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Jeckyll & Hyde

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Jekyll & Hyde, Shubert Theatre. As a kid I used to love movies like Horror of Dracula and The Pit and the Pendulum: with their lurid sexuality, garish violence, hokey plots, cliched characters, tacky faux-Victorian design, and hilariously hammy acting, these Hammer and American-International releases were campy fun at one or two bucks a pop. But I can't understand anyone forking over $29.50 to $62 for Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn's schlock opera Jekyll & Hyde, a cheesy combo of Hammer horror and Andrew Lloyd Webber bombast that borrows from Sweeney Todd as well as several film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella. (Stevenson's own artistry is little in evidence.) Here the evil Hyde sets out to avenge his wimpy alter ego Jekyll by murdering the governors of a hospital that denied Jekyll a research grant. (Not that he needs the money: his Frankenstein-scale lab is a bilevel job any mad scientist would kill for.) Giving Hyde a motive undercuts the story's moral imperative and minimizes our concern for the show's endangered heroines.

There are no women characters in Stevenson's book, but Bricusse and Wildhorn give us two. As Lucy, the hooker with a heart of gold, pop singer Linda Eder is stiff and affected, full of irritating mannerisms lifted from late-60s Streisand records; she's outclassed in every respect by Christiane Noll's intelligent rendition of Jekyll's fiancee Lisa. In the two-faced title role, Robert Cuccioli exhibits impressive vocal and physical agility but not a hint of dramatic subtlety. Directed by Gregory Boyd with monotonous musical staging by Larry Fuller, this touring production is here for a two-week run--and that's two weeks too long.

--Albert Williams

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