laboratory with an oak desk and a chemistry workbench laden with bottles and equipment – good props by Eluned Cooper.

The solid construction of the set was by Russell Jay and Travis Simmons.

The lighting designer, Zoë Jay, created several very chilling horror effects. She also used a follow spot that lead the actors to edge of the proscenium arch and onto the stage apron, thus allowing the stage crew to move silently in, to remove large fixture and fittings from the totally dark stage. Zoë has remembered to retain the cosy warm glow of the era’s gaslights throughout the production.

The soundscape by Aaron Eliot was magnificent, at times the theatre shook as the show’s terror increased.

Stage manager, Karen Jay was well organised and had a great team of stagehands in Spencer Bialas, Wayne Gale and Glenn Mars, who knew exactly what was expected at each scene change. No standing around or dodging each other. Slick.

The stunning poster and smart programme were by Danni Close.

This complex production was overseen and most competently managed by Kelly Salathiel with the help of the Laughing Horse committee.

Doctor Henry Jekyll (Alex White) is in one of the asylum’s wards attending a patient (Royce Newall) dying of malnourishment and brain damage. Another inmate (Emilie Tiivel) lies on the floor twitching whilst her noisy friend (Lili Thomas) is led away for special treatment. Horrified by this, Jekyll is determined to find a cure and save all these wretched people.

At the next hospital Governors’ meeting, Jekyll addresses the group with his plan to do research. Not only did the posh Lady Bessie Beaconsfield (Sharyn Fleming) say it was a total waste of time, but even the Bishop of Basingstoke (Liam Tickner) a religious sadist, the Right Honourable Sir Archibald ‘Archie’ Proops (Chris Alvaro) and Lord Theodore ‘Teddy’ Savage (Jedd Crilly) all said ‘no’. It was apparent that this little group were enjoying their Committee’s fees and official lunches more than the care of the sick. Even Henry’s best friend and lawyer, John Utterson (Cody Fullbrook) and his future father-in-law and Chairman of the Board, Sir Danvers Carew (Neil Young) were too scared to speak out. Simon Stride (Luke Miller) the secretary called for a vote and Jekyll lost. Henry was determined to go ahead with his research to find why good men can become evil.

At the engagement party of Jekyll and his fiancée Emma (Isabella Bourgault) the loyal butler, Poole (Charlie Schirmer) is serving the drinks to pompous Lord General Glossop (Alan Gill) and Lady Glossop (Mishka Miller) and their friends (Andreas D’Angelo, Justin Mosel-Crossley), who can be heard discussing Jekyll’s unsuitability as a groom for Emma. Stride even tries to capture Emma for himself.

 On Jekyll’s stag night and he finds himself in London’s roughest area, Camden Town, at a brothel / pub, ‘The Red Rat’. A prostitute called Nellie (Elizabeth Elliott)  warms to Henry but is soon pushed aside by saucy Lucy Harris (Brittany Isaia). Mabel (Michelle Ezzy), the pub’s German manager has Lucy sing a song ‘Bring on the Men’. Henry is captivated. He can see she was once a decent girl so offers Lucy his card. Lucy’s cruel and greedy pimp, Spider (Azza Gee) arrives and the other girls (Kate Davoren, Hannah Smith, Evelyn Tay and Genevieve Wilson) who are ‘sexually active’ in the background scatter. The doormen (James Massey, Aaron O’Neil) are busy as fights break out.

Will Jekyll and Emma’s wedding go ahead? Will Henry find a cure for madness?

Musical director and conductor Liam House, although one of Perth’s youngest artists, really understands sound. From his ‘sound’ knowledge of the technical side, to how instruments work together. The musicians were placed where rows 1 – 3 would have been and with a short wall between the audience and the musicians, the music was directed at the actors allowing a more balanced sound from the performance. Liam led the orchestra – it was too big and skilful to be a ‘band’ – perfectly; whether ‘drive’ or ‘sensitivity’ was required from his 15 musicians. They were: –

On reeds – Talitha Dunn, Sean Williams, Connor Siekman and Krispin Maesalu; on brass – Samantha Marley, Matt Hicks, Alasdair Vincent and Claire Morrison; strings – Nicole Smith, Elise Rosenberg, Ruth Klein Cook and Amanda Reynolds; keyboards – Michael Baker, Kenn Ellis and David Thai; percussion – David Hardie complete with a full rig to rock the house. The musicians were well balanced and allowed the quieter numbers to be enjoyed.

Vocal Director Jodie Mars, who has 34 yrs. theatre experience generated amazing performances from the WHOLE cast. The lead, Alex, who has only been performing for about five years, gave as good as any performer at the Regal or Crown Theatre for one sixth of their ticket price. Alex and Brittany were superb as a couple, both giving melodious vocals and jaw-dropping dramatic performances. Brittany began with a number that was reminiscent of  Eartha Kitt’s saucy 1960’s purring delivery, before she broke into a formidable ballad. Both leads never hit a wrong note. Even in his murdering scenes, Alex did not miss a beat. The songs ranged from the Jekyll’s sensitive, ‘This Is the Moment’, Lucy’s ‘Someone Like You’ and the raucous ‘Murder, Murder’ by the pub’s customers.

Most of the cast had a few bars of singing solo, but often one cringes as the weakest member has their moment – not in this show, every singer was brilliant; not surprising when you look at their pedigrees, of being musical directors, singing and drama teachers with degrees, or decades of theatre experience. Thanks to the magnificent hard work by the talented director Zoë Jay, the actors moved around the stage in an apparently casual manner hiding the hours of choreographic rehearsal in their movement.

Alysha Hasch’s costumes were impeccably fitted and accurate for the era. Choreography was by Zoë and the cast looked after their own makeup and wigs – all superb.

This is one of the best musicals I have seen in a long time. Whether you are looking for catchy tunes with good meaningful lyrics, sexy moments, high and chilling drama by a brilliant cast, fabulous costumes and of course a good storyline, then this is a show for you. The theatre is not out in the wilds, but just a short distance off the Roe Highway. Free parking, comfortable seating with a good tier system giving excellent views of the stage. Think ‘Les Miserables’ – This show will win prizes, so try and catch the short season.