There is good, evil and a little bad in “Jekyll & Hyde” at Westchester Broadway Theatre.
The earnest Dr. Jekyll labors to find a cure for mental illness, to drive away the demons that have stricken his father. If he can isolate evil, he reasons, he can rid the world of it.
When a hospital committee denies his request to allow human trials of the serum, the single-minded Jekyll — who had asked for “one man” upon whom to experiment — finds that man in the mirror.
Enter Edward Hyde, the face of evil, who goes on a murderous spree, exacting revenge on those who stood in Jekyll’s way.
Jekyll’s enemies are Hyde’s prey.
It’s thought-provoking stuff, the duality of man, how good and evil co-exist within us.
This production of “Jekyll & Hyde” comes with a pedigree: Director Robert Cuccioli created the title characters in the original 1997 Broadway production and directed WBT’s 2001 production.
Another ace in the hole is the man Cuccioli chose to fill those most demanding title roles.
Xander Chauncey delivers on all counts, summoning both sides of the coin — Jekyll’s drive to improve the world and Hyde’s drive to murderous revenge.
Chauncey’s initial transformation is something to behold, as the good doctor’s formula takes hold and his upper lip loses its stiffness to reveal Hyde’s sneer. He has a wonderfully wicked laugh.
The most outward of the changes is Chauncey’s hair: When it is down, he is Hyde; when up, he’s Jekyll.
It’s the simplest of moves, yet it is devastatingly effective, never more so than in the 11 o’clock number, “Confrontation,” when the two characters in one body finally face off, line for line, note for note. To borrow a line from the show’s anthem — which Chauncey sang with gusto —this is the actor’s moment and he does not disappoint.
The supporting cast is good: Tom Galantich as the loyal friend and narrator, John Utterson; James Van Treuren as Jekyll’s colleague and future father-in-law.
Jennifer Babiak manages to make the most of Emma Carew, Jekyll’s fiancée, lending her strong soprano to a character who’s trying to understand what has become of the man in whose eyes she sees “what I am meant to be.”
While there is good and evil on stage, there is also, unfortunately, a bit of bad.
Michelle Dawson’s portrayal of the prostitute Lucy was simply bizarre. While she hit some flashy notes, she had several notable problems with pitch.
Her big number, “A New Life” — in which Lucy dreams of what might have been and strikes a hopeful air — was hopelessly unfocused. At one point, Dawson skipped around the bed with a wild look in her eye and jumped on it, grabbing the brass footboard like some twisted mix of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”
Few will mistake Frank Wildhorn’s score for Richard Rodgers and the lyrics — some of which were penned by Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse and others by Wildhorn, Bricusse and Steve Cuden — won’t conjure up Oscar Hammerstein.
For example, the Act 2 opener, “Murder, Murder,” which
“Murder, murder —
Makes your heart thump!
Murder, murder —
Makes your nerves jump!
Murder, murder —
Makes your blood pump,
In the night!”
Shakespeare it’s not.
But Jean-Paul Richard’s choreography (billed as “musical staging” in the program) for that number — a song that covers Mr. Hyde’s rampage — is as precise as the murderer is efficient. The ensemble reels and spins as one. It’s quite nice to look at.
Cuccioli directed with a good eye on the clock, moving things briskly in the largely sung-through musical.
The costumes are, for the most part, true to the period, with men in tails and women in bustled gowns.
One head-scratching exception is the pimp, Spider, who appears in modern, tight-fitting jeans, a sleeveless leather jacket and sunglasses that makes him look more like a cast member of “Hair” than “Hyde.”
The set employed the stage’s circular revolve as Jekyll’s well-outfitted laboratory, and upstage movable panels were put to good use, with set pieces flying in and out.
Andrew Gmoser’s lighting plot added much to the mood and the action: blood reds for Hyde, cool blues for Jekyll. The “Confrontation” was lit particularly well, heightening the difference between Jekyll and Hyde and abetting Chauncey in what is a remarkable stage moment.
Photo by John Vecchiolla: Xander Chauncey, as Dr. Henry Jekyll, performs “This Is The Moment” in “Jekyll & Hyde” at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford.
Jekyll & Hyde”
Where: Westchester Broadway Theatre, 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford.
When: Through Nov. 28, then — after a break for WBT’s holiday show — Dec. 29 to Feb. 6.
Tickets: $52 to $75.
Go to the Westchester Broadway Theatre website.