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Stage Review: Jekyll & Hyde sings at Nocturne Theatre

After depicting Victorian ghosts (Madame Scrooge) and Grimm fairy tales (Into the Woods) in their previous musical productions, Meyer2Meyer Entertainment leaps headlong into horror with Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical. The second of four Broadway hits forming the company’s inaugural spring season at the Nocturne Theatre, the production features the signature style we have come to expect from the creators of House of Spirits: it is both visually and aurally impressive, combining grand guignol theatrics with great vocal performances.

Not all the impurities in the play’s somewhat sketchy mad scientist’s formula have been refined; nevertheless, the show should prove equally appealing whether your ears prefer mellifluous songs or terrified screams. As an additional grace note, the presentation comes with a warning siren that sounds like a vanity project – the director cast himself in the lead! – but ultimately the siren song turns out to be a tremendous success.

Jekyll & Hyde Musical Review: Source Material Spoilers

Jekyll & Hyde musical Broadway
Robert Cuccioli as Doctor Henry Jekyll in the 1997 Broadway production at the Plymouth Theatre

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical has been a hit since its 1990 debut,* but it has always been more popular with audiences than critics. After launching in Texas, the show toured the country in various versions before reaching New York in 1997. By then, Broadway critics already had their knives out. In the August 24, 1995, issue of Variety, Todd Everett dismissed the touring version as an “a cross between Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera” that was “shallow, amateurish and still far short of finished.” Reviewing the Broadway production for the New York Times two years later (April 29, 1997), Ben Brantley sniped, “There are a couple of scenes with real fire and many more with synthetic fog that creeps on and off the stage, rather like a wandering attention span. It is easy to sympathize with the fog.”

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The original Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde was filmed live with David Hasselhoff in the lead.

Despite the critical carping, the Broadway production ran for nearly three years, receiving Tony award nominations in the categories for Book, Actor, Costume, and Lighting. Since then, the musical has been successfully revived numerous times, but there has been little in the way of a favorable critical reassessment.

Some of the negativity seems to stem from snobbery about what a stage musical should sound like: Gerard Alessandrini delivered the Broadway equivalent of a sick burn when he opined that the songs were written “for people who find Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music too complicated.” Other critics were closer to the mark when they described Jekyll & Hyde as a pop rock opera better suited to a concert stage than Broadway – an assessment that, ironically, seemed to be confirmed when a concert version was successfully mounted in 2005.

That success of the concert suggests that the real problem with Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is not the music; it is the dramaturgy. Adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” to the stage presents numerous challenges. The original story is structured as a mystery: what is the connection between the respectable doctor and the reprehensible Hyde? Spoiler: they are the same person! This approach allows the relatively brief tale to avoid detailing much of Hyde’s activities while building to the surprise twist. Robbed of this mystery, adaptations have to restructure the plot and fill in numerous blanks.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical follows in the footsteps of previous stage and screen dramatizations by revealing Jekyll’s experiment up front and substituting a new climax in place of the last-minute revelation of the doctor’s dual nature. Other elements borrowed from earlier adaptations include making Jekyll an idealistic younger man and adding two major female characters: a fiancé for Jekyll and a prostitute for Hyde.

Jekyll & Hyde Musical Review
The musical gives Dr Jekyll (Justin Meyer in the Nocturne Theatre production) an insane father.

Additionally, the musical’s book by Leslie Bricusse gives Jekyll a father confined to a mental asylum, whose condition inspires Jekyll’s quest to save humanity from its anti-social impulses. (The connection here is a bit sketchy, since nothing about the elder Jekyll’s condition suggests that separating Good from Evil will cure him; we just have to assume that defeating the dark side of human nature will somehow return him to the light.). Also introduced is a board of medical professionals who vote against Jekyll’s continued experiments at the institution, forcing him to work in solitude at home. Later, these paragons of virtue (actually vile hypocrites) become targets for Hyde’s vengeance.

