by Dick Kerekes
The Performing Arts Department of Bartram Trail High School presented its annual musical last weekend, with the challenging contemporary musical Jekyll & Hyde-The Musical by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhom.
I had three reasons for wanting to review this show. First, last year I reviewed The Visit here and was impressed with the production, secondly to see this musical which is in the class of Sweeney Todd and rarely done, and my third reason was to see Jacob Rothman perform in the leading role. I had seen him as the Beauty and the Beast as the Beast and was really impressed by his performance.
This musical is based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and has been made into several movies over the years with the one with Spencer Tracy probably being the most notable.
The plot concerns a scientist trying to separate the good and evil parts of his brain through the use of chemicals. He was successful and created Mr. Hyde, a truly evil creation that goes on a killing rampage and dies in the end.
One of the reasons this show is not often done, is that is so demanding on the leading character of Jekyll & Hyde, who is involved in eighteen of the 28 songs, with many of them being solos. Mr. Rothman’s vocal abilities are extraordinary, and he is mature and accomplished as a singer well beyond his years. Rothman made the change back and forth between the two characters by using facial gestures, and changing the tone of his voice, in addition he wore and cape and top hat as Mr. Hyde. His singing duet, playing both roles in the same song was quite remarkable.
The two women in Jekyll‘s life were Emma, his fiancee, played by Cait May and Lucy, a prostitute played by Ashley Pincket. Both had the lion’s share of the rest of the songs, either as solos or duets. They were very good in their roles, and equally strong in the vocal department.
The strong supporting roles also handled the difficult score well and included Tyler Jimison as John Utterson, Daniel Perez as Sir Danvers, Matt Thompkins playing Simon Stride and Brandon Mayes as The Bishop. Luke Weidner as Spider, the proprietor of the house of ill repute, had his comic as well as menacing moments.
This musical has been around since l990 but none of the songs ever became a really big hit. The most successful number ‘This is the Moment ‘ was recorded by the Moody Blues and has been used in Olympic events, and figure skating exhibitions. Some of the titles included ‘Murder, Murder,’ ‘Dangerous Game’ and ‘Streak of Madness.’ And tended to be on the dark side.
Though set in London England, Director Ava Fixel wisely did not have the cast attempt English accents. The excellent sets designed and built by Michael Fixel did have the old England touch. I liked Dr. Jekyll roll-on laboratory that was very eye catching.
Costume Designers Brandon Gillis and Ari Rivera, working on a very limited budget created very authentic attire reflecting the 1800 London scene.
Musical Director Barbara Mattingly, on the piano, lead a twelve piece orchestra that performed exceptionally well, never over powering the singers and always on the right page of this difficult score.
Juliet Fixel, a University of Florida Theatre major and a Bartram Trail graduate, drove in from Gainesville to choreograph and coordinate the stage movements of this show. If the name sounds familiar, she was one of the leads in Players by the Sea’s “Hair” this past summer.
Others in this large cast were: Brandon Gillis, Kalin Dinning, Lizzy Eads, Shelly Kurland, Zack Weston, Daniel Alexander, Mandy Gomer, Melanie Johnson, Ryan Baxter, Nick Amaru, Logan Garland, Ari Rivera, Lainey Edens, Haven Lucas, Allison Lewis, Lindsey Coates, Ryan Baxter, Samantha Lewis, Cheslea Sepa, Ashley Moody, Anna Moody, Ariel Salgado, Olivia Crews, Julie Kopp, Morgan Jacobson, Marina Mays, Juan Ocharan, Holly Skinner, Leiloni Lewis, Gracie Miller, Lucy Kates, Francesca Liano and Amanda Moreyra.
I love to see groups challenge themselves and stretch and grow and Bartram Trail obviously put in a lot of hours and effort to bring this interesting musical to fruition. I certainly enjoyed it, and looking forward to next year’s musical.