New Phoenix Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with a production of the musical “Jekyll & Hyde” just in time for the Halloween season
New Phoenix Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn’s adaptation of Robert Louise Stevenson’s 1886 gothic thriller “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
The dark musical stars Ryan Craig in the dual roles of mild-mannered scientist Henry Jekyll and his chemically-induced “id” driven alter ego, Edward Hyde. The female leads are played by Tricia Hennessy as Lucy Harris, the prostitute who engages in an unsuspecting romantic triangle with the two personalities, and Cassy Terwilliger, who plays Dr. Jekyll’s unsuspecting fiancée, Emma Carew.
This is a musical that will appeal not just to fans of the horror genre, but to anyone who has seen and fallen in love with “Phantom of the Opera” or “Sweeney Todd.” Like “Phantom” and “Sweeney Todd,” the music is consuming, mesmerizing and tinged with the macabre. It’s one of the reasons that Director Scott Carpenter saw the show on Broadway five times and is excited to bring it now to the New Phoenix stage.
“Frank Wildhorn’s music is very addictive. When I first heard the concept album for “Jekyll & Hyde,” I was immediately in love with the entire score…He’s just a great score writer and musician and makes these abundantly luscious scores,” said Carpenter.
Classically trained, Tricia Hennessy especially appreciates the influences of opera and classical music that Wildhorn incorporates into his score.
“The music is some of the most gorgeously written, robust music that I’ve had the privilege of singing in musical theater,” said Hennessy.
“It has a little bit of the influences of opera in how some of the pieces are written. There are tinges of classical music with the variations on the themes in the songs where it will continue the idea, but you still know it’s the same song, but it’s slightly different each time.”
With a background in opera and a flair for the dramatic, Ryan Craig is the perfect choice to play Jekyll and Hyde.
“As Hyde I channel Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in “Lord of the Rings” and so many other good things. It’s very deep and resonant and has a very ominous English accent and my opera training comes in handy for that since I can make it a lot more resonant and then I can go into musical theater for Jekyll,” said Craig.
He engages in soaring duets with both Terwilliger, as his devoted fiancée Emma, and Hennessy, as Lucy. However, it’s two other duets that audiences will be talking about long after the final curtain.
The first is Jekyll’s duet with Hyde in the song “Confrontations.” In this number, Craig is not only required to change voice and cadence as he switches back and forth between the two characters, but demeanor and facial expressions as well.
The second is Terwilliger and Hennessy’s soulful ballad “In His Eyes,” where Emma and Lucy independently come to the realization that they should walk away - and gladly - from the man who’s captivated their hearts and imaginations.
They're like an open book
But most of all the look that that hypnotizes
If I'm wise
I will walk away, and gladly
But sadly, I'm not wise
It's hard to tuck away the memories
That you prize
Love is worth forgiving for
Now I realize
Everything worth living for
Is there in his eyes
Love is worth forgiving for
Now I realize
Everything worth living for
Is there in his eyes
Terwilliger points out what makes this duet so poignant. “What’s really great about that song is that it’s two characters singing together that never meet that are going through very similar emotions over the same man… even though it’s not the same man,” said Terwilliger.
“Lucy has no idea who Hyde is. She has no idea that he’s actually Jekyll. She’s not caught on to it. And Emma in turn does not know that Hyde exists … In that one moment, it’s like the only moment that we really connect even though we never meet and it’s kind of magic.”
“Jekyll & Hyde” also features amazing solos, like Lucy’s hopeful Act Two refrain “A New Life.”
A new life
What I wouldn't give to have a new life
One thing I have learned as I go through life
Nothing is for free along the way
A new start
That's the thing I need to give me new heart
Half a chance in life to find a new part
Just a simple role that I can play
A new hope
Something to convince me to renew hope
A new day
Bright enough to help me find my way
A new chance
One that maybe has a touch of romance
““A New Life” … is probably one of the hardest songs I have sung in the last 30 years of doing theater. It is just emotionally draining, … but also vocally, it has an enormous range and it is a powerful song,” said Hennessy.
“Linda Eder was probably my biggest inspiration going into it. She can belt like no other and just makes it seem so effortless, but trying to come close to that going forward; it’s just a lot of work, but it’s a gorgeous song and I absolutely adore singing it.”
