Review: ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ @ Birmingham Hippodrome

Marti Pello as the enigmatic Hyde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bearing barely any resemblance to the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel, it’s easy to wonder how the tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde could be turned into a musical. The answer: add a love triangle and the motives Stevenson neglects, and you’ve got a fantastic theatrical romp guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.

Granted, it took a little while to get going: the opening scenes were musically explanatory, so it took a lot of concentration to wade through what Jekyll and his consorts were discussing. Background information came in the form of Jekyll’s father, locked up in an asylum when his mind degenerates despite having once been an upstanding citizen. As well as this, Jekyll is provided with a fiancee, which later enabled the tragedy to reach a heart-wrenching climax.

The music itself ebbed and flowed. Sometimes, it seemed slightly inappropriate to have the dialogue sung, but the majority of the music was perfect, reaching its peak in the brothel song , ‘Bring in the Men’, and again in Jekyll’s final confrontation with his alter ego, Mr Hyde. The major flaw came with the character of Emma, Jekyll’s fiancee, who didn’t really sing for the plot, but sang to show her skills off, which wasn’t really appropriate for her character. This was definitely remedied by the character of Lucy, whose gorgeous voice and obvious talent shone through her performance. Marti Pellow himself was brilliant as the troubled Jekyll and enigmatic Hyde: he was able to shift between the two seamlessly, and the change in vocal style and attitude was enough to convince you of the dramatic change that had occurred to Jekyll.

The duality that was woven throughout the play was brilliantly displayed, ranging from the two doors on the stage, to Jekyll’s love for the sweet and blue-blooded Emma Carew and Hyde’s fascination with the prostitute, Lucy, and finally to the thrilling exchange between the two sides of the same man. This last point, in particular, was a highlight, with the projection of Hyde enabling Marti Pellow’s Jekyll to duet with himself in order to show the culmination of the clashing personalities: the forbidden pleasures fighting the respectable exterior manifested in order to show the scale of the inner battle Jekyll faced.

The concluding scene was the perfect way to end the Jekyll/Hyde duality that had dominated the play. Jekyll’s demise at his own hands on his wedding day peaked the absolute tragedy of the tale, placing the man who lost everything in the midst of everything he could have had. Marti Pellow received a well-deserved standing ovation, and the unity of the cast in their final number pulled the show together in order to provide a fitting ending for the notion of division and otherness that had dominated the play.

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