by Lorie Lewis Ham
I never stop being amazed by the level of talent that this Valley has to offer and I hope I never will. However, until seeing Spring Awakening presented by CMT (Children’s Musical Theaterworks) in Fresno this summer I had never seen a CMT show. After seeing Jekyll & Hyde this weekend, I have now been blown away twice in a row and have to say why did I wait so long to discover them?
Being a fan of mystery and dark stories I knew the story of Jekyll & Hyde, taken from the novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, would appeal to me. But I had no idea that not only would the music be powerful but the performance itself would be absolutely spectacular.
The original musical opened on Broadway in 1997 and ran until 2001. Despite the long run, it lost money and had less than stellar reviews–which really surprises me. But then one of my all time favorite musicals, Lestat, was a total flop on Broadway even though a big success in San Francisco, so maybe they just expect something different there. Like Lestat, Jekyll & Hyde is dark and sad. For anyone not familiar with the story, Dr. Jekyll is trying to find a way to separate us from our evil side and it all goes terribly wrong when he experiments on himself bringing out his evil side, Mr. Hyde, instead. There is also a best friend, a sweet romance, and another sad romance on the side with a call girl/dance hall girl named Lucy.
CMT’s production of this show is double cast with a Black Cast and a Red Cast. We saw the Black Cast in which Bryce Moser played Jekyll/Hyde, Ryan Torres played the best friend, Amber Lewis played the fiancée Emma, and Sarah Waxman played Lucy. Not only does Bryce have an incredible voice but he played both sides of this character brilliantly, and although the only real difference in the appearance of the two characters was the hair and a slight change in costume, he managed to bring the menace of Hyde to life and the sweet innocence and gentleness of Jekyll.
As the best friend Utterson, Ryan Torres has such a beautiful voice and I am doubly sad I missed him playing Jean Valjean in last year’s CMT production of Les Miserables. Amber has a beautiful voice and did a wonderful job of playing the loyal and later heartbroken Emma, and Sarah as Lucy is just incredible all the way around–acting, dancing and singing. Lucy was actually one of my favorite characters in this.The set was perfect, the lighting helped bring to life the evil side of Hyde, and the ensemble and other cast members did an excellent job as well. Being a cast of 16-20 year olds, I went to the show expecting a sort of high school show quality and instead found myself watching a show of professional quality. While I have not seen the other cast, Isaac Ellis plays Jekyll/Hyde in it and he blew me away last year playing the Phantom at Clovis West, so I can only assume it’s equally good.
There are a lot of young performers I look forward to following over the next few years and can’t wait to see them in more shows. Bryce Moser may become a new KRL favorite with a KRL local actor profile in his future–as may the other leads in this show. As a side note, Bryce’s father, Brent Moser, directed the show.My next task will be finding the soundtrack of Jekyll & Hyde and hopefully seeing the revival when it comes to Los Angeles next year. The music to me had a Phantom of the Opera kind of feel–which is also one of my favorites. Some of my many favorite songs included “Once Upon A Dream”, “Facade” (great ensemble song), “Take Me As I Am” and “In His Eyes”.
There is one weekend left with performances by both casts. August 9 at 7:30 p.m. and August 11 at 2 p.m. will have the Black Cast and August 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. will have the Red Cast. Tickets can be purchased online through CMT’s website.
If you love dark and wonderful musicals (keep in mind this is a sad and dark show and not for little children) DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! If I were able to go back again this weekend I would.