25 January 2011

Jekyll & Hyde - Churchill Theatre Bromley, Monday 24th January 2010

Synopsis:

A short introduction sees Henry Jekyll tending to his father in an asylum for the insane. It is Jekyll's belief that the evil in his father's soul has caused his illness, and he swears to investigate a way of separating good from evil.
Jekyll presents a research proposal to the Board of Governors of St. Jude's Hospital. All, with the exception of Sir Danvers, the Chair, are pompous, rich semi-hypocrites. When Jekyll proposes to test his theory and his formula on a human subject, they reject the proposal. Utterson urges his friend, if he feels he is right about his theory, that he should continue with his research.
Sir Danvers throws an engagement party for his daughter Emma's engagement to Dr. Jekyll. Stride, who has feelings for Emma, tries to reason her out of her engagement, but she quickly turns him down, saying she feels she can be who she wants to be with Jekyll.
Jekyll and Utterson go to a dingy pub. Prostitute Lucy Harris arrives late and is in for some trouble with the boss, known as "the Spider"; Lucy begins to circulate among the clientèle. Jekyll and Lucy are drawn to each other Before he goes, he gives Lucy his visiting card and asks her to see him should she ever need anything.
Jekyll proceeds to his laboratory, excited that the moment has come to do his experiment Keeping tabs on the experiment in his journal, he mixes his chemicals to create his formula, and injects it into the subject: himself. After a minute of the potion's side effects, he writhes in pain, transforming into an evil form of himself. He gives himself a name: Edward Hyde.
Lucy arrives at Jekyll's residence with a nasty bruise on her back. As Jekyll treats it, she tells him a man named Hyde did it. Later, the Bishop of Basingstoke is attacked by Hyde after the Bishop is seen by him to engage prostitutes.
The citizens of London gossip about the Bishop's murder. After the funeral, General Glossop and Lord Savage leave St. Paul's, mourning over their deceased colleague. Hyde corners Glossop and stabs him through the mouth with the swordstick while Teddy watches, petrified in horror. Stride quickly enters the scene, just in time to see Hyde escape. As Londoners discuss the second murder, Later one night, Teddy is seen leaving the Mayfair Club with Sir Proops and Lady Beaconsfield. Hyde emerges from the shadows, pulls out a dagger and stabs Archie in the side before snapping Bessie's neck with her own diamonds. Teddy,seizes the opportunity to escape but is cornered by Hyde at Victoria Station as he tries to flee London. Hyde breaks Teddy’s neck and kicks his corpse onto the tracks. By now, all five Governors who rejected Jekyll's proposal are dead.
Emma lets herself into Jekyll's laboratory. She finds his journal open and reads one of his entries. Jekyll begins to face the fact that Hyde is a part of him. At the same time, both Lucy and Emma wonder about their love for the same.
Lucy is then visited by Hyde, who tells her that he is going away for a while. He then warns her to never leave him Lucy is terrified, but seems to be held under a sexual, animalistic control by Hyde. Utterson comes to Jekyll's lab and discovers Hyde, who injects the formula into himself, roaring with laughter as he transforms back into Jekyll in front of an appalled Utterson. Jekyll tells Utterson that Hyde must be destroyed, whatever the cost. He then begs Utterson to deliver money for Lucy so she can escape to safety. Utterson visits Lucy with the money, along with a letter from Jekyll that entreats her to leave town and start a new life elsewhere. After Utterson leaves, Lucy wonders of the possibilities ahead. Hyde returns; he slowly and savagely kills her. Covered in blood from stabbing Lucy, Jekyll returns to his laboratory and faces off with Hyde in a final battle for control.
Several weeks later, Jekyll seems to have won as he and Emma stand before the priest at their wedding.. As the Minister begins the ceremony, Jekyll doubles over in pain and transforms into Hyde. Hyde then kills Stride before taking Emma hostage. At the sound of Emma's pleading voice, Jekyll is able to regain momentary control. He begs Utterson to kill him, but Utterson cannot bring himself to harm his friend. Desperate, Jekyll impales himself on Utterson's swordstick. Emma weeps softly as Jekyll dies.
Cast:
Dr Henry Jekyll/Mr Hyde – Marti Pellow
Lucy – Sabrina Carter
Emma – Sarah Earnshaw
Sir Danvers – David Delve
Utterson – Mark McGee
Lady Beconsfield/Nellie – Amira Matthews
Simon Stride – Michael Taibi
Glossop – Martin Dickinson
Proops – Matt Stevens
Lord Savage/Spider – Jacob Chapman
Bishop of Basingstoke – Jon de Ville
Poole – James Gant
Bissett – Daniel Robinson

