Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

There is a reason The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is as famous as it is.  The essential idea behind all the action is delightful.  Stevenson’s novella is centered on the increasingly strange behavior displayed by the well known and well respected Dr. Henry Jekyll. As it turns out, Jekyll has been performing experiments on himself, which transform him into the immoral Mr. Edward Hyde.  Thus we have what is loosely considered by many to be a story focusing on the good and evil battling inside every person.  It’s one of the most delicious plot concepts ever put to paper.  In 1997 Jekyll & Hyde the Musical made its Broadway debut.   It has a score requiring powerful singing and a story calling for skilled actors, yet I find something is missing from it.  While I appreciate its intellectual aspects, I often find myself irritated because of the story’s lack of shock value and emotional pain. Fortunately, the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts has taken any pressure they might have felt from tackling such a show and used it as a propellant to overcome those issues.  In short, these youthful performers are excellent.

Dr. Henry Jekyll is grieving the death of his elderly father.  The passing of Jekyll Sr. instills in the doctor a passion to cure the world.   He concocts a potion that excises the evil from the human mind and soul…  This makes perfect sense to a man grieving the loss of a parent, I’m sure.  Jekyll is successful in creating a new kind of serum, but instead of sending his crueler side into the abyss, it transforms Jekyll into an entirely new being who calls himself Edward Hyde. Whereas Jekyll is kind, considerate, and dotes on his loving fiancee (most of the time), Hyde is impulsive, aggressive, and does not waste his time with things like upcoming nuptials.  As Hyde runs rampant throughout Victorian London, Jekyll finds himself tormented by his desires to keep his loved ones safe and to banish the viciousness lurking inside him once and for all.

There is nothing in the world like live music, and the orchestra for this show is fantastic.  They keep excellent pace with the singers, and if ever a sour note is played, it’s so infrequent that the memory of it is soon forgotten.  I LOVE these musicians, and listening to such strong clear voices during the night is truly enjoyable. My main issues with the music stem from my issues with the work as a whole.   Jekyll and Hyde is not my favorite musical for a few reasons –one of them being the music.  There are a few too many numbers in this show that I personally don’t think are exciting to listen to. To counterbalance that something visually stimulating has to be taking place onstage.  This is is a difficult mission to accomplish when one has to work with a cast as large as this production’s, so in a few of the ensemble numbers the students either milling about or stand around singing like a well-costumed chorus (and I do mean that because the costumes are beautiful here).  The beauty of the cast’s voices ring true.  Every soloist proves their merit; every lead is worth their salt.

Special mention of the night goes to Allison Bossart –one of the actresses playing Dr. Jekyll’s fiancee –Emma.  This character is so boring, but this actress is so talented.  I trust you see my predicament.  In all seriousness, Bossart plays the role with kindness, love, and poise.  Now Emma literally has no identity outside of being Jekyll’s beloved, which makes her come off as a bit bland.  However, Bossart’s voice is a pleasure to listen to, and her care and devotion to the part never visibly wane.  Adrian Villegas gives a powerhouse performance as Jekyll/Hyde.  His voice is beautiful.  His transformations are jarring and ferocious in all the right ways, and there is never any doubt over who is in control at any point in time –Jekyll or Hyde.  Villegas throws every inch of himself into these two roles, calm and courteous as Jekyll, while monstrous and contorted as the overwhelmingly rude Hyde.

The story itself sometimes bothers me.  I enjoy the concept, but sometimes I find the the writing a bit weak.  Nevertheless, the plot is interesting; the songs are sung almost perfectly; the orchestra is phenomenal, and the acting is great.  There’s a lot of death and violence as well as a few references to prostitution, so keep that in mind if you want to bring your kids. 

March 24 – 26th 2017 

Good Show

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