Rose Bowl Review - Jekyll & Hyde
15th February 2017
ZENITH YOUTH THEATRE COMPANY
NAME OF PRODUCTION: ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’
VENUE: Kingswood Theatre, Bath
DATE: Wednesday 15th February 2017
ADJUDICATOR Caroline Whitehead
A brave production, well executed
The stage musical, Jekyll and Hyde, is based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and features a delightful score by Frank Wildhorn and book by Leslie Bricusse. Despite having won the hearts of audiences the world over, it is rarely performed in the UK, especially amongst amateur groups, probably because of the huge demands, both vocally and dramatically, on the lead roles.
It is an evocative tale that explores the good and evil that resides to a greater or lesser extent in us all. It follows the journey of a doctor, passionate and romantic, and his alter ego, a terrifying and violent madman whose torment involves murdering those he has a grudge against. Two contrasting women also feature in his journey - one beautiful and trusting and the other streetwise, but also vulnerable. Both are unaware of his dark secret and their stories unfold in this gripping musical thriller featuring the beautiful and memorable ballads, ‘This is the Moment’ and ‘Someone Like You’ which are famous in their own right.
Zenith Youth Theatre Company has a reputation for staging ambitious musicals that defy common boundaries and I was delighted that you decided to take this on. It is a tough challenge for young people, as the adult themes are complex and dark. More to the point, the requirement for an outstanding and multi-talented male lead often dissuades youth theatre from embarking upon such a challenge.
Your choice of Jekyll/ Hyde was masterful and Lucas Porter was astonishingly good, making this production a risk worth taking and one that really paid off.
Scott Rogers (Director) deserves many congratulations for putting a well-designed show together with a vivid and bold set. Roy Page (Musical Director) did a splendid job ensuring that the sound balance was just right and also that the band was sensitive to the nuances in the pace of the show. Julie Dallimore and Delia Lee did a sterling job as choreographers, using some clever techniques to add to the drama whilst ensuring that the whole company had a chance to play its part in supporting the lead characters.
The set certainly was a bold move and had an immediate impact for the audience as they entered the theatre. The design was clever and allowed you to transition scenes smoothly. I did wonder though whether the bright red hindered your ability to achieve contrast in some of the scenes and there were moments when the lighting state changes were lost against all that red. That said, the emergence of the laboratory station was dramatic and impactful, despite the abundance of smoke that obscured Lucas in the dramatic climax to his song! Another highlight in the staging was the very clever disposal of Lucy’s body over the front apron of the stage.
The lighting design was a little confused, for me, and I didn’t really understand some of the switches to blue and green in the middle of some scenes. I was trying to reconcile the drama that you were clearly aiming for and the interruptions to the flow of the scene and creating and unevenness at odds with the rhythm of the musical numbers. Maybe, as it was your first night, there were some bumpy lighting cues, and I can appreciate that it may take a few nights for this to settle down, but be careful that your lighting cue (and state changes) are intended to support the performers and intensify the drama, rather than startling the audience and break the spell. However, there were some good moments where the lighting really worked well, for example at the start of Act 2 in the ‘Murder, Murder’ number, when you had the press on pedestals and the crowd circling them.
Sound balance was excellent from the very first note and that was really impressive, especially as this was the first night. Apart from a few technical issues with mics (that were soon ironed out and did not detract from the performance) the vocal lines were clear and the band just at the right level. And it was so nice to hear the natural sound of the instruments without amplification.
As a musician myself and long-time MD, I really enjoyed seeing the MD totally in control of his musicians and the pace was perfectly in tune with the solo performers. The confidence of your two lead characters in their solo numbers was exceptional and deserving of special praise. I have seen many a professional production where the partnership between the band and singers is not anything like as good. On the whole the SFX were good; I liked the lighting strikes and the neck breaking ones. We definitely needed a louder gun shot though – the cap gun sound detracted from the drama of those moments and left the murderer looking awkward instead of menacing.
Choreography was tight and dramatic. I particularly liked your creative use of slow and controlled dance moves in the Engagement Party in Act 1 and in Dangerous Game in Act 2. Some of the murder scenes looked a little muddled, with some performers not sure where they were supposed to be. When there were strongly choreographed numbers, it looked so much better than when the company were on stage in a supportive role, so bear in mind that everyone on stage needs to be fully engaged, even if they are only one of a crowd. I do congratulate you all though on the period posture that almost everyone mastered. I know that this is a tricky thing to get right, especially in youth theatre, so very well done for that.
Costumes were good; I understand that you hired some and made others, but really I could not tell which was which, so the ones you made were excellent. And you wore them well and in character at all times.