Creative Team:
Book/Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Director: Martin Connor
Choreography: Bill Deamer
Set: Mark Bailey
Costumes: Jonathan Lipman
Ah, the cult of celebrity. When people “famous” for one thing try their hand at something else and believe they are good at it. Just because you’re a singer, it must therefore follow that you will be a whizz at musical theatre, right? WRONG. Its only going to expose your shortcomings, particularly when surrounded on stage by people who aren’t famous but are actually good at what they’re doing. Mr. Pellow, having gained a reasonable amount of success in the late 80s in Wet Wet Wet, tries gamely to convince us all that because he can hold a tune we’ll be duped into believing that he can act, but fails miserably. Oh, the boy can sing, but his shortcomings are cruelly highlighted in this show by those who make a living out of being in musicals. Basically, the professionals mop the floor with him. Not only can they hold a tune, they can also enunciate while holding it. Mr. Pellow does a fairly good impression of a Blue Whale for a lot of the evening; all you can hear are vowel sounds. Oooo eeee aaaaahhhh owww eeiiiiii ooooouwwww. There are very few consonants, and certainly no T’s, no D’s, no B’s or K’s to be heard. While they are using him as a mop, the professionals also manage to act convincingly, making a credible attempt to perform what on closer inspection is fairly risible dialogue. Mr. Pellow flails about trying to convince us of his acting credentials, but only manages to look self conscious and faintly ridiculous in their company. Basically, the professionals work their cotton socks off, walk away with the entire evening and leave Pellow treading water in their wake. However, Mr. Pellow is a “name”, so gets the star treatment – a “big star walk down” at the end of the bows, with his two leading ladies (who have sung their tits off all evening) forced to do a “here comes the star” gesture by turning halfway upstage and holding their upstage arm out to him. Cue whooping, ovating and probably ovulating from the mums in the audience who bought Wet Wet Wet’s CDs in the late 1980s and who have dragged their unwilling husbands along this evening (a wonderful press release from the Churchill received the day after this performance was headed “Standing Ovations Greet Bromley Premiere!” – I think I counted about 8 people in the entire theatre who thought it necessary to stand up and clap, which is hardly a “standing ovation”. In fact, Him Indoors also got up, and I hissed “Sit down! People will think you liked it!” He was actually getting up to make a quick getaway from the strange couple from Upminster sitting next to us, but I didn’t realise that at this point.

Admittedly, a lot of the problem is the material. Jekyll (correctly pronounced as to rhyme with “treacle” and not “heckle”) and Hyde suffers from a mismatch between libretto and score. The former was written by the guy who wrote the music for Victor/Victoria, songs such as “If I Ruled the World” (for the musical Pickwick), “If I could Talk to the Animals” (for Dr. Doolittle), “You Only Live Twice” for the James Bond film and “Ooompa Loompa Doompity Doo” for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Basically, the man has a track record. The latter was written by the composer of such hit shows as The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Camille Claudel, Svengali and Harlem Song. No, me neither. What doesn’t help is that the score feels extremely dated already, as its written in the same “sung through” style (ie with very little actual dialogue but lots of very dull recitative) as Les Mis, Phantom and Notre Dame de Paris. This plonks it very firmly in the mid to late 1980s or early 1990s, when the genre had been done to death and the public were getting tired with it. In overall style and feel, it bears a remarkable family resemblance to Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White, which basically killed off not only the “sung through” style but also the “gothic musical”, of which so many of the “sung through” genre are examples. You only have to look at the hoohaa that Love Never Dies caused when it opened to realise that this style is one particular theatrical corpse that should have been left to sink to the bottom of the river rather than being dragged out and resuscitation attempts made on the shore. Jekyll and Hyde lumbers along like a reanimated cadaver, zombie-like, with squelchy bits dropping off it occasionally.

Another problem is what I would inelegantly call “over-wroughtness” Its all so earnest, but schlock-horror (you know – dark alleyways, rolling fog with mysterious caped figures flitting about it in, Whitechapel prostitutes and laboratory shelves covered in glass bottles) has to be handled very carefully lest it descend into parody. Jekyll and Hyde tries very hard to be taken seriously – too hard in fact; it ends up crossing that very fine line – and becomes risible. In fact, it began to remind me of “The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Olde London Town” by the Two Ronnies (YouTube clip below – hysterical!).

