by Terrance Mc Arthur
In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a short novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, about a man who was beside himself, couldn’t get along with himself, was chemically split into two personalities: a good doctor, and a murderous, licentious monster. It was inspired by the 1700s figure William Brodie: cabinetmaker and city councilman by day, burglar and gang leader by night. According to legend, Stevenson wrote it in less than a week, burned the manuscript, then reconstructed it over the next two months. Jekyll and Hyde have become society’s shorthand for a person with two conflicting sides to his character.
Movies and TV versions abound. In 1997, the story hit Broadway for more than 1500 performances as a musical with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse (“What Kind of Fool Am I?” “Talk to the Animals,” “Candy Man,” “Goldfinger”) and music by Frank Wildhorn (“Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” and the Scarlet Pimpernel musical), from a concept by Wildhorn and Steve Cuden.
College of the Sequoias is staging the Bricusse/Wildhorn musical, with Brian Pucheu in the starring roles. Although the show started in Houston before its road trip to Broadway, it bears a resemblance to many of the British blockbuster musicals of the last few decades, laden with musical numbers and multiple reprises of songs.
Pucheu is very versatile, with credits ranging from presidential killer Charles Guiteau in Assassins to Wild Bill Hickock in Calamity Jane, and Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show. He is even more versatile in this show playing against himself, and even singing solo duets (See it and you’ll understand…and be amazed.). Pucheu’s Jekyll is pony-tailed, earnest and obsessive, driven in his work by a good motivation that is not provided in the original. His Hyde seems bigger, stronger, with hair spilling out wildly. He is strong musically, and the brute power of Hyde is made even more powerful by the tenderness of his Jekyll.
Sarah Gallegos is strong, earthy, and barely clothed as Lucy, the singing star of the Red Rat pub, a dive that makes the Kit Kat Club of Cabaret look sedate and respectable. She is vulnerable in her scenes with Jekyll, and fatalistically tragic with Hyde, as if she knows she will get no good from the relationship, yet she stays.
Danielle Behrens plays Emma Carew, Jekyll’s fiancée, coming to the role from playing Kathy Selden in GCP’s Singin’ In the Rain. She puts plenty of power into the good-girl role, and responds well to the unctuous innuendos of Simon Stride (a smarmy Jeff Lusk).
A nice stream of comedy runs through Alina Gonzalez’s performance as Nellie, the redhead who runs the girls at the Red Rat.
James McDonnell’s costumes (he also directed) are exquisite, from the dregs of the poorest parts of London to the ruffled and bustled finery of the upper-class snobs who reject Jekyll’s work and are gleefully done in (in a variety of inventive ways) by Hyde. 280 costume pieces and 26 wigs and facial hair appliances appear on stage with 30 humans along with an unseen orchestra that gets a strenuous workout. It veers from Stevenson’s text, but it stays true to our imagination
It’s all grand fun.
Jekyll & Hyde continues its run March 21-23 at 7:30 p.m., with a final 2 p.m. matinee on March 24 at Visalia’s College of the Sequoias Theatre, on Mooney Blvd., just south of Freeway 198. Reserved seats are $24 for general admission, $20 for students and seniors.
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