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This is the Moment
Manly Musical Society is tackling one of arguably the most problematic musicals ever written head on as their season of Jekyll and Hyde kicks off. Playing at the Star of the Sea Theatre in Manly, this production follows up from their polished production of Wicked in 2017.
There are some spectacular songs in the musical, with the most well-known to audiences likely to be 'This Is The Moment', often included in the repertoire of long-time fan of the show, Anthony Warlow. There are a lot of other songs in the show, however, that don't seem to advance the plot or serve the story (with some pretty questionable lyrics) which make the first act of the musical run for what seems like an age. It's perhaps the reason that show authors Wildhorn & Bricusse have written many different versions of the show, struggling to find one that wholly works.
The storyline is one most people are familiar with. Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, this is a gothic horror-thriller that delves into the darkness hiding in all of us. Dr Henry Jekyll searches for answers to his father's mental illness with a firm belief that there are two sides to every person and if he can work out how to control these two sides, he will be able to solve issues of mental health. Despite having connections with the wealthy members of the Board of Governers, Jekyll struggles to find the support he needs for his experiments, eventually deciding the only way forward is to experiment on himself, with dire consequences.
As Jekyll drifts further and further into his alter ego, the violent and terrifying Mr Hyde, the people around him become afraid, confused and alienated by his strange behaviour. His fiancee, Emma, and his friend John try to bring him back from the brink, but is Jekyll too far gone to be saved?
This production is not performed in the traditional Victorian-era gothic-horror style, with director Heather Campbell making the bold choice to set the entire show in a hospital. Whilst I love directing choices that think outside the box, this clinical and clean setting just doesn't come close to capturing the seedy underbelly of society that this story is centred on. Everyone is too well put together; there needs to be a greater disparity between the well to do and the people struggling to make ends meet. Notably, the dressing up of Lucy Harris and the other sex workers as candy stripers and nurses leads to a very tame performance of 'Bring On The Men', that feels more child's pantomime than women trying to make a buck with their bodies. Again, I commend Heather Campbell for thinking outside the box, however, this interpretation unfortunately takes a lot of the horror and darkness out of the show.
Musical Direction by Anthony Cutrupi is extremely solid. His orchestra is tight and supports the cast nicely (albeit with a few mic issues). His cast, as an ensemble, sing their parts well and with great energy. His soloists are a little rockier, however, and whilst Stuart Oliver, Georgia Ellis and Rachel Hertz all shine in moments, there are other moments where their vocals do not feel completely secure. This may have been a confidence thing and hopefully, any nerves will have been shaken off after getting opening night under their belts.
Bronte Ellis' choreography is well used in the few numbers where it is required. Definitely not a dance show, Ellis has made the most of the bigger group numbers which really energise the show and keep it moving along.
Stuart Oliver has the mammoth task of tackling the title roles of Dr Henry Jekyll and his alter ego' Mr Edward Hyde. This is an incredibly taxing role both vocally and physically and for the most part, Oliver does a good job. His voice falters at a couple of key moments on some money notes, but this is easily forgiven with his fabulous physicality work in Act 2 as he constantly transitions between the two characters.
Georgia Ellis plays Lucy Harris, the down on her luck sex worker whose bar Henry Jekyll wanders into one night. While Ellis is strong in her characterisation and her acting scenes with Jekyll/Hyde are engaging, her vocals are not quite up to the task in some of the big numbers. Rachel Hertz as Jekyll's fiancee, Emma Carew, is a delight, showcasing a sweet, clear voice as she remains faithful and concerned about Jekyll throughout the show. Her duet with Ellis, 'In His Eyes', is a highlight of the show for me.
The remainder of the cast are strong in their various ensemble and bit parts, however, due to some mic cues being missed there were lots of one-liners that were cut out or saw the cast trying to sing un-amplified over the full orchestra. Hopefully, these issues are fixed as the run goes on to fully showcase the good work the cast are doing on stage.
This production of Jekyll and Hyde brings a different take on a well-known story to life. This production may not be perfect, but it does showcase a young and talented cast and an interesting vision which perhaps makes it worth the trip to Manly to take a look!