Probably the major obstacle to this particular production's success is Pellow himself. Seemingly unable to make any discernable difference between the morally upright Dr. Jekyll and his brutal alter ego save stooping his shoulders, donning a cape with an enormous fur collar and jamming a top hat over his ears, Pellow gibbers around the stage trying to be evil, somehow managing to avoid being recognised by intelligent people who have known him as Jekyll for 20 years or more. Hyde is supposed to be brutal, animalistic and sexually dangerous, but Him Indoors summed it up by saying “Marti Pellow is about as sexually dangerous as a bowl of raspberry jelly”. Pellow’s lack of acting skill is cruelly exposed during the denouement, in which he plays Jekyll to a projected film of him as Hyde. The two are supposed to be in conversation, but Pellow isn’t an experienced enough actor to “hit his marks” and Jekyll never seems to be in the place where Hyde’s eyes are looking.
Thankfully, the rest of the cast act and sing and dance round Mr. Pellow in an attempt to cover up most of his faults, but leave him stranded and looking, as I’ve already said, faintly ridiculous. Sabrina Carter invests her “tart with a heart” with a great deal of heart, lots of cleavage and a hideous wig, and belts out her numbers with style, volume and an impressive technique. In fact, it really is rather a shame that her character gets brutally raped and murdered (for which read “fumbled with inexpertly and unconvincingly”) by Hyde just as she is about to flee London in search of a better life (a plot “twist” which is about as hackneyed as a horse-drawn cab). She is all but matched by Sarah Earnshaw as Emma, but Carter has just that bit more lung capacity and manages to outsing Earnshaw by 3½ bars in their duet (which bears more than a passing resemblance in style, construction, content and placement within the show to “I Know Him So Well” from Chess). Everyone else changes costumes every 12 seconds in order to try and populate the entire stage, doubling and tripling and quadrupling up to be named characters, aristocrats, cockerneys, prostitutes and general ensemble (although one particular costume should never have been sanctioned – the Bishop of Basingstoke appears in Cardinal’s robes during the engagement scene. Not only did England not have any Catholic Bishops during the 19th century, appearing in such a costume would have been unthinkable and unheard of for a Church of England Bishop. Costume Designer fouled up big time on that one). In the main, they do a reasonable job of propping up the body, but  in the light of the musical shortcomings, over-wrought plot and dated overall style of the piece, it will probably spend the rest of its shelf life touring the provinces until it sinks mercifully to its end in the Elephant’s Graveyard of Musical Theatre. If you’ve got all of Wet Wet Wet’s CDs you might enjoy it, but otherwise it’s a mis-shapen monster that should have been put out of its misery long ago.


5 comments:

Richard said...

You seriously need to chill out, sounds like your Mr sorry Mrs. Jekyll is too prominent in your life.

Your critical report on Pellow appears to go a little deeper than contructiveness and I dare say there is more a dislike for Pellow full stop. To be honest I guess you wrote the review before you even went to the show.

Anyway, it is your opinion and one your more than entitled to share, I will be seeing the show Saturday I will make my view then.

all in all I think the review a Little harse maybe

Richard from Bradford.

Helen said...

Oh Mr Bowes -- you say yourself that you 'are regularly dragged to tht theatre' so it is obvious from the outset that this is not a form of entertainment that will bring you joy. In my humble opinion this makes you miserable and judgemental, and you take your frustration out on those who have valiantly worked to keep you amused, rather than 'Him Indoors' who it seems wears the pants in your relationship by making you do something you do not like.
At no point in your 'review' have you mentioned that the show that you saw was only the third performance,(there will obviously be teething problems in the lighting, sound, costume departments that will be ironed out over time), and you have directed your venom against the people rather than the product.
I cannot fault your resume of the story, but feel that I have to challenge you on your victimisation of Marti Pellow, who, (and you would have known this if you had done your homework properly), was cast first, and then the other actors/actresses brought in later, so blame for any mis-match in vocals and harmonies should not be directed at him.
As you were 'kind' enough to visit Marti's official website and leave your comments and a link to your own site, I would like to return the favour and leave a link here so that others who read your review can see what others have to say also ...... http://www.martipellowofficial.co.uk/mainsite.html

Helen

Me! said...

Having never encountered Pellow before in any incarnation (Wet Wet Wet really rather passed me by)I had no knowledge of his abilities and therefore went with a completely open mind.

You "guess" incorrectly - the only part of the review that was written prior to seeing the show (as if there would be any practical point in doing so) was actually the synopsis of it. How anyone could write anything more than an extremely general review of anything before seeing it is beyond me. The very fact that I mention stage effects shows clearly that I did see the performance.

Yes, you are quite correct, these reviews are my own opinion and I am fully entitled to them. You, of course, if you don't like my reviews, are fully entitled to a) not read them and b) bugger off!

Helen said...

nice to see th\t you are posting peoples comments now -- just a pity you are being selective about who's and what they say -- what happened to freedom of speech and right to reply ???

Helen

Me! said...

Erm... not being selective at all. Merely haven't received your comment. Major PC problems at the moment so there is always the chance that things have gone missing. Mind you, the tone of your email leads me to think that what I'm going to get when your comment finally arrives is a shed load of abuse. Remember that "freedom of speech" does not mean that you can merely be abusive. If you have something constructive to say, then by all means say it. Until then, I think you need to chill out a little....