Friday, December 15, 2017
Features and More

Review: 'Jekyll & Hyde' at the Straz is part good, part bad

TAMPA — Jekyll & Hyde is like a theme park horror show for Halloween.

A scientist is so obsessed with humans' dual capacity for good and evil — "In each of us there are two natures" — that he concocts a serum that turns himself into a serial killer stalking the foggy streets of Victorian London, picking out his victims with diabolical relish. A depraved bishop is stabbed with his own crucifix to bring down the first act curtain.

There is an audience for this hokum, which drew a crowd of 1,883 to Tuesday night's opening at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The original production ran from 1997 through 2001 on Broadway, Frank Wildhorn's score has been recorded five times, and the show is due to return to New York next spring, presumably on the strength of its casting of American Idol fave Constantine Maroulis as the schizophrenic Jekyll/Hyde and R&B diva Deborah Cox as the femme fatale Lucy.

In some ways, Jekyll & Hyde is a concert that just barely tolerates the inconvenience of the play (freely adapted from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella by Leslie Bricusse) that justifies its existence in the theater. Maroulis, a student from the Robert Plant school of rock singing, shrieks out his songs in a high-pitched, glassy whine, his long hair tied up in a ponytail for workaholic Jekyll, loose and tangled for demonic Hyde, though he doesn't make much difference between the two sides of the role vocally. This Is the Moment is the big hit, belted out as Maroulis prepares to be hooked up to a contraption that looks like an electric chair and produces the bubbly green potion that Jekyll takes through a bunch of IV tubes.

As an illiterate prostitute, Cox is a slinky chanteuse in black and red negligee, and she brings expressive emotion to the power ballads Someone Like You and A New Life. Amid the rock and pop stylings of Maroulis and Cox, there are some legitimate theater voices, such as the excellent Teal Wicks as Jekyll's long-suffering bride-to-be, Emma Carew. Local note: Haley Swindal, granddaughter of the late George Steinbrenner, is a member of the company and dance captain.

Like the last Wildhorn musical seen in Tampa, Wonderland, this production relies on flashy lighting design (by Jeff Croiter) and many projections (by Daniel Brodie) on the panels of Tobin Ost's set. Sometimes the effects are sublime, as in the Lucy and Emma duet In His Eyes, with its lavender-gray color scheme, and sometimes they are ludicrous, as in the Jekyll-Hyde Confrontation, with its lurid, blood-red video.

Wildhorn musicals tend to go through never-ending rewrites, and Jekyll & Hyde is no exception. The book by Bricusse (also responsible for the lyrics, along with Steve Cuden) has been chopped and channeled to shorten the show, and details have been tweaked to accommodate the new staging by Jeff Calhoun. For example, the name of Lucy's club has been changed from the Red Rat to the Spider's Web, tied to the bondage theme that comes to the fore in Dangerous Game, Hyde's kinky seduction of Lucy.

The sung dialogue of the original has mostly been ditched, but at least one number reflecting the show's inspiration from British musicals of the '80s remains, Facade, a shameless ripoff of Masquerade from The Phantom of the Opera. In the pit, Steven Landau conducts a small orchestra, heavy on the electronic keyboards.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Festivus 2017: Submit your grievances and complaints here

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Self-serve beer bar opens Saturday in downtown St. Pete

Self-serve beer bar opens Saturday in downtown St. Pete

Pour Taproom, a craft beer bar with 85 taps that customers pour their own brew from, will open at noon on Saturday, Dec. 16. The nearly 2,300-square-foot bar at 225 Second Ave. N has undergone extensive renovations, including a St. Petersburg-themed...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry May 19

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry May 19

LONDON — Kensington Palace says the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be held on May 19. The palace announced the date Friday and confirmed the ceremony will take place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The couple announced their...
Published: 12/15/17
Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas without leader Paul O’Neill

Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas without leader Paul O’Neill

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A half hour to curtain, Al Pitrelli unwinds on a couch in his spartan dressing quarters, fresh off a loading-dock Marlboro. He’s deep inside an arena, about to play the 29th show in the 18th city of the Trans-Siberian ...
Published: 12/15/17
Tavis Smiley theatrical show canceled at Straz Center in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

Tavis Smiley theatrical show canceled at Straz Center in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

The theatrical tour about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. that Tavis Smiley was slated to bring to Tampa’s David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts has been canceled in the wake sexual misconduct allegations against the broadcaster.Death...
Updated: 11 hours ago
This week's top holiday events: Parades, Christmas lights, theme parks and more

This week's top holiday events: Parades, Christmas lights, theme parks and more

PARADES Homosassa Christmas Boat Parade Parade begins at Marker 75 by Bird Island. Free. Homosassa Springs Marina, 10806 W Halls River Road, Homosassa. 6 p.m. Dec. 16.   Indian Rocks Beach Boat Parade It begins at the Holiday Inn Harbourside and...
Published: 12/14/17
Bar review: Spanish flair at Bulla Gastrobar in South Tampa

Bar review: Spanish flair at Bulla Gastrobar in South Tampa

Take a second and try to think of a few of the world’s biggest drinking cultures. Ireland is a freebie, but then you’ll probably move onto Germany, Russia and possibly even South Korea (yep, South Korea goes hard).How about Spain? No, I’m not just ta...
Published: 12/14/17
From Crystal River to Brooksville, branch out to shop on these unexpected main streets

From Crystal River to Brooksville, branch out to shop on these unexpected main streets

You don’t have to stare at a greeting card to picture a bustling old main street lined with decorated shops and lampposts. Historic small-town shopping districts are easy to find, and more charming than Walmart. Beyond the downtowns of St. Pet...
Published: 12/14/17
New locations for Tampa’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, plus a Mario Lopez appearance

New locations for Tampa’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, plus a Mario Lopez appearance

New Year’s Eve fireworks in downtown Tampa will be a little different this year, as free, public viewing moves from Channelside Bay Plaza to Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park behind Amalie Arena due to ongoing construction. Meanwhile, the Pied Pipe...
Published: 12/14/17