Bricusse and Wildhorn’s book and score express a legion of pithy themes and social commentary, ranging from the duality of the human psyche to a distrust of science and scientists who, too often, fail to stop and ask themselves whether the dangers posed by their discoveries outweigh the good they may provide. As the case of Dr. Jekyll amply illustrates, ego and arrogance too often supplant lofty intentions and the purest motivations.
These legitimate concerns lie at the heart of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, which was written at the advent of the industrial revolution; a time when a powerful few ran roughshod over the masses, who they regarded as little more than pawns.
To press the latter point, Director Scott Carpenter and New Phoenix Theatre founder Brenda Kensler have incorporated a steampunk theme into their production of the musical, which Hennessy finds particularly appropriate.
“The steampunk style is based on the Victorian era and Victorian dress, which typically “Jekyll & Hyde” is set in that era, but it plays on the industrial revolution and the mechanics and almost a robotic type of persona,” said Hennessy.
“You’ll see a lot of gears and gadgets; kind of futuristic in a way. Think “Mystery Science Theater” meets the Victorian era, I guess, a little bit. So we still have those really distinguishable pieces from the Victorian era but a completely different twist that you don’t expect.”
New Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde” promises to be a tour de force. The cast is superlative. The leads have tremendous voices and the ensemble is comprised of phenomenal singers. Carpenter’s set is a study in steampunk architecture, and Kensler’s costumes are something to behold. Actor Ryan Craig points out this is also the perfect show for the Halloween season.
“We’re going to put on a really good show and it’s going to be really fun and it’s pretty scary,” said Craig.
“Come support your local theater. It’s going to be really interesting and really cool.”
“Jekyll & Hyde” runs Thursdays through Sundays Oct. 20-30 and Nov. 10-13.
- “Jekyll & Hyde” enjoyed a four-year run on Broadway that began in 1997 and included 1,543 performances at Plymouth Theatre. Since then, numerous productions in various languages have since been staged across the globe, including two subsequent North American tours, two tours in the United Kingdom, a concert version, a revamped U.S. tour in 2012, a 2013 Broadway revival featuring Constantine Maroulis, and an Australian concert version in 2019.
- Assuming the role of Costume Designer, Brenda Kensler will be outfitting the characters in steampunk. Drawing its inspiration from 19th century Victorian clothing and industrial machinery, men’s steampunk fashion commonly features long coats, tailcoat tuxedos, brocade waistcoats, tweeds, vest coats, pantaloons and jerkins. Women’s steampunk fashion typically features corsets, petticoats, riding jackets, carriage coats, ruffle bottom skirts, long skirts, high waist skirts and retro leggings. But it’s the accessories that really complete a steampunk outfit. These come in the form of innovatively-designed top hats, bowlers, brass aviators, ocular goggles, pocket watches, fingerless gloves, shoulder armor and vintage walking sticks. Southwest Florida theater-goers will be holding their collective breath waiting to see what Kensler has in store for this production.
- “As someone who’s done community theater and regional theater all over the country, this is one of the most talented casts I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of,” said Tricia Hennessy. “Our ensemble members are phenomenal singers. They’ve got an exceptional amount of vocal talent. Our leads are just fantastic. Having the chance to sing with Ryan and with Cassy is just a pleasure to get on stage with them.”
- Julie Carver provides musical direction choreography by Carling Witt.
- The record is replete with instances where scientists and other inventors have included themselves as test subjects in the course of their experiments. Franz Reichelt, The Flying Tailor, leaped to his death from the top of the Eiffel Tower to prove the viability of the parachute he was designing. Closer in ilk to Dr. Jekyll, Russian physician Alexander Bogdanov was convinced that blood transfusions were the ticket to the fountain of youth, but he died two days after transfusing the blood of a patient suffering from malaria and tuberculosis because, unbeknownst at the time, their blood types were incompatible. Polish chemist/scientist Marie Curie died in a French sanatorium of aplastic anemia due to long-term exposure to radiation as a result of her habit of carrying test tubes containing plutonium in the pockets of her lab coat.
To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.
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