These additions fill out the running time and provide plenty of opportunity for mayhem, but they leave the play feeling as if it is running in place: Hyde keeps committing crimes; Jekyll’s friends and fiancé keep expressing concern for him; he keeps insisting on locking himself away in his lab until his experiment is concluded. Meanwhile, scenes that should be important story beats come and go with little or no consequence. In Stevenson’s story, Hyde’s first murder convinces Jekyll to stop taking his transformation formula; in the play, he continues as if nothing has happened. Even more egregious: Jekyll’s friend Utterson witnesses the Jekyll-Hyde transformation shortly before the play’s climactic wedding but apparently tells no one, leaving the audience to ponder two questions:

  1. Why is anyone expecting Jekyll to show up for his wedding to Emma after weeks of telling her and everyone else to get lost?
  2. Is Utterson waiting for the famous admonition “Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace” before telling Emma that she is about to marry a serial killer?

Despite this weak plot structure, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical has been entertaining audiences in various productions and revivals since its debut. Part of the reason must be the gothic horror trappings of the source material (as Broadway World‘s Michael Dale wrote of a 2013 revival, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical appeals to “people who typically don’t go to musicals”). That may sell tickets, but what keeps viewers in their seats – and coming back?

Jekyll & Hyde musical Review
Music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

Credit for overcoming the play’s dramatic shortcomings must go to the energetic songs by composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Leslie Bricusse (who wone an Oscar for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and collaborated on theme songs for Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice), with additional lyrics by Steve Cuden. Their combined efforts bring the iconic horror story to vivid emotional life with no undue concern for subtlety. More than a few numbers showcase the singers’ ability to hold sustained notes for maximum dramatic effect. Thus, even when the plot’s connective tissue is stretched thin, the audience is enraptured by what they are hearing. (That the swelling melodies have been recycled as background music for TV broadcasts of the Winter Olympics and the World Series is a testament to their ability to energize eager audiences.)

In short, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is no masterpiece, but it has more than enough entertainment value to hold audience attention, which the production at the Nocturne Theatre exploits in their own unique way.


  • Weird Trivia: In 1986, Tuesday Knight provided vocals for a demo of the score. That’s right: the actress who played Freddy Kruger’s opponent in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master sang music for Jekyll & Hyde.

Jekyll & Hyde Musical Review: Vocals carry the show at the Nocturne

Jekyll & Hyde Musical Review
Mr. Hyde reaches through the bars to menace Lucy Harris (Cassandra Caruso).

Since the strength of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is songs rather than storytelling, any production needs great voices to bring it to life. Happily, the production at Nocturne Theatre succeeds on this score. With minimal dialogue serving mostly to tie the tunes together, the cast connect with the audience by seizing every opportunity afforded by the score, belting out notes with genuine bravado. As often as not, the musical’s “go big or go home” attitude demands vocals turned up to 11, and somehow the cast manages not only to hit the notes and hold them; they also make each subsequent crescendo more impressive than its predecessor. You would think the vocal theatrics would grow wearisome with repetition; instead, the cumulative effect is quite amazing.

Nowhere is this more evident than with director Justin Meyer in the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde. Theoretically, we should enjoy live theatre because we suspend our disbelief and fall under its spell, but in this production there is the added suspense of wondering whether we are going to see the director trip over his own ego and drag the show down with him. Sure, he has the right look for the role, and he’s comfortable on stage, but can he sing? The answer is: yes, and not just in a good-enough-to-get-by way. More in a way that that erases all your doubts and convinces you he deserved the role. It’s a bit like seeing an athlete clear a high-jump that you expected him to crash into.

The staging deftly maneuvers the actors through quick scene changes using minimal set pieces. In this case, small cubes with metal rods pointing upward are rolled around the stage to form fences and gates or to define a space where action takes place. The Victorian setting is nicely displayed through the costuming, but Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical affords less opportunity for the surreal stylization of other Meyer2Meyer productions.

