Robert Louis Stevenson's short story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as adapted into a Broadway musical, is here performed in a modern adaptation. The result doesn't always gel perfectly, but an exceptional cast and slickly professional production make up for any shortcomings - a promising first step from new company Morphic Graffiti.
The story of the man who turns into a raging beast when experimenting on himself is pretty well-established, but it is the details of the Jekyll and Hyde story that are less well-known - for example, Jekyll isn't even the main character of Stevenson's original short story, with most of the book being descriptions by friends of his increasingly erratic behaviour. Leslie Bricusse's adaptation retains some of that in the character of John Utterson (Jekyll's lawyer), but the lead is very firmly established as the tragic doctor. He also adds in a love triangle, adding Lucy Harris (a local prostitute) to the already fraught engagement between Jekyll and Emma Carew, as well as an extra twist on the morality tale, with Hyde taking murderous revenge on the men who hindered Jekyll's research.
Even with all of these extra twists and turns and additions, the plot here is not exactly complex - all of the loose elements don't really tie together into a whole anyway, although it's really not that important; the story we're here for is Jekyll's, and it doesn't disappoint, with plenty of fantastic songs and a sterling acting job from Tim Rogers. He embodies both sides of Jekyll's psyche with minor alterations to physical presence and movement in a splendid performance, and his vocal performance in songs such as the impressive "Confrontation" is stellar. The only other cast member who has a true chance to shine (and actually uses it) is Madalena Alberto as Lucy, although her singing far outdoes her acting.
The rest of the cast, however, do make up a rather wonderful ensemble - their interplay and work within scenes is just excellent. The group numbers, including the iconic "Facade" and "Murder, Murder", are hugely impressive, especially considering the size of the cast and the venue. These are perfectly directed by Luke Fredericks - clearly one to watch - with just the right amount of order arising out of chaos and a number of cleverly simple and effective devices and effects.
However, the modern update is ungainly and doesn't suit the text: there are occasional lines and plot points that make no sense whatsoever, and they're not made up for by the one or two that really hit home, nor by the use of projections, phones, or (at one point) a wheelie bin. It's a very slick production, and I'm not saying the setting wouldn't work - but the show would need to be updated, and just trying to squeeze the text into this update has done more harm than good. There are also some rather poor fight sequences, including the final death scene - a weak concept and some incongruous minor details do let the piece down a little.
However, the end result does still convince and impress - mostly because of Rogers, who has too many amazing moments to list. Morphic Graffiti need to make sure that their next show has a more considered and well established concept - without their lead, this might be a very different review!