Acting interrupts singing in otherwise brilliant 'Jekyll'


If RagTag Entertainment's "Jekyll & Hyde," now at the Onyx Theatre, were a concert version of the Frank Wildhorn/Leslie Bricusse score, I'd spend this review trying to come up with ways to say "brilliant," "must-see," "real, real, good."

But alas, director/choreographer Giulio Scatola's production is a full-scale one, and at some point, one has to discuss the acting.

This musical re-telling of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" -- about a 19th century London man who sets out to chemically separate good from evil -- maintains a lot of the thriller elements. Scatola pleasantly overwhelms us on many levels. Most especially, his 21 cast members are, without exception, tremendous vocalists. They have the kind of fire and accuracy that makes it difficult to sit still.

The choreography and its execution project a nuance and precision that makes us aware of how much discipline goes into seemingly simple body movements.

And Shawn Hackler's lighting gives the action the fogged-in, eerie magical mystique that it desperately needs.

But oh, the acting! With one major exception, there's no humanity, stage presence or from-the-heart manner of speech.

In the title role, David Andino, like all others, sings spectacularly. But his face -- often hidden by a mop of curly hair -- doesn't register much thought. And if Andino wants to play leading-man roles, he should make things easier on himself by losing at least 20 pounds.

The wonderful exception to the dearth of dramatic realism is the sensual and vulnerable Anne Barr as the doomed prostitute, Lucy Harris. Barr not only demands attention with powerful and sensitive pipes, but communicates her character's necessity to sing. When she looks at Jekyll as if he were life's first hope, you root for her for reasons that go beyond mastery of craft. She creates a personal bond with the audience.

While Scatola is an expert choreographer, his overuse of background interpretative dance clouds our focus. We should be watching the people involved in the action, not those commenting on it.

Make no mistake, though, the vocal and dance skill is superior enough to warrant multiple viewings. It's surprising, though, to see a director so expert in so many ways be so inexpert on such a basic level. "Jekyll & Hyde" needs actors, and it feels as if Scatola never gave that a moment's thought.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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