The exception is Mr. Hyde, who is depicted with a monstrous full-body suit, bulging with deformity. It’s a surreal conceit since nothing in the book or libretto suggests that Hyde’s acquaintances and victims are seeing anything more than a sadistic, homicidal man; it’s as if the audience is seeing the monster inside, which the characters are aware of only through his monstrous actions. (In the original Broadway production, the transition to Hyde was simply a matter of the actor hunching over and releasing his ponytail so that his long hair could dangle wildly in his face.) The body suit also comes in handy during the scene wherein Jekyll and Hyde confront each other in a mirror: worn by another actor, it allows the two sides of the character to briefly share the stage for one of the play’s dramatic highlights.

The final ingredient in this production is the horrific depiction of Hyde’s predations. Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is basically a body-count version of Stevenson’s story, with the hospital board of directors providing multiple victims, and Meyer2Meyer crew squeezes every drop of blood they can from the opportunity. Particularly the first killing, which takes place just before the act break, is so wildly over the top that it seems like a deliberate response to Todd Everett’s Variety review (mentioned above), in which he complained that the “boring and unimaginatively staged…murders could be even more grisly.” We’re pretty sure the mayhem at Nocturne Theatre would have satisfied Everett’s thirst for blood.

Jekyll & Hyde Musical Review: Conclusion

Jekyll & Hyde review
Dr. Jekyll (Justin Meyer) begins the transformation to Hyde.

Rather like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde can be nitpicked to death, and yet the enduring appeal of its source material shines through, thanks to songs that engage audiences even if the music is not sophisticated enough to appease Broadway critics. The Nocturne Theatre’s production cannot fix all the musical’s dramatic flaws (the wedding scene finale seems to drop in out of nowhere, and Jekyll’s demise has a perfunctory air), but most of our misgivings were drowned out by the amazing vocal work.

You don’t need to be a fan of musicals to enjoy Jekyll & Hyde; in fact, it may be better if you are a horror fan. Either way, even though this particular recipe for the doctor’s infamous potion flubs some of the ingredients, the songs act like the proverbial sugar that makes the medicine go down – in the most frightful way.


Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical (Meyer2Meyer Entertainment, 2024)

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

The Broadway musical version of Jekyll & Hyde is too weak in its storytelling to yield a completely satisfying show, but the Nocturne Theatre’s production plays up all the strengths, milking the songs and the horror scenes for maximum impact.

Jekyll And Hyde: The Musical continues through April 21 at The Nocturne Theatre. The address is 324 North Orange Street in Glendale. For more information, call (818) 839-0984; email info@meyer2meyer.com, or visit the official website: thenocturnetheatre.com.

Cast: Justin Meyer – Jekyll/Hyde. Cassandra Caruso – Lucy Harris. Rachel Franke – Emma Carew. Brayden Hade – John Utterson. Craig Sherman – Sir Danvers Carew. Joe Salling – Simon Stride. Samantha Rose – Nellie. Bedjou Jean – General Glossop. Troy Dailey – Sir Archibald Proops. Drew Maidment – Bishop of Basingstoke. Faith Berrigan – Lady Beaconsfield. Brendan Lynch – Lord Savage. Kate Clarke – Poole. Connor Bullock – Spider
Nolan Monsibay – Bisset.

Credits: Director: Justin Meyer. Music Director: Nolan Monsibay. Choreographer: Melissa Meyer. Creature and Costume Designer: Tanya Cyr. Scenic Designer: Jay Michael Roberts. Lighting Designer: Eric Marsh. Sound Engineer: Matt Merline. Stage Manager: Micah Delhauer. Scenic Builder: Seth Logan. Meyer2Meyer GM: Randi Stuart. Nocturne Theatre Technician and Meyer2Meyer Assistant Producer: Michaela Sword. Wardrobe Assistant: Gavin Dietz, Coalani Walkoe. Special FX Assistant: Sydni Sawyer. Assistant Scenic Team: Rachel Franke, Chess MacElvaine, Joe Salling, David French.

Original 1997 Broadway Production by PACE Theatrical Group, Inc. Music by Frank Wildhorn. Book by Leslie Bricusse. Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse except “Alive” [including “Alive (reprise)”], “First Transformation”, “His Work And Nothing More”, “Once Upon A Dream”, and “Murder! Murder!”, which have lyrics by Steve Cuden, Leslie Bricusse, and Frank Wildhorn.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.