Congratulations on a masterful and polished performance Lucas! I was totally immersed in your character from the word go. When you were the romantic and dedicated Dr. Jekyll in those opening scenes, I enjoyed the lyrical tone of your singing voice; you looked so natural on stage and every bit the scientist. Your command of the recitative was really impressive and so hard to get right. And we knew we were in for a series of lovely songs from you, ‘Take Me As I Am’ was a true delight. As you settled into the role, your gradual transformation to Edward Hyde and the eruption of evil thoughts and deeds was mesmerizing. It can so easily be tricky to manage this and I am always glad that the musical score allows this character to portray the change of behaviour so dramatically and seamlessly. ‘This is the Moment’ is a very challenging number to get right and perform with integrity (it can so easily be overdone when it loses impact) and you achieved this perfectly. What a pity we didn’t see you after the key change when the smoke on stage consumed our view!
In the second act, when you lost control of your persona, your torment was painfully evident and we all felt your agony. The highlight for me was at the end when you are on stage on your own and singing, ‘Confrontation.’ This moment was exceptional and I totally forgot hat you were just a young man. You have a real talent for musical theatre and you have a beautiful voice. I see that you haven’t decided what to do in your life yet… make sure that performing on stage remains a part of it.
This is such a lovely part to play and I could see that you were relishing the challenge. You have a very rich and powerful voice that you kept under control at all times. We were treated to some lovely moments of tenderness and vulnerability, as well as the gutsy numbers and I could see that all eyes were on you whenever you were on stage. I was impressed that you lifted your vocal range to achieve a bell-like quality in that upper range and that you were also able to support the lower range with a strong, warm tone. Keep working on that; it’s a real talent. You have a complicated relationship with Jekyll/Hyde and this is a tricky thing to get right, but you did an excellent job and we all had empathy with your plight right through the show. The duet, ‘Dangerous Game’ with Hyde was exceptional and I was transformed into the moment that you created. Well done.
You definitely looked the part of the fragile and innocent fiancé. I liked the way you paced your spoken lines and we could see the affection you had for Dr. Jekyll. You portrayed the more feisty side of your character and your defiance of your father with confidence and this you’re your character an important added dimension. You had a lot to put up with in your choice of man and you made this character believable. Sometimes we didn’t quite get the seamless transition through to your singing voice. You looked rather worried about the singing and we could see the concentration on your face as you sang, which was disconcerting on occasions. Despite your nerves, try to think about supporting your voice from your diaphragm and you will be able to control the wobble as well as maintain the pitch. You will also gain some additional warmth in your upper register.
I loved the elderly, authority that you brought to this character. Danvers was a loyal pillar of society who was trying to support his future son-in-law but who was unable to sway the Board of Governors. Your bold moves and strong tone of voice was a good contrast to the more delicate Utterson character and helped us to become immersed in the way things were at the time this story is set. As Emma’s father you did show more support for Jekyll and I liked the elderly features that you obviously worked hard on for this character.
You have a key role in starting the story off and we begin to take the journey with you on the duality of human nature. You alone are the character that speaks to the audience and prepares us for what is to come. Your tone of voice was carefully set between an honest and decent man who loved his friend Dr. Jekyll and the detachment that comes with self-preservation. Your diction was excellent and you mastered the art of musical recitative well. If anything you could have strengthened your speaking voice a little to add to the drama, but this will come as you grow in confidence.
Board of Governors – Stride, Lord Savage, Lady Beaconsfield, General Glossop, Bishop of Basingstoke, Sir Archibald Proops.
You have your moment in the first act when Jekyll is brought before you and this first scene of substance is an important catalyst to the rest of the story. Stride set the scene with a strong voice of integrity and authority. Your roles are important in that the exploration of the human condition, being a combination of good and evil, is evident in your personalities too and each of you presented these two sides of your characters well. You all had just the right amount of pomposity and arrogance that would have been evident at that time and your decision, of course, is what drives Jekyll to begin his journey of self-destruction. You achieved this with good diction, authority in your tone of voice and the body language of the elite and powerful. This was an effective team and I could see that you had worked hard to assert yourselves in this scene. Such a pity that you had such unfortunate endings, although we partly thought that you all deserved it one way or another!
Red Rat Girls and Spider
There were some lovely costumes and some really nice choreography here. The blue cross lights worked well and I liked the menacing posture of Spider, whose diction was clear if a little too benign for me. Girls, just be careful of your diction, particularly in, ‘Bring On The Men.’ I wondered if the lighting might have been a bit darker here to help create a more sinister vibe.
You first chorus – Façade – was dramatic, well choreographed and really well sung. This set the scene for what was to become a series of polished company performances. In these musical numbers you are all totally focused and in the moment. Just make sure that in the scenes where the focus is on the soloists, you remain just as involved in the performance.
You are a very talented group of young people and I am sure that there will be opportunities for each of you to take on bigger roles as you gain in confidence. In the production you played an important part in supporting the lead roles and you should be very proud of all that you achieved in this production.
All in all, this was a very polished performance and I commend you all for rising to this difficult challenge. It is a testament to your maturity as a group that you can deliver such a polished performance with a show that is notoriously tricky to get right and that many an adult group would shy away from.
I thoroughly enjoyed my evening and left full of admiration for all that you had achieved and the high standard of your performers. Thank you so much for your hospitality and I look forward to many more great shows from you.